Tuesday, April 23

Keiko Matsui Opens DC’s Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, First Appearance since Returning from her Earthquake Ravaged Homeland Tokyo

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The nation’s capital was graced with the presence of contemporary smooth jazz pianist Keiko Matsui during the launch of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  Celebratory crowds converged inside the National Building Museum in Washington, DC for the kick off celebration that included a moving performance by Matsui.  

The Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Maylor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to Washington, DC.  The two-week long festival is decked with arts and culture to include a petal fest, lantern walk, bike ride rally and much more.   Keiko Matsui

But this year’s annual event takes on a whole a new meaning in the wake of Japan’s shocking, yet devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.  The latest reports show an estimated 13,500 died in the tragedy, more than 14, 000 are still missing and some 139,000 were displaced.    

Matsui was invited by the Embassy of Japan to the United States to play spiritually uplifting tunes from her latest CD The Road… and to speak before the crowd about how thankful she is for  the continued global support during these tough times.

“Still we are having lots of aftershock and we worry about the nuclear situation,” Matsui said  before the huge crowd. “We should all be very strong and we have to just pray,” she said.  “We are all trying to support the victim’s and their families because so many have run out of electricity, water and just everything.  I know this is going to be a long time to get back to normal but we have to hang in there.”

Matsui said she is grateful she and her family survived the disaster.  But Matsui is asking for continued prayers and support.

“My family is fine, but I’m missing my friend’s family, ” Keiko told SmoothJazzTimes.com. “When the tragedy happened I was in Tokyo in a building and I really felt like ‘oh this is going to be the end of my life’ – because it was really huge and scary.  Everyone started screaming and rushed to the escalator and we went out to a bumpy road and heard some weird sound.  It was like a really bad nightmare.”

Matsui’s record label Shanachie Entertainment kept fans abreast of her status during the crisis. “Keiko would like to thank everyone for their prayers and concern not only for her family but for all families in Japan,” a statement from Shanachie.   

Matsui said the outpouring of support from fans is heartfelt.  “Right after the first earth quake I started receiving many fan emails and letters,” she said. “They were so gracious to send sympathy and prayers and love and light.  It was beautiful and I am so appreciative for this. “That’s why I said thanks to the audience telling them their prayers really help us – thanks, prayers and support really provide light in our lives.”

Keiko Matsui performing in Washington, DC at Cherry Blossom Festival Opening, Photo by: Kim Betton, SmoothJazzTimes.com

Matsui recently joined more than 25 musicians to record Jazz For Japan, an album benefiting the Japanese relief efforts.  The artists met for a 2-day recording at Capital Studios in Hollywood, CA.   Jazz For Japan features legendary and Grammy nominated performers including Kenny G., George Duke, Rickey Minor, Tim Scott, Alex Acuna, Boney James, Lee Ritenous, Steve Gadd, Bob James, and Nathan East.  The album, produced by Larry Robinson was released April 5th on Avatar Records worldwilde via iTunes. 

In addition to helping to breathe life back into her homeland through her powerful music, the pianist’s passion for peace flows into activism for a number of additional causes such as, The United Nations World Food Programme, The Match Marrow Registry, The National Donor Program and the Marrow Foundation. With over a million and a half albums sold and countless concerts across the globe, Matsui contends it is her mission to always give back. 

“I’m alive and healthy, and have a wonderful life and musical career. Because of this, I want to give something back,” Matsui told SmoothJazzTimes.com. “I also support the fight against hunger in Africa, and breast cancer research. Now we have to remain concerned about hunger in Japan also, due to the earthquake situation,” she said.  “All of these are important. Whenever an opportunity comes I like to dedicate my music to these causes.”    

Keiko Matsui will continue to spread her love and support during her concert series for The Road… beginning this May in the following cities:

May 5-8 at Dimitrious’ Jazz Alley in Seattle, WA

May 12-15 at Blues Alley in Washington, DC

May 20 at Whitaker Center in Harrisburg, PA

May 21 at the Boulton Center Bay in Shore, NY

May 22 at BB King Blues Club in New York, NY

May 23 at Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT

 

This album reflects from my emotions and my experience from the road – the real road with my music, “ said Matsui. “It’s a great experience and my thoughts are my prayers are in this album.”   

If you’d like to Join Keiko Matsui in helping to support victims of the crisis in Japan visit TheAmerican Red Cross, Operation USAor visit iTunes to purchase the Jazz For Japanrelief recording.   

Keiko Matsui’s The Road… featuring saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Jackiem Joyner is available in the SmoothJazzTimes.com Music Store thanks to our partner Amazon.com.  

The Road…  Track Listing:

1.  Secret Pond

2.  Falcon’s Wing

3.  Nguea Wonja

4.  Bohemian Concerto

5.  Embrace & Surrender

6.  Awakening (Feat. Kirk Whalum)

7.  Touching Peace

8.  Affirmation (Feat. Kirk Whalum)

9.  The Road… (Feat. Jackiem Joyner)

 

 

 

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About Author

Kim Betton is the founder and editorial director of SmoothJazzTimes.com. The award winning television anchor/reporter and producer has worked in markets across the U.S.. including NBC4 & USA Sky Radio in Washington, DC, WBKW-TV Buffalo, New York, FOX 13 News Memphis and KARK4 / FOX 16 News in Little Rock,. Kim has a true love for good music! She is also a jazz and off-Broadway musical vocalist. Her love for music and the arts inspired her to launch this magazine. If you have a story idea email her at kim@smoothjazztimes.com. Thanks for checking us out! Enjoy!

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