Opinion: Getting Lost in Jazz at the Blue Note


Jason Perez

The Keiko Matsui Acoustic Band preforming with enthusiasm at Blue Note Hawaii.

Keiko Matsui and her band electrified the audience with their combination of jazzy beats and harmony on Saturday, Nov. 18 at Blue Note Hawaii in Waikiki. Most of the songs they performed were from her new album “Journey To The Heart” and others had a special Hawaiian beat to it. One of the most stand out songs was “Havana Nights” that comes from her most recent album.

“Havana Nights” had a beat that stood out the most as from the name itself, the music transports the audience to Cuba dancing the night away. The melody had a strong maraca and cajon beat, it is hard to explain but it sounded straight out of a telenovela (Spanish soap opera.) The rhythm had my foot tapping and an urge to dance.

Majority of the performance was a journey to another part of the world, taking the audience by the hand for a beautiful night. It felt like being transported to Europe with just the sheer power of jazz. The songs she performed did not have any lyrics which made them more powerful as the expression was felt through the piano.

Throughout the night, each song had a strong uplifting beat that was meant for dancing. Sadly Blue Note did not have a dance floor.

Another song that she preformed from her album was “The Edge of Twilight.” It touches the soul with a much slower rhythm that puts the audience in a happy place. As the band picked up the beat, it changed the mood to a much more energized yet melancholy tone.

Matsui was performing for two days in Hawaii for her ongoing tour through the United States and Japan. She is celebrating the release of her 34th album “Journey To The Heart.”

Matsui is a jazz pianist originally from Japan who now lives in Los Angeles with her family. According to Matsui’s bio on her website, she started her career as a jazz pianist in 1987 with her first album “A Drop of Water.” She was awarded the National Smooth Jazz Award  for “Best Female Artist” in 2000 and in 2001 she held the title in Billboard Contemporary Jazz. Matsui is the first Japanese artist to receive this award. In her most recent album “Journey To The Heart” she changes her style as opposed to her previous music. It is much more upbeat and a happier tone which explains her amazing performance at Blue Note Hawaii.

During the performance, she was accompanied by the Keiko Matsui Acoustic Band that included Jimmy Branly (drummer), JP Mourao (guitarist) and Edwin Livingston (bassist), who contributed to a vivid performance with the sounds of a cajon and a melodica.

From her set of 12 songs Matsui performed with such enthusiasm that towards the end of the night there was a couple of encores as the audience cheered on. This was my first jazz event and it was a wonderful night that has me craving more jazz in the future. For those who are interested in listening to jazz, Keiko Matsui is a great start for anybody. Her album “Journey To The Heart” was released in 2016.