Most of the time releasing a live album is a good way to mark time between trips to the studio as they are quick and easy cash grabs where a musician sells the fans a cheap ticket to a show they weren’t at. The Rolling Stones are masters of this slick tactic with no less than a dozen official live albums in their discography.
The fatal flaw with live albums is they are audio representations of a visual performance. This is a flaw resolved by Keiko Matsui as she goes all-in on Live in Tokyo, a CD and DVD document of her two-year tour in support of Soul Quest (Shanachie, 2013).
Live In Tokyo leans hard on Soul Quest (Shanachie, 2013), with seven of the 13 tracks coming from that album where Matsui fully embraced her smooth jazz following. The Keiko Matsui Sound formerly represented an East-meets-West hybrid of classical, New Age and jazz with a Japanese flourish provided by ex-husband Kazu Matsui’s shakahuchi. That part of sound vanished eight years ago after they divorced. A different sort of soul quest began which took Keiko Matsui to Africa and that lid a creative spark in the brilliantly underrated Moyo (Shout Factory, 2007)
Since then, Matsui has released two albums of new material and now a live CD/DVD. Now live jazz albums rarely rise to the raucous level of Frampton Comes Alive!, but this audience is so quiet and polite you may forget it is is a live album. That’s okay, because this is still a great showcase for Matsui as not only a superb pianist, composer and arranger, but as a bandleader.
On stage Soul Quest gets a shot of energy played live that was missing in the studio which suffered a bit too much from overproduction. Stripped down to a hot five-piece band, Matsui is welcomes special guests Kirk Whalum and Chuck Loeb who both played on Soul Quest,as they faithfully reproduce the album. Taking it to the stage was a smart move by Matsui and Shanachie Records which deserves kudos because some labels would not show this level of support for even the most established artist.
The DVD not only is a visual document of the Tokyo concert, it is evidence of her status as a global ambassador and humanitarian which took Matsui from the Ukraine to Russia, Greece, Peru and other parts of the globe. It was 26 years ago when Matsui released her third album entitled No Borders. Now it’s an established fact. There are no borders for Matsui and Live In Tokyo is a four-star finish to the latest chapter in Matsui’s musical journey and a bridge to her next destination.
Track Listing: Dream Seeker; Black Lion; Forever Forever; Caricias; Proof; Affirmation; Soul Quest; Safari; Stingo; Bridge Over the Stars; Antarcia–A Call To Action; A Night With Cha Cha; Deep Blue (DVD has same track listing except “Deep Blue”).
Personnel: Keiko Matsui: piano, keyboards; vocals; Dave Karasony: drums; Rico Belled: bass; J.P. Mourao: guitar; Tom Braxton: saxophone; Chuck Loeb: guitar; Kirk Whalum: saxophone
Record Label: Shanachie Records
This review originally appeared in All About Jazz