Kazu Matsui,
The Stone Monkey
(Narada, 2005)

Kazu Matsui may be the best-known shakuhachi flautist in the United States. Those who wish to hear a shakuhachi (traditional Japanese bamboo) flute CD will be disappointed by The Stone Monkey, however. This is a fusion CD, straying farther from tradition than his previous Narada release, Bamboo. That being said, it is an above average electronica release.

Three musicians appear here: Matsui, his wife Keiko (who is also a Narada artist) on piano and Hajime Hyakkoku on guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion and programming.

This might be called a Hajime Hyakkoku release, since he contributes more to the sound (Matsui has the name, though, having been on many Hollywood soundtracks). A simple bamboo flute can only give so much to a modern electronica CD.

On these 10 tracks, Kazu and Keiko play over various backgrounds created by Hyakkoku, including assorted beats, funky bass, orchestra emulations, nature sounds, organ, synthesizer and even spoken word loops and turntablism.

The tone, mood and tempos vary on each cut. Some are jazz-flavored, some down-tempo electronica and others are new age-influenced. They all feature beautiful melody lines from Kazu's flute.

Matsui contributes subdued piano parts.

Traditionalists should avoid this CD, while listeners who like world fusion and electronica, and do not mind hearing some electronic beats, may want to check out this one out. I will be watching out for a Hajime Hyakkoku solo CD, if one is ever released in the U.S.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 9 July 2005

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