MGF Reviews Keiko Matsui – Moyo


Keiko Matsui – Moyo
Shout Factory (4/24/07)
Jazz / Easy listening

I put this CD on at work today. I try as hard as I can to utilize the time that I spend letting The Man slowly crush my soul into a fine powder that he then freebases off of through a light bulb, by performing tasks intended for my extracurricular occupations… like writing this article. A co-worker came into my office (okay, it is a public copy room, shut up!) and stood silently in the middle of the room. I often have music playing in the background over my stereo, but nothing like Keiko Matsui. There is nothing like having an attorney worth seven figures enter a room to the Dead Kennedys’ singing “Kill the Poor”. Anyway, this particular co-worker was frozen in the room and he soon asked, “What the hell are you listening too?” A question that is often spoken in that very room but this time it was because this album wasn’t something they were accustomed to me listening to. And I fully admit, I wouldn’t in a million years choose to listen to this album. That is not the album’s fault; it is my select taste and preference to stray away from the contemporary jazz genre as a whole. I have to admit though… I enjoyed listening to the album.

There is an energy that runs though every song that keeps the listener’s attention. It is definitely a background album; the kind one might play at a small mixer or dry-humping a special lady friend. Or whatever. Keiko Matsui, a world-renowned piano player, released this self-produced album after an eye-opening journey though Japan, America and South Africa. Apparently the music is to “evoke a sense of freedom and independence” because we all know that the two words that come to mind when you think of South Africa is “freedom” and “independence”. In all honesty, it is the lively African beats and playfulness that keep this album afloat. Keiko is humble enough in many songs to let the piano take a backseat and allow several of her special guests to take the spotlight. These guests include trumpeter High Masakela, sax player Paul Taylor, bass by Richard Bona, and Akira Jimbo on the drums. Sometimes, in songs like “When I Close My Eyes”, Keiko drifts into the melodramatic and downright gaudy melodies, but overall the cultural emphasis she wove into this album works well.

The packaging of this CD almost ruined it for me. Keiko writes a little “this is how the album came to be” journal in the liner notes and it is really lame and boring. She talks about how the song “Marula” was based on a fruity drink she had and, in her own words, “I went back to South Africa to start recording. I met great musicians with very sincere feelings towards the music, which made me happy.” Who cares? I once asked a friend, just a few hours after she went skydiving about how one of the most daring adventures a human being can undertake went. Her answer, “I got a lot of wind in my mouth.” I feel the liner notes is Keiko expressing about how she got a lot of wind in her mouth. She had this incredible experience; she recorded a wonderfully inspired and energetic album, only to ruin it by trying to put it into words. In the same manner, revealing that the album’s title, Moyo, is Swahili for “Heart and Soul” kinda’ ruins the magic doesn’t it? It would be nice to have just wandered in the mystery of Moyo.

In a lucid genre that is contemporary jazz, with your Boltons and Kenny Gs, it is nice to see someone step out of bounds a little and try something new. This is a highly creative album that plays with the notion of what one can do with a piano and a saxophone. That being said, I would get it for my father on Father’s Day (or just give him this promotional copy, shhhhhh) but I, in turn, do not care too much for it. If you are a fan of the genre, you need this album. If not, stay away.