Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
Hōkū Zuttermeister: “`Āina Kūpuna” (Kaleiola)
Okay, let’s just get it out right up front: this album will be nominated repeatedly in next year’s Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, and it should be one of the biggest-selling Hawaiian albums of 2007 – not only because we’ve been waiting for this performer’s first solo release for a long time, but because it’s such a strong album in every sense. Perhaps his time touring and performing with the Mākaha Sons can explain the last three years of delay in the creation of this release – let’s hope a follow-up does not take as long. Here is the kind of artist who should be at the forefront of today’s Hawaiian music scene.
The opening notes will have you grasping for the liner booklet, as you recognize the melody of “Nani Nā Pali Hāuliuli O Nā Ko`olau” – with lyrics by Johnny Townsend (given to Zuttermeister’s great-grandmother, the late Kau`i Zuttermeister, for her hālau), the words are set to the familiar event-closer, “Hawai`i Aloha.” The rest of the disc features primarily Hawaiian songs, some old, some newer (including several composed by fellow Kāne`ohe resident Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett), as well as two in English. A couple of these pieces are tailor-made for hula; some are ones he learned as a member of the band Kāna`e.
Guest musicians abound, ranging from vocalists Robert Cazimero and Keao Costa (most recently of Nā Palalapai) to instrumentalists Abe Lagrimas, Casey Olsen, Bryan Tolentino and Byron Yasui. As no other performers are mentioned, we have to assume all other sounds, including `ukulele, piano and Tahitian banjo, are played by Zuttermeister. His vocals range from a clear falsetto to a strong tenor. Overall, one of the best albums of the year to date.
The 30th annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards will be presented on June 20 (see a partial list of nominees in this issue.) Multiple nominees include Amy Hānaiali`i and the recently-disbanded group Nā Palalapai, each with eight nominations. Perennial winner Keali`i Reichel received seven nominations for his first Christmas album, “Maluhia,” and the band Kaukahi’s debut disc, “Life In These Islands,” is up for six awards. Five nominations were earned by the duo of Willie K and Eric Gilliom, as Barefoot Natives. Lifetime Achievement honors were presented in March to jazz saxophonist Gabe Baltazar, pianist Rene Paulo, Vegas and Waikīkī lounge stars Society of Seven, early Hawaiian pop band the Surfers and the late ”Lady of Love,” singer Loyal Garner.
JOHN CRUZ – June 22, The Triple Door (downtown Seattle ), 206/838-4333, www.thetripledoor.net (also appearing that night: Todd Hannigan)
JAKE SHIMABUKURO – October 13, Edmonds Center for the Arts, 425/275-9595, www.ec4arts.org
Also make note of the 3rd annual Kalama Days of Discovery celebration, scheduled this year for August 25 and 26 in the little Columbia River community. Headliners have not yet been announced, but many local performers and halau will be there for this focus on the blending of Native American and Hawaiian cultures.
Health issues have recently struck two members of the Hawaiian music community, one local to our area. First, Keali`i Blaisdell (who splits his residence between Hawai`i and Alaska, and is up for a Hōkū this year) suffered a stroke in late March, and while he is on the road to recovery, his memory has been sharply affected – including his ability to play guitar and speak Hawaiian. Being a musician, of course there are few of his medical expenses that are covered by insurance, so friends of the family have set up a way for people to kokua:
- by mail to Me Ke Aloha, PO Box 160366, Sacramento, CA 95816-0366 (make checks to Errol M.K. Blaisdell).
Second, local massage therapist/musician/all-around sweet guy Doug McKeague also had a stroke while in Colorado back in mid-April. He has since been flown back to the Puget Sound area, and is in transition between different types of care facilities as he recovers. His strength is low and his ability to communicate is severely limited, but he has been enjoying visits from friends. Wife Vi and daughter Coral have been keeping people appraised as to Uncle Dougie’s condition via a website (complete with journal, photos and a guestbook) at http://www.caringbridge.org --- choose “Visit” and enter “douglasmckeague” to get to his page.
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