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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews

 

December 2006

 

New Releases

Brittni Paiva: “Brittni” (Talmidim Productions)

This is the third release by the recently-turned-18 musician from Hilo, and with each album, she moves ahead by great leaps – improvements in performance, technique, selection and composition. It’s hard to know exactly to what element one can attribute the advancements; there are many possibilities:

> Confidence. In a very short period of time, the youthful Ms. Paiva has not only issued three CDs, but performed at all kinds of events, in all kinds of settings, throughout Hawai`i and in a few of the continental states. Her stage performances (as seen in three Washington shows last August) show a musician who is still finding her comfort zones on stage, but is willing to take risks in her playing before audiences. A very gutsy way to operate, and one that works best when there is a deep confidence in what one is trying to accomplish.

> Effort. Brittni is a very committed player; her home-schooling and strong family ties have given her the opportunity to put a very strong focus on practice, study and observation with other musicians, and she has not wasted it. (She has recently graduated from her home study program, and plans to continue with collegiate work in music.)

> Experience. Having studied and shared the stage with some of the best players in Hawaiian music, as well as having kept control of her recordings, publishing, touring, etc., within the family, she has undoubtedly picked up a lot of knowledge of both the music business as well as aspects of her craft.

> Talent. There’s only so much you can learn from outside – her natural abilities have to kick in and take the lead. She has exceptional pitch and hearing skills, and that comes through in the cleanliness of her playing, be it on `ukulele, guitar or bass.

Then, there’s something special that comes when you get the opportunity to record with other skilled musical performers, and that’s one of the areas where this album truly shines. On her previous releases, Brittni played almost every note by herself. But this time out, she is joined by a number of guests, the best known players being Hapa’s Nathan Aweau (bass, keyboards) and her engineer/co-producer, Wendell Ching (drums.) She also gives another young player a chance to shine, with two tracks featuring 19-year-old violinist Ryan Hiroaki Tsukamoto.

I cannot fail to mention one of the two tracks where Brittni sings, as she is joined in a duet on “Pua Karauna” by the legendary Melveen Leed. While Brittni’s singing still belies her youth, it would be easy for any singer to be sonically overwhelmed by the power of the legendary Moloka`i tita, but this duet seems to draw out more strength in Brittni’s vocals – again, a reflection of the confidence she has developed.

Her other vocal selection is a traditional song of praise that she has arranged, and speaks (in each of the languages that are part of her ethnicity) of her own religious conviction. In addition to arranging this number, there are several of her own compositions throughout, each one a strong work that stands comfortably alongside better-known pieces. The album’s opener, “Riding Honoli`i," has a fun, contemporary-Hawaiian vibe to it, as do her tunes “Journey Home” and “Just Once More,” all featuring her in a band setting; but her solo `ukulele performance on another original, “Gazing,” is a sweet and introspective beauty.

She also tackles a wide range of other selections, including “Mauna Loa” (played as a duet on slack key guitar and `ukulele), Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti,” Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” and a contemporary “Czardas” (a Hungarian dance tune.)

While her first two albums were better than many independent first efforts, this is the disc most likely to launch Brittni as a performer outside Hawai`i, as well as strengthening her foundation as a top-level artist in her home base.

~~~ MUSIC TIDBITS ~~~

The first round of ballot voting for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards (to be presented Feb. 11, 2007) has been completed, and there were 29 entries submitted and accepted as potential nominees for the third presentation of a Best Hawaiian Album trophy. (The five nominees, announced in December, will result from this round of voting.) They include releases by established artists such as Amy Hānaiali`i, Ledward Ka`apana, George Kahumoku, Jr. and Henry Kapono, alongside first albums by Holunape, Aaron J. Salā, and Steven Espaniola. Taking note of the winning trend the past two years, there are six albums on the list with the words “slack key” in the title, including the second in a series of live recordings from Maui, the first of which was the 2006 winner.

Hawaiian music acts confirmed as coming to the region in 2007: Jake Shimabukuro is back for two Triple Door concerts on February 20, and Ho`okena will be at Green River Community College in May. Rumored: we may also see Brittni Paiva returning, a first-time visit from Kohala, Hapa back yet again, Nā Leo (making up for the gig they had to cancel a year ago), Amy Hānaiali`i, and more workshops from Patrick Landeza with Dennis Kamakahi and others.

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