Review – ‘Euphoria’ by Keiko Matsui

Keiko Matsui has been on the scene for quite some time. She has always created music that soothes the soul, and the new album, Euphoria is no different.

The album also features special guests that include vocalist Lalah Hathaway, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mike Stern, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, vibist Joel Ross, harmonica player Grégoire Maret and pianist/arranger John Beasley. Keiko is also joined by her touring band, bassist Rico Belled, guitarist JP Mourao and drummer Jimmy Branly.

Seems like a stellar all-star project!

Let’s check it out.

Review – ‘Euphoria’ by Keiko Matsui

The set begins with Steps On The Globe. It is always good to start off an album with a little upbeat funk. Matsui is at her best when she is working them keys, and you get the full spectrum of here talent right here. Her use of horns in her songs will always excite the old school music enthusiasts. 

Guitarist Mike Stern is featured on The Choice. Stern’s guitar sound perfectly adds depth to the overall feel of the track. This sounds like of of those elite jam sessions that Matsui is known for. If you haver seen her live, you know what we are talking about. 

Matsui breaks it down with Prairie Morning. The strings behind the lead piano add a little drama, and overall, the instruments really exude that unplugged, organic feel. 

Neo is next, and it features Randy Brecker. This is one of those uptempo, straight-ahead jazz tracks, and of course, the style has Randy Brecker written all over it. The best way to describe the instrumentation here is organized chaos…In a good way.

Love And Nothing Less is next. Vocals are provided by the incomparable Lalah Hathaway. Grégoire Maret is also here on the harmonica. What can you say about the vocal stylings of Ms. Hathaway that has not already been said? It is worth pointing out that the harmonica is not a widely used instrument, but when used correctly, it can be the perfect accompaniment to a song. Maret really does his thing on the track. 

Kirk Whalum is here for Luminescence. At first listen, this really sounds like a modern day soul version of a Big Band track. We would not be mad if we had more of this! 

Matsui changes it up a bit with Rosso Cantabile. The sound and style are straight out of a movie scene and you just know that scene has some hijinks going on. If a song truly has character, this one would be a unique individual.

In Legend of Yaguarón, Matsui is back with her signature style. We love tracks like this, where each instrument is allowed to shine. We especially love the flute, as it adds a whimsical feel to the song. Matsui is a piano technician and it shows in this piece.

Mossy Mountain is next, and it definitely offers some feel-good vibes. Sonically, it is easy on the ears, and even though it is a mellow song at it’s core, it does have great energy.

In Blue Water, she get another showcase track, where all of the musicians get their change to do their thing. Matsui is front and center with the lead piano, and everyone else plays off of her quite impeccably. 

The title track, Euphoria, is next. Joel Ross is featured with his vibraphone, and we are getting some Take Five vibes on this one. The vibraphone is a welcome touch to the song, and at 6 and a half minutes long, the listener gets plenty of time to enjoy the music.

The album concludes with New Passage. This is the Keiko Matsui style, the one that her fans have come to expect. 

Euphoria is Matsui’s 30th recording, and it is clear that there are no signs of slowdown from this accomplished artist. You can stream the album now through your favorite service. 

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