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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews


May 2006


New Releases


Abe Lagrimas, Jr.: “Dimensions” (Pass Out)

As an (*ahem*) amateur `ukulele player myself, my ears are always captured by musicians who not only play well, but take the humble little instrument in new directions. You know who those players are – go ahead, start naming them…done? Okay, now add Abe Lagrimas, Jr. to that list. This guy knows how to get not only a crisp and clean sound out of his uke, but he’s got some real jazz and pop chops, too. Ten original instrumental compositions (one co-written with his pianist, Heean Ko) highlight his talent for strong melody in multiple styles, each played with a sound you’d not associate with a 22-year-old. The rest of his band are no slouches, either; they get to shine with tasteful phrases, particularly pianist Ko. The tunes range from gentle introspective melodies, to speedy Latin-tinged numbers, to big-band jazz complete with horn section. Expect to hear more from this player. (Oh, and did I happen to mention, he also plays guitar, drums and vibes on several tracks? And that he’s only been playing uke for three years? Excuse me – I need to go practice…a lot.)

Bruce Shimabukuro: “Incognito” (Uketree)

Ah, Shimabukuro…where have I heard THAT name before? And an `ukulele player, no less. Okay, you already know Jake, but do you know who took over teaching Jake’s students when his soaring career took him away from the Islands for so much of the year? That job fell to his talented little brother, Bruce (Jake says he chose Bruce’s name, after his hero, Bruce Lee.) For his solo debut, he leads his own group, the BS Band (with a guest guitar slot for his big brother) in a collection of originals (mostly instrumental, but with two vocal tracks – one featuring Eric Lee, one a quirky bonus cut sung by Shimabukuro) and a couple of covers (“Pipeline” and “Miserlou.”) Bruce follows in Jake’s footsteps only in their lightning-fast strumming techniques and a fondness for rock-type composing, but you can hear a distinct difference in their playing; with this album, Bruce should have little trouble in having the spotlight to himself.

Brittni Paiva: “Hear…” (Talmidim)

16-year-old multi-instrumentalist and musical prodigy Paiva continues to expand the range of songs and instruments she plays on this, her second album. Adding piano to the three instruments she played on her first disc (slack-key guitar, `ukulele and bass), and even singing on one track, she mixes pop songs (Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One,” and “El Condor Pasa,” the Peruvian folk tune adapted by Simon & Garfunkel), Italian music (“Come Back to Sorrento”), and jazz standards (Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond’s “Take Five”) with familiar Hawaiian tunes and several original compositions. One could find fault with all the different directions Paiva takes on her recordings, but with all her talent (and make no mistake, the talent is clearly there), it might be foolish to ask her to leave something behind. At least she left one instrument – drums - for someone else to play (Wendell Ching, who also engineered the CD), but don’t be surprised if she handles the sticks next time out, too!

Ata Damasco: “Pa`ina Hou!” (Ululoa/Mountain Apple)

A great collection of Hawaiian classics and hapa-haole songs, Maui’s Damasco is not that well known – yet – but then again, this is only his second CD. He’s a powerful singer, both falsetto and full-strength, as well as a player of just about anything stringed (`ukulele, guitar, bass and piano – and accordion, just to be stubborn.) If you are a fan of hearty performances of standards, you will appreciate his style, with plenty of familiar tunes here: “Kalama`ula,” “Ke Ala A Ka Jeep,” “Kaimuki Hula,” and “Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai” among them. There’s also a medley of Maui songs that he performed for the Hula Bowl, along with the singers who appear on this recording, including Cody Pueo Pata; and an original composition about the solar eclipse of 1991, which would have been visible on Maui, but for the clouds (which, from Damasco’s point of view, were an appropriate screen of privacy for the union of sun and moon.)

~~~Music Tidbits~~~

Both sad and joyous news came out of the Hawaiian music world the first week in April: Charmagne Pahinui, wife of slack key guitar master Cyril, passed away April 6 at the age of 58. Cyril was on tour at the time (having just played Seattle on March 31), and chose to continue with gigs in California, Alaska and Oregon, where he has family members. Around the same time, word spread that Amy Hanaiali`i Gilliom and her fiancée, John Austin, welcomed their first child, a nearly nine-pound girl, into the world in the wee hours of the morning of April 8. Word at press time is that the baby’s first name is Madalyn.

Jake Shimabukuro, who just played Benaroya Hall on April 7, will be back in Seattle this summer for a two-night stand just across the street at The Triple Door, July 11 & 12. Jake contributed to the soundtrack of the film Hoot, which opens nationwide on May 5. Adapted from the Newberry Award-winning novel by Carl Hiaasen, Jake provides the “audio signature” for the title character, an owl. Jimmy Buffett is a co-producer of the film, and members of his Coral Reefer Band are also featured; this collaboration is a direct result of the friendship struck between Shimabukuro and Buffett when they performed several concerts together last year.

Once again, Hawaiian music and hula have a special showcase at the Northwest Folklife Festival (Seattle Center, May 26-29.) This year, the `ukulele show continues to grow, with a celebration on Sunday, May 28, from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm in the Bagley Wright Theatre, featuring Bruddah Dem (11:00), Da Uddah Guyz (11:40), Na `Opio Ha`aheo youth group (12:20), and the Seattle `Ukulele Players Association/SUPA (1:00.) Then the annual Polynesian show takes place from 2:00 to 5:00 in McCaw Hall, with `ukulele players starting the show and leading into performances from four local hula hālau: Hālau Hula Pūlamahiaikalikolehua, Ke Liko A`e O Lei Lehua, Na Lei O Manu`akepa, and Hālau Hula `O Napualani. Also at Folklife, in a Hawaiian vein, check out Na Leolani (Sat. at 12:10, Café Impromptu at McCaw Hall), Malihini Boys (Sun. at 12:20, Alki Court ), and Stowaways In Paradise (Sun. at 7:00, International Dance Stage.)

Mark your calendars for another celebration of the links between Native American Groups and early Hawaiians in this region, as the city of Kalama holds another Kalama Days event. This year, it is scheduled for the weekend of August 19-20, and should include hula performances, workshops, and musical visits from Bill Tapia, Mihana, Brittni Paiva, Hema Pa`a and more.


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