KEIKO MATSUI is a Japanese smooth jazz pianist whose work is often filed under “new age” music because of its reflective, meditative quality. She boasts and impressive CV with numerous albums under her belt- her debut being 1987’s ‘A Drop Of Water’. In her career she’s collaborated with people like of Miles Davis, Bob James and Stevie Wonder and her latest album, ‘Euphoria’ (her 30th as leader), features  plenty of big names too – amongst them Kirk Whalum, Randy Brecker and Joel Ross. But the collaboration that’s interesting the serious soul crowd is the track ‘Love and Nothing Less’, which features impeccable vocals from Lalah Hathaway.

‘Love and Nothing Less’ is a stunning piece of work – proper, grown-up soul music. The two principals  are totally in emotional sync and those emotion-tugging vibes are enhanced by a melancholic harmonica interlude from Gregoire  Maret . Ms Matsui says of the recording: “The moment the melody first came to me, I immediately could hear Lalah singing and before I even made contact with her, I had written the complete verse melody while imagining her voice. I really admire her as an artist, so I was so happy we had the opportunity to finally collaborate. Her performance is amazing! When I shared my feelings and thoughts about the song, she delicately captured the vibe and spirit of it and transformed it into beautiful words.”

If you really  care about serious soul music, investigation is recommended. For you investment though, you’ll also get plenty of quality smooth jazz – though “smooth” is perhaps not the right adjective. Ms M’s work often starts simply but as tracks develop, the soundscape becomes more complex and intriguing as on , here, ‘The Choice’ (with input from star guitarist Mike Stern) and the album title track (which features stunning vibraphone from Joel Ross). Randy Brecker features on ‘Neo’  while sax man Kirk Whalum guests on ‘Luminescence’ whose building complexity makes nonsense of the “smooth jazz” tag.

KEIKO MATSUI; ‘Euphoria’  is out now via Shanachie.