As the rain of early afternoon subsided into the warming sunshine of evening it was the sparkling on stage presence of keyboard player Keiko Matsui that really brightened a Southern California day. She was in town to play her part in the latest chapter of the summer long Champagne Jazz Series and, with a glorious selection of her most memorable tunes, instantly confirmed her credentials as one of the most influential contemporary jazz musicians of the last twenty years.
Despite her extensive discography (and the news that she has recently signed with Shanachie) it has been three years since Keiko’s last CD, ‘Moyo’, was released. Not surprisingly it was to this collection that she frequently turned as first with the hugely distinctive title cut and subsequently the infectious ‘Into The Night’ she held her audience spellbound. This latter song was energized in no small part by the sax of the always outstanding Tom Braxton who was filling the place in Keiko’s line-up normally occupied by Jackiem Joyner. Another newcomer, Greg Lesondak , was on guitar while regular band-member Eric Baines played bass and as Keiko stayed with ‘Moyo’ for the zesty ‘An Evening In Gibraltar’ it proved to be a sensational showcase for her intricate playing.
Also from this album came the wonderfully cinematic ‘Caricias’ (which has also been utilized for a Russian television advertisement) and the silkily smooth ‘Allure’ for which Braxton was again top notch. Given the earlier unseasonal Temecula weather, ‘After The Rain’ seemed a joyously appropriate choice and in terms of standouts it was perhaps only surpassed by a stellar rendition of Keiko’s radio hit ‘Black River’. Although her fans will recall that, on the CD, credits for saxophone went to Paul Taylor, here in the capable hands of Braxton this high octane number sounded every bit as good.
Despite Keiko’s understandable concentration on ‘Moyo’, this magnificent show was far from being one dimensional. Keiko went all the way back to her 1989 recording ‘No Borders’ for ‘Kappa’, stopped off at her 2004 ‘Wildflower’ project for ‘Facing Up’ then returned to the place where it all began, her 1987 debut ‘A Drop Of Water’ and the charmingly evocative ‘Light Above The Trees’.
Keiko Matsui has a tour schedule that stretches all the way out to 2011. She is a ‘must see’ live performer so for more details visit her website.