Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
Amy Hānaiali`i: “A Hawaiian Christmas” (Tiki Man/Mt. Apple)
Owner of one of the most beautiful voices in Hawaiian music today, Hānaiali`i gives listeners a Christmas gift this year with a fourteen-track disc of holiday favorites. Many of the selections come from the hymnal of her youth, where familiar Christmas songs were translated into Hawaiian. In a similar vein to her earlier album, “Nostalgia,” where hapa-haole songs were sung in `olelo Hawai`i, part of the joy of this project is in knowing these melodies, while hearing them sung anew in the language of the Islands.
Hawaiian versions of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” join a few English-language songs, such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “White Christmas.” “Mele Kalikimaka” makes an appearance, as does Schubert’s gorgeous “Ave Maria,” and a more recent composition, “Mary, Did You Know?” which has been recorded by the likes of Reba McIntyre, Natalie Cole, Wynonna Judd and Kenny Rogers.
Two of the finest Island musicians play guitar and `ukulele throughout: David ‘ Chino’ Montero and Jeff Peterson. They are joined by jazz bassist Stephen Jones and steel guitar master Bobby Ingano. Peterson also handles arranging duties on several songs, which range from gentle to jazzy, from lively to soothing. Lyrics are enclosed, so you can learn to sing along, if you don’t already know the Hawaiian words.
(Amy Hānaiali`i brings her Hawaiian Christmas show to Seattle’s Town Hall on Dec. 5, and Portland’s Aladdin Theatre the following night. She’s also paying a visit to the Hawai`i General Store to meet fans and sign autographs on Dec. 4.)
A lovely collection of instrumental versions of holiday songs comes from this Hawai`i Island-based label (the folks who won the first Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Album back in 2005.) The afore-mentioned Jeff Peterson is represented here, as are other familiar names: Sonny Lim, Charles Michael Brotman and Randy Lorenzo being some. Not as well known, but wonderful contributors to the disc include James ‘Kimo’ West, Dwight Tokumoto, Ben Kaili and Wailau Ryder. Eight artists + twelve beloved standards = a nahenahe holiday disc to warm your ears on chilly Northwestern Winter nights.
Feb. 8) Ledward Kaapana & Mike Kaawa, Town Hall, Seattle (benefit for KBCS-FM)
Mar. 7) Hapa, Washington Center for the Arts, Olympia
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