Published on August 28th, 2019

Matsui feeling and fresh and creative with “Echo”

By Jim Dail

When Keiko Matsui feels like recording, it puts her in a very nice place.

“I wonder what’s going to come next,” she said. “When I start writing for the next album, it’s like a canvas.”

The new album, “Echo,” was a canvas made by a gathering of friends.

“For me, it was like a reunion,” she said. “I invited great friends and artists who played on my first two albums. This is my 28th album, so I figured I would call all of them and bring my band with me and do a new record.”

Those musicians include guitarist Robben Ford, saxman Kirk Whalum, vocalist Gretchen Parlato, bassists Kyle Eastwood and Marcus Miller, among others.

Matsui will perform Saturday, Sept. 7 at Thornton Winery as part of the 2019 Champagne Jazz Concert Series. She will be joined by Michael Lington, Vincent Ingala and Paul Taylor.

“When I received the melody to ‘Return to Eternity,’ for example, I imagined Kyle Eastwood and Marcus Miller,” she said. “I wanted the acoustic bass for those special rich feelings.”

Who would do what was based on just what she felt in the song, which leads to a wide range of styles that still make it a Keiko Matsui album.

“I had guys like Jimmy Johnson and Paul Jackson, who are cats I’ve known a long time, come join me in the studio,” she said. “We all really enjoyed the studio, and I really feel that it made a difference. After the record was done, I felt it captured everyone’s heart and soul that they put into it so I chose the title of ‘Echo.’”

Of course, being a keyboard player herself, it may be strange for her to hype the presence of another player on her record, but that’s actually what she does.

“Nowadays, everybody has vocals and sometimes a chorus but I wanted the best presentations, and sometimes what I heard in my mind were the sounds of strings and other times horns,” she said. “Randy Waldman is a great arranger and I had these ideas and he did a great job arranging and programming everything.”

And while the sax is nothing new to Matsui, she wanted a heavy presence at times of horns, such as Wayne Bergeron on “Moon over Gotham” and the heavy brass section in “Now is the Moment.”

She has come a long way since the beginnings in Tokyo, but it wasn’t the stereotypical push to become a piano player.

“My mom put me in lessons, but she didn’t push me, but it wasn’t just about playing for fun,” she said. “At the same time, I never thought about music as my career.”

She attended Japan Women’s University, focusing on children’s culture then went on to start her first band, Cosmos, eventually recording her first solo record in 1987, “A Drop of Water.”

She credits the feelings she gets from nature for her melodies and songwriting abilities.

I started to receive experiences from nature when I was a teenager, and I started to write songs,” she said. “When I came to the United States and made the first album I didn’t even have a manager or a record company, just a few connections,” she said.

Now, she continues to sell albums and tour all over the world. With the new record, just getting everything organized was a challenge.

“Everything is like a miracle because everybody is very busy and sometimes they are in a different part of the world,” she said. “We were able to do three great sessions in Hollywood and it just worked perfect.”

She wanted something organic.

“Everyone can go do overdubs and home now, but I wanted to make this as organic as possible because there’s more feeling to that,” she said.

The results show.

“It’s my third time debuting at Number 1, and appreciate the fans who really waited for something new,” she said. “I am doing a lot of songs from the new record, about 7 songs in each set. It is fun doing a new set.”

She continues to be thrilled at the prospect of playing live.

“It’s a problem, and it is getting harder and harder because we’ve done so many shows that I want to keep the energy flow of all the songs,” she said. “I think it keeps us fresh. Played live, they have a different life to them.


Where: Thornton Winery, 32575 Rancho California Rd. Temecula

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, September 7

Admission: General admission $85, Gourmet supper: $170

Information: Call 951-699-3021 or visit Website,


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