Keiko Matsui is just one major reason why you don’t want to miss the annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest holiday concert as presented by Berks Arts Council on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 3 and 7 p.m. at the Miller Center for the Arts.
The “Tidings of Jazz & Joy” celebration concert stars Matsui and saxophonist Euge Groove and features vocalist Lindsey Webster and guitarist Adam Hawley.
Matsui is the transcendent pianist/composer whose music with the luscious melodies is adored around the world.
Matsui, who grew up in Tokyo, said that “Christmas is more for the children in Japan, but of course we celebrate it. I enjoy performing in holiday concerts in the U.S. because people are so happy. I have done holiday concerts with Dave Koz and Kirk Whalum and really enjoy the Christmas joy. It always is fun to collaborate with other artists. It’s totally different, mentally different.”
This particular ensemble will be playing together for the first time in a holiday concert but they hardly are strangers.
“I have done four shows with Euge and I have performed with Adam on a cruise and he played all my songs in the show,” said Matsui. “He’s a great player. I met Lindsey for the first time at Berks Jazz Fest this year and it was the first time I heard her. A very talented young lady. We did perform together at the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam.
“Euge and I are talking about the structure the Christmas show. It will be a mix of our own material as well as Christmas favorites. We are really looking forward to putting it together. We have found time to rehearse the tour in October and right before the first date of the tour, which is Nov. 29 in Florida. I think we are doing 15 holiday shows.
“This is a new group, a new family for this holiday season and I really am hoping there is a chemistry between us and we put on a wonderful show that showcases each of our talents.”
Like all of us, Matsui has her favorite Christmas songs.
“I love the song ‘Greensleeves – What Child Is This’ and I also love ‘Carol Of The Bells’ and ‘My Favorite Things,’ ‘Oh Holy Night,’ and ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.’”
Matsui is looking forward to returning to Berks in December.
“I feel that Berks is my home because of the Jazz Fest,” she said. “I feel very happy to be part of the Christmas season in Berks.”
Matsui is acclaimed for her signature lyricism and warm harmonies. The familiar elements of her music are new age, world beat, light classical and contemporary jazz all presented in an East-meets-West fashion.
Her Journey To The Heart CD in 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of her recording debut and her 27th recording as a leader. And that doesn’t count the several albums she did before moving from Japan to the United States in 1987.
Matsui is a prolific keyboardist and composer specializing in smooth jazz, jazz fusion, and new-age music. Her career spans four decades.
She and took her first piano lesson at the age of 5. Influenced by Stevie Wonder and Rachmaninov as well as early fusion masters Maurice Jarre and Chick Corea, Matsui began composing while in junior high.
She hasn’t stopped since.
Groove is a sensational smooth jazz saxophonist with a strong Top-40 background. Groove did not record his first solo album until 2000. Prior to that, he had replaced Richard Elliot in the Tower of Power when Elliot decided to pursue a solo career, and he also did session work with various pop acts, most noticeably the Miami girl group Exposé.
His 10th solo project came out in 2016, the album Still Euge.
Groove has backed up such luminaries as Joe Cocker, Eurythmics, the Gap Band, Huey Lewis & the News, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, Eros Ramazotti, and Richard Marx.
Steve Grove in the late 1990s developed the persona of Euge Groove and recorded a demo that attracted the attention of various record labels.
Webster is a soul/R&B vocalist whose song “Fool Me Once” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart in February and March 2016.
From the first note, Webster captivates listeners. Her rich, soulful voice enchants a dedicated following who connect with the raw emotion she shares with them. She combines an admirable natural talent with a genuine, accessible stage presence.
Her third album Back To Your Heart in 2016 shows a real transition and beautiful growth for Webster as an artist. While humbled her voice has been compared to R&B royalty Sade, Mariah Carey, and Anita Baker, Webster looks to bring her distinct style to soul/ R&B and continue to make music that resonates with her fans.
It was an exciting 2016 for Hawley, a guitarist whose debut album Just The Beginning was released in March and its first single “35th St ft Eric Darius” had the longest run at No. 1 on Billboard (five weeks) that year.
It is a tasteful collection of jazz, R&B and funk and features Groove, Brian Culbertson, Gerald Albright, Eric Darius and Michael Lington.
Hawley has spent the majority of his career as an in-demand sideman, performing and/or recording in a myriad of settings with such artists as Groove, Matsui, Culbertson, Albright, Jennifer Lopez, The Backstreet Boys, Dave Koz, Lalah Hathaway, Ruben Studdard, Peabo Bryson, Larry Graham, The Manhattan Transfer, Marc Anthony, Pit Bull, Phil Perry, Kenny Latimore, Michael McDonald, Richard Elliott, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip, Rick Braun, Mindi Abair and many more.