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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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By Masako
Label: Self Released
Released 4/5/2012
Masako tracks
1. Glastenbury, VT
2. Spring Snow
3. Secret Path to Point Reyes (part 1)
4. Secret Path to Point Reyes (part 2)
5. Ottauquechee River
6. Amazing Newt
7. A Tale of Lonely Otter
8. Remembrance (part 1)
9. Remembrance (part 2)
10. Moon and Stream
11. Greening
12. Forgotten Moments
Music From A Tree Climbing Little Girl
Can you imagine a five year old with the wherewithal to compose music and not just plunk the piano keys like an unruly cat? Well, that is the case for New Age pianist Masako (Matsuo) who manages to delight and entertain the listener with her debut album Masako. It's a humble title to be sure, but her style is bold and vivid. Her music is contemporary/New Age with a little help from Tom Eaton of Imaginary Studios and a host of regular geniuses such as Premik on wind synthesizer,Eugene Friesen on cello, Charlie Bisharat on violin, and Tony Levin on bass. Masako is in love with New England and her music features the craggy coves, green mountains and snow covered fields of the east in colorful melodic scenarios. But don’t rule out the west coast either.

Glastenbury, VT is a delightful glimpse into the Norman Rockwell age of America using solo piano as the medium. With a nod to George Gershwin, Masako's composition wipes away the years and takes you to a place at the foot of the Green Mountains. It is a bygone era when dusty back roads got you from here to there, neighbors invited you in for iced tea and evenings were an opportunity to visit and talk without the use of electronic devices. Now there are only ghosts in Glastenbury, but Masako's rendering is sharp and clear.

Living in the Smokey Mountains I have seen the miracle with my own eyes, but Masako puts it into musical terms. It is late April, the sun is shining with a fresh light and the daffodils are yellow and bright. Suddenly the clouds thicken and flakes fall from the sky and cover everything. New green growth is swaddled in a blanket of white and the landscape takes on an eerie glow. Mother Nature never fails to thrill the senses and neither does Masako's song, Spring Snow.

We journey to the west coast and hear a tribute to Point Reyes in northern California. Secret Path to Point Reyes (Part 1 & 2) is a two-movement suite that captures the rock strewn coastal shores, the towering cliffs and merciful lighthouse of this historical park. Masako's music blends the stories of Indian legends with the mystique of European explorers and both offer insight into the beauty of this remarkable land.

Two of my favorites are the Amazing Newt and A Tale of The Lonely Otter, especially the otter song. It has an Erik Satie-like quality that is tristful, and yet very beautiful. Why are humans so enamored of clever creatures?

Masako includes another 2-part suite called Remembrance. Because I don't usually read the liner notes until after I finish a review, I'm not sure what the reference is here. I do know that the pensive doubleton evokes memories of quieter times. All the music, the books and the rainy days (my favorites) are memorialized in the music. There are sadder times as well and they make a mental appearance, but the music quickly discards them as unusable.

Moon and Stream is a solo piano pastoral piece that evokes silvery shadows and bubbling waters. It is a little past midnight and the clouds shroud the moon from time to time leaving only the sound of the water to guide me. I decide to sit on a rock and enjoy the passage of the nightlife.

Time takes a back seat to everything else on the lento tune Forgotten Moments. Jill Haley's magical English horn graces the song and gives it a coating of pensive warmth. The melancholic melody flows like a mental slideshow, presenting scene after scene of instances of beauty and tenderness.

I have to admit for a freshman enterprise, this album has quite a bit of polish and self-confidence that I would have expected from a much more experienced composer. That tells me that there is an opportunity to achieve a powerful musical presence from this artist. By the way, Masako started piano training at the age of four.
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 8/23/2013
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