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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews

 

February 2006

 

`Ānelaikalani: “Completely” (Mālie)


After two previous albums of pleasant, but not particularly outstanding performances, the latest album from Castle High graduate Britney `Ānelaikalani Jennings should finally draw the spotlight in her direction. Her earlier CDs, recorded when she was 12 and 14 years old respectively, demonstrated that she had tremendous vocal potential, but it is on this disc (she’s 17 on this one) that her style solidifies, and some of the credit should probably go to producer/arranger/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Alden Levi Kai`okamālie.

Known professionally by her middle name, the Kāne`ohe-based singer has a very powerful, full-bodied vocal technique, meaning that she can really belt out a song, which is an asset for most of the material here. She ranges into falsetto on most of the songs, with a strength rare even amongst more experienced singers, and reminiscent of Amy Hānaiali`i Gilliom at times.

This album also features the best material she’s recorded thus far, ranging from Hawaiian standards like “Ku`u Hoa,” “Waikaloa” and “Noho Paipai,” to the Hapa-Haole classic “Song of the Islands,” Peter Moon’s famed “Hawaiian Lullaby,” and bookenders sung in Tokelauan, featuring several members of her family (from her father’s side) as a backing choir. Nālani Olds sings a duet on the traditional “Makalapua,” Wendell Ching and Jeff Rasmussen are amongst the performers, and the cover photo is by Kim Taylor Reece.


Sean Na`auao: “Ka `Eha Ke Aloha” (Poi Pounder)

Okay, it’s not like this album has needed a boost from a Mainland reviewer, but several months have passed since this disc’s release, and I just haven’t been able to get to writing about it until now. Sorry about that. (See the HRC Top Ten list at the end of the column.) So you may have already checked it out in stores or on the radio, but in case you haven’t, you must be made aware of the recent directions Na`auao has taken with his music.

I cannot praise him enough for recognizing the valuable position he holds in Hawaiian music today. After building a tremendous following as one of the top voices amongst younger (and Jawaiian) music fans, both as a soloist and in his earlier days with Mana`o Company, he has been paying close attention to his Hawaiian roots (as well as those of his wife, Kau`i, who hails from a well-respected hula family), not only in his choice of traditional material, but in co-writing brilliant new songs with his wife, and championing the works of one of the finest practitioners of mele today, Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett.

Each song is a gem. Production, arrangement and performance are stellar, and his voice is one of the most comfortable to listen to today; he makes each number his own, and sounds as if he is having fun as well as giving honor to each track. He also makes a political point with “No Hawaiians, No Aloha,” but in a fashion that is strong and demanding without being harsh or condemning.


Various Artists: “How About Uke? – Wizards of the Ukulele” (Lehua)

There is so much great material in the history of Hawaiian albums yet to be converted to compact disc, so I am always grateful to see reissues. 1974 was the original year of release for this profile of four `ukulele greats, produced by the late Bill Murata (who went on to develop the Tropical Music family of labels and whose work is celebrated in the “Hawaiian Classics” compilation reviewed here last December.)

Eddie Kamae, Ohta-San, Jesse Kalima and Eddie Bush are the four “wizards,” each a true star in the pantheon of players (though not equally represented on these 13 tracks.) With its somewhat raw recording quality and lounge-esque arrangements, the album is basically untouched from its original version – no bonus material, meaning less than a half-hour of total content; no mention of the other band members; Wayne Harada’s original liner notes, without any updates on where the players’ careers went following this album. But having said that, this is still a valuable snapshot of these musical gentlemen at a key point in their lives, and a welcome addition to the libraries of `ukulele fans.


~~~ MUSIC TIDBITS ~~~

It’s definitely awards season: The Grammy Awards will be presented on Feb. 8, and this will be the second year that a little gramophone will be given to someone in Island music, for “Best Hawaiian Album.” A reminder of the five nominees:

  • Kapono Beamer: “Slack Key Dreams of the Ponomoe” (OnoPak)
  • Raiatea Helm: “Sweet & Lovely” ( Raiatea Helm)
  • Ledward Ka`apana: “Kīhō`alu: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” (Rhythm & Roots)
  • Sonny Lim: “Slack Key Guitar – The Artistry Of Sonny Lim” (Palm)
  • -Various Artists: “Masters Of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 1” (Daniel Ho Creations); Producers: Daniel Ho, Paul Konwiser & Wayne Wong

Voting is open (until Feb. 12) on the Hawai`i Music Awards, with the winners to be announced around the end of the month. Unlike the Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards, these awards are decided by anyone who wants to vote; go to their website at www.hawaiimusicawards.com to do so. The Hōkūs themselves are still in the middle of their voting procedures, and will be presented on May 31.

Updating a mention in this column from October 2005, Cecilio & Kapono have now issued a DVD of highlights from their 30th Anniversary performances in 2003, filmed at the now-closed (as of New Year’s Eve) Kapono’s Restaurant at Aloha Tower. Two CDs of material from these shows have already been released.

--- Mahlon Moore ’s popular internet feed of Hawaiian music, The Breeze Of Hawai`i, has ceased transmitting. Moore does not want to carry standard commercials, like a radio station, and is seeking sponsorship for the programming instead.

~~~Hawaiian music tours coming to the Seattle area include Hapa (Triple Door, March 7); slack-key masters Dennis Kamakahi, Cyril Pahinui, George Kahumoku, Jr. and Patrick Landeza (Town Hall, March 31 – to be followed by Landeza and company’s Hawaiian Music Institute workshops on April 1 and 2); and Jake Shimabukuro (Benaroya Hall, April 7 & Portland on April 8.) --- Several musicians from the Pacific Northwest are attending this year’s Aloha Music Camp on Moloka`i, Feb. 5-11, run by Keola Beamer and Oregon-based multi-instrumentalist Mark Nelson. --- Even though they have closed their Shoreline facility, classes have resumed for Gloria Napua Fujii’s Halau Hula O Napualani, in rented space at Concordia Lutheran School in the Wedgewood area (call Gloria at 206/484-2511.)

The hosts of the Hawai`i Radio Connection shows (KXPA 1040 AM – Sat. at 8-9 am ; KBCS 91.3 FM – Sat. at Noon-2 pm) have compiled and announced their choices of the Top Ten Hawaiian CDs released in 2005 ---

10) “Kanikapila O`ahu Style” (compilation)

9) “Hawaiian Style `Ukulele” – Troy Fernandez

8) “Hawaiian Classics” (compilation)

7) “ Maui ” - Hapa

6) “Kīhō`alu: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” - Ledward Ka`apana

5) “Kamahiwa: Collection One” – Keali`i Reichel

4) “Duke Of Uke” – Bill Tapia

3) “`Ukuleles In Paradise ” – Herb Ohta, Jr. & Daniel Ho

2) “Pure Hawaiian `Elua” (compilation)

1) “Ka `Eha Ke Aloha” – Sean Na`auao

(Full disclosure: your humble columnist is one of the hosts of the programs, as are this paper’s publishers.)

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