The Kennedy Center

Keiko Matsui



Biography

Keiko Matsui, a multi-talented keyboardist and composer, combines Asian and Western music in a unique mix of jazz, pop, R&B and new age music. 

Born in 1963, she grew up in Tokyo, where she began piano lessons at the age of five. After several years, she was enrolled at the Yamaha Music Foundation. During her junior high school years, Keiko Doi developed eclectic musical tastes by listening to Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Rachmaninov, Sibelius, and the movie soundtracks of Maurice Jarré and Nino Rota. Ms. Doi, who had begun composing in junior high school, graduated from the Japanese University Nihon Joshidaigaku where she majored in children's culture. A top student in her parallel studies at the Yamaha Music Foundation, she was selected at the age of 17 as a recording artist.

She composed Hyoryu, her first major film score that same year. In 1982 Keiko Doi formed Cosmos, a new age jazz group, and recorded four albums. During this period she met shakuhachi player Kazu Matsui. Kazu Matsui, who was to become her husband, touring partner and producer. They spent their honeymoon in the U.S. recording Keiko's first solo album as a leader, A Drop of Water. Produced by Kazu Matsui, the album was released in the U.S. on Passport Records in 1987. Along with the two Matsuis, the album featured guitarists Grant Geissman and Robben Ford, saxophonist Brandon Fields, bassist Nathan East and vocalist Carl Anderson. A Drop of Water did well on Billboard Magazine's national jazz charts, propelling Ms. Matsui onto the contemporary instrumental scene as one of the most promising new keyboardists of the 1980s.

A contract with MCA resulted in two albums, No Borders (1989) and Under Northern Lights(1990). Ms. Matsui moved to the White Cat label and her albums Night Waltz (1991), Cherry Blossom (1992) and Doll (1994), the latter performed with vocalist Philip Bailey, percussionist Akira Jimbo and saxophonists Gerald Albright, Eric Marienthal and Warren Hill, were released. Sapphire (1995) hit number one on the charts, and its follow-up Dream Walk (1996), earned her the title of #1 Contemporary Jazz Independent Artist of the Year by Billboard magazine, and the album rose to the contemporary jazz top ten list with the hit single "Bridge Over the Stars." Her next album, Full Moon and the Shrine (1998) featured the melodic song "Forever, Forever."

That year Keiko Matsui ranked as the No.3 best-selling contemporary jazz artist. She also joined Bob James in concert – playing music for four hands, recorded Dancing on the Water with him, and they later toured 25 cities. She was the 2000 Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards "Female Artist of the Year." Her popular PBS special entitled Keiko Matsui: Light Above the Trees reflects her multicultural heritage and approach to music and it won a Video Achievement award. Keiko Matsui repeated her Oasis Smooth Jazz Award "Female Artist of the Year" win in 2001, and that same year released Deep Blue, which spent three weeks as number one on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Album chart. Ms. Matsui's dramatic album The Ring (2002) was her response to the tragedies of September 11, 2001, and it was designed to communicate a message of peace, compassion, and humanity to listeners around the world.

As a composer, Ms.. Matsui also scored the music for 25 episodes of the Japanese animated series about the Samurai entitled Hidamari no Ki. Ms. Matsui is deeply committed to several charitable causes including the search for a cure for breast cancer and raising awareness of the need for bone marrow donors, particularly among the Asian, African American and Hispanic communities. She has made benefit concert tours for these causes, and has donated proceeds from such recordings as A Gift of Hope and A Gift of Life. In 1999 she performed live with internationally known figure skaters including Kristi Yamaguchi, Ekaterine Gordeeva, Katarina Witt, and Tara Lipinski, at the skating concert "A Golden Moment, " a benefit for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 

Her most recent CD, Wildflower (released February 24, 2004) features all new music. It was inspired by her tour through South Africa and her concern for children orphaned or abandoned as a result of the AIDs crisis. Her 2004 world tour benefits the United Nations World Food Program's efforts in Africa. Keiko and Kazu Matsui have two bilingual daughters, Maya and Mako.

Last updated: March 1, 2007
Photo of Keiko Matsui