Largo Cultural Center welcomes jazz pianist Keiko Matsui Oct. 13.
LARGO – Contemporary jazz icon Keiko Matsui performs Saturday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m., at Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive.
Tickets are $45.50 in advance or $50.50 the day of show. Call 587-6793 or visit largoarts.com.
When Matsui visited the center last year, the show sold out as contemporary jazz aficionados scrambled to get tickets to see and hear this free-spirited pianist, keyboardist and composer. Her knack for blending Western and Eastern musical influences lies at the heart of her distinctive jazz styling and has driven her three-decade long career in music.
Matsui is currently touring in support of her new album “The Road.” Released by Shanachie Entertainment in January 2011, it is the artist’s 22nd album. Self-produced, “The Road” is Matsui’s first new recording in four years. A follow-up to her 2007 South African inspired “Moyo,” “The Road” featured a riveting collection of timeless, passionate, cathartic, emotional and exotic melodies, lush harmonies and global rhythms.
“It is unusual for me to have such a long space between my albums so when I started recording this CD it was like a miracle,” said Matsui in a press release from Shanachie Entertainment. “It is also the first time that I invited my band members from the road who have been going through my survival tour.”
One of the most salient and recognizable elements of Matsui’s music is her gift for crafting memorable melodies, which she describes as a “mirror or reflection of herself at any given moment.”
“I have always wanted to write melodies that stay in people’s hearts like traditional music or classical music, where the music lives on for centuries,” Matsui said.
Matsui’s stardom didn’t come overnight. Her musical evolution had its modest beginnings in Japan. According to her official biography, provided by Shanachie Entertainment, she did not come from a musical family. Her father – a businessman – and her mother – who had an affinity for traditional Japanese dance – both supported Matsui’s musical endeavors once they identified her aptitude for music.
Born in Tokyo, Matsui was recognized as a child prodigy early in life. In 1966, at age 5, Matsui began taking professional piano lessons. She continued through her school years, focusing initially on classical music and shifting to jazz in her teenage years. The artist has named as her primary influences during this period legends such as Stevie Wonder, Maurice Jarre and Chick Corea.
Matsui went on to attend Japan’s Women’s University and studied at the Yamaha Music Foundation, where – as a top student in the Yamaha System – she became a member of the jazz-fusion group Cosmos. With Cosmos, she recorded seven albums.
Amazingly, though Matsui always had a connection to music, it was not something she originally thought she would do professionally. That changed when she came to the United States for the first time and experienced the elated responses from the appreciative American audiences.
It was in 1987 Matsui made her U.S. recording debut with the album “A Drop of Water.” The recording fused Eastern sounds with a New Age pop allure. The success of the album led to a record deal with MCA Records.
A string of solo studio releases followed through the late 1990s, including “Under Northern Lights” (1989), “No Borders” (1990), “Night Waltz” (1991), “Cherry Blossom (1992), “Doll” (1994), “Sapphire” (1995), “Dream Walk” (1996), “A Gift of Hope” (1997) and “Full Moon and the Shrine” (1998).
Matsui garnered even more respect following the airing of the PBS-TV special “Keiko Matsui: Light Above The Trees.” In 2000, the program earned the artist a National Smooth Jazz Award for Best Long-Form Video Achievement. Matsui also was honored with an award for Best Female Artist – an award she would claim again in 2001.
In 2002, Matsui released the poignant recording “The Ring,” which was meant to communicate a message of peace, compassion, and humanity to listeners around the world. In 2004, the title track of her “Wildflower” album was used to support the United Nations World Food Program’s efforts in Africa.
“I decided I wanted to support the WFP after learning about the tremendous problems in Africa and how humanitarian assistance can change people’s lives for the better,” Matsui explains in her biography.
Matsui has kept a busy recording schedule in the new century. Her discography includes studio albums such as “Spring Selection” (2003), “White Owl” (2003), “Summer Selection” (2004), “Walls of Akendora” (2005) and “Moyo” (2007), all leading up to her newest release, “The Road” (2011).
Keiko exhibits her affinity for melody on the new album’s opening track “Secret Pond,” which was inspired by a letter she once received.
“A fan in the United States sent me a note and told me that my music brings people back to the roots of their soul,” Matsui said. “His words have stayed with me and this song is about where we all begin our journey in this life.”
Truly a citizen of the world, Matsui tours relentlessly and has shared her music in virtually every corner of the globe.
“Music has no borders and it creates a oneness among people,” Matsui said. “There have been many occasions when I have felt like music saved me. There is a connection between my fans and I, and together in my music we are sharing harmony.”