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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews

October 2005

Keoki Kahumoku & Herb Ohta, Jr.“Hana Hou”
(Daniel Ho Creations)

These two young musicians are prime representatives of the “Next Generation” of Hawaiian artists, both sons of respected players (Keoki’s father is kī hō`alu star George Kauhumoku, Jr.; Herb’s dad is acclaimed `ukulele trailblazer Ohta-San.) They have worked together off and on for a decade, but it has been a little while since they did an album together.

Kahumoku handles the vocals here, along with his strong slack-key playing, while Ohta’s `ukulele flourishes enhance every tune. (Daniel Ho, who recorded and issued the CD, also plays an assortment of instruments on three selections.) The choice of material is a blend of standards, ballads, hula numbers, and compositions by Kahumoku’s father. Classics include renditions of “Maui Waltz,” “Ke Kali Nei Au,” “Keawaiki,” “Waikīkī Hula,” and Kui Lee’s haunting “Days of My Youth.”

 

Nathan Aweau: “The Hawai`i Classic Series: Vol. 1 – Vintage” (Bass Plus Music Arts)

This is an intriguing project. The first of a projected four volumes to be released over the course of a year, singer and multi-instrumentalist Aweau tackles a set of eleven hapa-haole songs, ranging from chestnuts like “Lovely Hula Hands,” “Tiny Bubbles,” “Blue Hawai`i,” “Beyond the Reef,” and “Sweet Leilani,” to more recent entries into the standards folder, such as “Hawaiian Lullaby” and “Honolulu City Lights.” (Note: he has recorded this arrangement of “A Maile Lei” previously.)

In anyone else’s hands, this could be a rather dull album – it would be easy for these to become one-dimensional renditions. However, Aweau’s arranging skills liven them up a bit, while still keeping them relatively straightforward, and his is one of the most comfortable voices in contemporary Hawaiian music. Lyrics are included, which makes this an accommodating album for anyone wanting to learn these selections.

 

Cecilio & Kapono: “Lifetime Party – 30 Years of Friends, Vol. 2” (C&K)

This is an album for those who wish this venerated pop duo had released more live material during their heyday in the 1970s; they are making up for lost time with this and an earlier volume, recorded during their 30 th anniversary concerts in June of 2003. While their trademark harmonies are still strong, I would wish for a more cohesive feel to the disc, as well as more details in the liner notes.

The songs are mostly C&K favorites, with their feel of an endless summer intact: “Highway in the Sun,” “Summerlady,” “Gotta Get Away,” “Home,” “Sunflower,” “Here With You,” Boz Skaggs’ “We’re All Alone,” and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” One of the most unique selections, however, is the final track, “`O Makalapua”; unique in the sense that C&K were not known for doing Hawaiian material during their prime years.

Expect a DVD from these shows later in the year.

 

R. Carlos Nakai & Keola Beamer: “Our Beloved Land ” (Canyon)

What a beautiful pairing – Beamer has long been a master of hauntingly beautiful Hawaiian music, and here he teams up with one of the most successful Native American musicians, the award-winning Navajo-Ute flute player Nakai. This is an album of cross-cultural tranquility, from two of the most revered curators of their respective musical traditions.

Primarily Hawaiian in style (though released on Nakai’s primarily Native American music label), the songs are mostly Hawaiian compositions, or arrangements by Beamer, with a couple of collaborative writing efforts. Other Hawaiian musicians are on the recording as well, including Beamer’s wife, Moanalani, and members of the Hoe `ohana; there are also some Native American percussionists, and one appearance by Geoffrey Keezer on ipu heke (Keezer is a young jazz pianist who has featured Beamer on one of his albums.)

This is an incredibly soothing album, one that makes for marvelously hypnotic late-night listening. The connections between these two cultures are most strongly emphasized when Hawaiian lyrics are translated into Diné (Navajo language.) Considering the recent celebrations in Kalama , Washington , of the intermarriage of Hawaiians and Nisqually Indians, and then this album project, one wonders how many more collaborations the future holds for these ancient cultures, both with long traditions of respect for the earth.

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