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Album Review: Wanderlust
Cover image of the album Wanderlust by Masako
2021 / Masako Music
52 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Wanderlust is the sixth album from award-winning Japanese-born pianist/composer Masako. All six of her albums have been co-produced by Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton and Masako and were recorded at Ackerman's Imaginary Road Studio on his Steinway grand piano. Several of the guest artists who often appear on Ackerman's productions brought their talents to this beautiful album as well. The eleven tracks are all original compositions and range in style from neo-classical to new age to smooth jazz, making Wanderlust Masako's declaration of freedom from traditional genres and musical boundaries.

Now living in the northeastern United States, Masako started piano lessons at the age of four and started to compose at the age of five. She later belonged to Music House Moz in Japan and performed in clubs in and around Tokyo as a keyboardist. She taught at the Yamaha Music School for many years as a certified piano instructor. Her 2012 debut album, Masako, won Zone Music Reporter’s “Best New Artist of 2013” and her second album, Call of the Mountain, won ZMR’s “Best Piano Album of 2014.” Her 2017 solo piano Piano Sanctuary was nominated for "Album of the Year" by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio as well as "Best Solo Piano Album" by One World Music and Zone Music Reporter. Her 2019 Underwater Whisperer was nominated for "Album of the Year" by ZMR and One World Music, and "Best Piano Album with Instrumentation" by ZMR, so expectations are running very high for Wanderlust and I sincerely doubt anyone will be disappointed - not even a little bit!

Wanderlust begins with "Lily of the Valley," an expressive piano solo as graceful and delicate as the flower that inspired it. "Ocean and You" adds cello (Eugene Friesen), violin (Charlie Bisharat), wordless vocals and washes of electronic instrumentation to the piano to emulate the movement of a peaceful ocean with sparkles of light dancing on the waves. Magical - and a favorite! "Wintering Birds" starts with the sound of birdsongs. Piano, cello and Noah Wilding's haunting voice paint a beautiful but very chilly aural winter-scape. The title track is a relaxed and blissful piano solo - a daydream set to music. Spontaneous and improvisational, the piece wanders freely but not without purpose - another favorite! "Lake Willoughby" is a gorgeous duet for piano and flugel horn (Jeff Oster) that expresses the tranquility of being near a quiet body of water - perhaps at sunset. "Shades of Memory," a piece for a full ensemble - piano, cello, horn, percussion, keyboard, bass - has more of a smooth jazz vibe. The soulful solo piano "Diversity" expresses deep thought as well as heartfelt emotion. "Wisdom of the Heart" brings the album to a close with a gorgeous piano solo (always my favorites!). Thoughtful and reflective, it feels almost conversational and flows straight from the heart.

Wanderlust is available from www.masako-music.com, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. Highly recommended!
June 10, 2021
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