BOB JAMES, KEIKO MATSUI, ALTAIR & VEGA


Contempo jazz pianists Bob James and Keiko Matsui team up for an unexpected, highly personal project called “Altair & Vega” (E-One Entertainment) a one piano / four-hands date which plays up James’ affection for mixing classical motifs with softly funky melodies and Matsui’s flair for new age inflected tunes. The compositional duties are evenly divided with James carrying the title tune and “Divertimento,” the latter brushed with a playful Gershwin-like veneer. The concept works surprisingly well as each artist balances and complements each other’s playing style. Matsui’s musical career has mostly seemed inspired by James’ work of the last fifteen years – good-humored electronic codas and sparkling keyboard flourishes are a James staple. That’s mostly stripped out here and what’s left are strong performances, notably on “The Forever Variations,” which takes a Matsui original as its source and gives James room to layer in some keenly rendered solos.

The accompanying DVD documents their “4 Hands” piano gig at the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild in Pittsburgh on Valentine’s Day in 2010. The music brings us live (and livelier) versions of the studio mix and adds a Matsui solo (“Trees”) as well as a James solo (the Ray Noble standard, “The Touch Of Your Lips”) that proves he remains an ace pianist who frustratingly withholds that side of his ability too frequently. Overall, the date is relaxed, well performed and impresses with the duo’s technique and obvious fondness for one another’s talent. Doubtless, some listeners will pine for a bass bump or drum lick but the music stands all by itself. (CD: 7 tracks; 47:46 minutes/DVD: 45 minutes; 4:3 aspect ratio, 2-channel PCM)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: BOB JAMES, KEIKO MATSUI, ALTAIR & VEGA

Saturday, December 3, 2011

BOB JAMES, KEIKO MATSUI, ALTAIR & VEGA


Contempo jazz pianists Bob James and Keiko Matsui team up for an unexpected, highly personal project called “Altair & Vega” (E-One Entertainment) a one piano / four-hands date which plays up James’ affection for mixing classical motifs with softly funky melodies and Matsui’s flair for new age inflected tunes. The compositional duties are evenly divided with James carrying the title tune and “Divertimento,” the latter brushed with a playful Gershwin-like veneer. The concept works surprisingly well as each artist balances and complements each other’s playing style. Matsui’s musical career has mostly seemed inspired by James’ work of the last fifteen years – good-humored electronic codas and sparkling keyboard flourishes are a James staple. That’s mostly stripped out here and what’s left are strong performances, notably on “The Forever Variations,” which takes a Matsui original as its source and gives James room to layer in some keenly rendered solos.

The accompanying DVD documents their “4 Hands” piano gig at the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild in Pittsburgh on Valentine’s Day in 2010. The music brings us live (and livelier) versions of the studio mix and adds a Matsui solo (“Trees”) as well as a James solo (the Ray Noble standard, “The Touch Of Your Lips”) that proves he remains an ace pianist who frustratingly withholds that side of his ability too frequently. Overall, the date is relaxed, well performed and impresses with the duo’s technique and obvious fondness for one another’s talent. Doubtless, some listeners will pine for a bass bump or drum lick but the music stands all by itself. (CD: 7 tracks; 47:46 minutes/DVD: 45 minutes; 4:3 aspect ratio, 2-channel PCM)

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