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Album Review: Masako
Cover image of the album Masako by Masako
2012 / Masako
54 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Masako is the beautiful debut album by pianist/composer Masako. Produced by Will Ackerman, the collection of twelve original compositions is a combination of piano solos and piano with other instruments played by artists affiliated with Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont. Raised in Tokyo, Japan, Masako was already composing and singing her own tunes by the age of five. She began piano lessons at the age of four, studying with Yuko Yamaoka, a brilliant performer in her own right, and a judge for the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. Masako started performing professionally at the age of eighteen, working in a wide variety of musical genres. Her fluid, graceful touch and ability to become one with her instrument set her apart from many pianists, and her original compositions offer a truly unique musical voice that is strong and assured, yet gentle and soothing. Now residing in Vermont, Masako’s music is often inspired by the wonders of nature as well as by life itself.

Masako begins with “Glastenbury, VT” a piano solo inspired by a ghost town in her home state. A moody yet magical piece, Masako dazzles with complex chord progressions at an even tempo on her left hand while her right hand dances around the piano keyboard in a more improvisational style. What focus and concentration she must have to make this sound so effortless! “Spring Snow” evokes lovely images of snow flakes falling lazily on a bright green meadow. Mostly a piano solo, Eugene Friesen adds cello magic to the last minute of the piece. In college, I spent as much time as I could at Point Reyes in CA, and “Secret Path to Point Reyes, Part 1” brings back many memories of that beautiful and rugged area. Premik’s wind synthesizer is a lovely and haunting addition to the piano. “Part 2” is another breathtaking demonstration of how independent Masako’s hands are. Both hands are playing different intricate rhythms, yet her performance is flawless. Ackerman says in a video that Masako did many of these recordings in one take - extraordinary! I assume “Amazing Newt” is about an amphibian rather than a politician, and what a graceful, elegant piece it is! “Remembrance, Part 1” is reflective, emotional, and totally honest. Friesen again adds cello shadings, but this is mostly solo piano. “Part 1” segues into “Part 2” without a pause, bringing in light percussion and Charlie Bisharat on violin (always a treat!). “Moon and Stream” mesmerizes in much the same way watching water at night does. Deep bass notes contrast with sparkling treble notes like moonlight dancing on dark water. Gorgeous! “Forgotten Moments,” a slow, nostalgic duet with Jill Haley, is a poignant, bittersweet ending to a fantastic album. Brava, Masako!

Masako is available from masako-music.com and other online outlets. Very highly recommended!
February 2, 2012
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Debut AlbumsKathy's Favorites: 2012ZMR Winner
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