1998

This pop-jazz recording by Japanese pianist/keyboardist Keiko Matsui is actually better than many comparable contemporary jazz recordings. The melodies are catchy and charming but rather low-key, most of the pieces are quite atmospheric ("1942, From Russia" sounds like a piece from a Hollywood epic), and several unusual moods (for pop-jazz, that is) are explored. Matsui's piano playing is interesting and adds further substance to the music. The other musicians include various session players (Michael Landau, Lenny Castro, Eric Marienthal) and a few guests like Keiko's husband, shakuhachi player Kazu Matsui (who also produced), and singer Philip Bailey (who appears on one of the two vocal tracks). The Japanese edition includes three bonus tracks: solo acoustic piano renditions of "Water Lily", "Doll" and "Morning Walk", which, while not being particularly essential, offer a different, moodier approach to the music.





This review was written for the All-Music Guide on December 27, 1998.

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Even though Bill Laswell was already immersed in numerous projects since the end of the '70s, including leading his loose ensemble Material, he didn't release a solo record until 1983, and BASELINES was quite a strange album. On the one hand, there's "Upright Man," one of the most infectious grooves Laswell has ever conceived, boasting ace bass playing and a weird taped sermon as sort-of lead vocals. Then there's "Work Song," which is funky and catchy and features Phillip Wilson's somewhat off-beat drumming (pun intended). The other tracks are more experimental, weird, and don't catch on as well -- although they all reward repeated listening, for at first the listener might get lost between Ronald Shannon Jackson's irate drumming, Michael Beinhorn's acid-drenched synths and snippets of tapes and shortwave, the stuttering horns of George Lewis and Ralph Carney, the undescribable contributions of Fred Frith, and the vocalisms and percussion (rhythmic and non-rhythmic) David Moss provides. It's an interesting record, but it's not essential listening, and beginners or fans of Laswell's less avant-garde music won't get much out of this. If the somewhat comparable MEMORY SERVES by Material left you craving more, you might want to give this album a try.




This review was written for the All-Music Guide on November 28, 1998.

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