Thursday, October 7, 2010

Erika Matsuo: Obsession

Erika Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.07.10
Buy CD: Obsession

Japanese-born vocalist Erika Matsuo began her musical career early, taking piano lessons before grade school. Her early interest was classical until she started listening to Japanese pop.

While a college student, she met famous Japanese pianist Yusuke Hirado, who encouraged her to pursue jazz in the United States after graduation. She moved to New York City in 2000, where she studied English and music. Her first singing job was with the school's Latin jazz band, which led her to learn all of that group's Brazilian songs ... in their native language.

This self-produced release contains 14 tracks: Four are covers of American standards, five are Brazilian songs, and the rest are Japanese. The supporting instrumentalists — piano, bass, drums, two saxes, two guitarists and another percussionist — are excellent; bassist Essiet Essiet and pianist Carlton Holmes are outstanding.

Matsuo is a promising performer; she doesn't have a “big” voice, but her phrasing and intonation are quite good. She's already a hit in Japan, and I expect she'll appeal to all fans of Latin jazz.

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