Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
Ledward Ka`apana: "Grandmaster Slack Key Guitar"
Fans of straight-ahead kī hō`alu (slack key) guitar should revel in the joy of several new releases in this genre. Foremost amongst them, the latest from one of the biggest names in the business, Ledward Ka`apana, who received a Grammy nomination earlier this year for his previous album. As he has done many times in the past, on “Grandmaster Slack Key Guitar”(Rhythm & Roots), Ka`apana has blended a mix of instrumental tracks with ones featuring his falsetto vocals. Familiar standards such as “Kaulana Nā Pua,” Hawai`i Aloha” and “Fireman’s Hula” are joined by more recent compositions. A couple tracks of note include an instrumental version of the Peter, Paul & Mary hit, “Lemon Tree,” and a live cut (lacking any recording info) of his popular show-stopper, “12th Street Rag.”
Another guitarist who, like Ka`apana, has performed in Seattle is John Keawe, and his latest release, “Beautiful Hula Dancer”( Homestead ), pays tribute to his lovely wife, Hope. This may be Keawe’s finest album, filled with gorgeous instrumentals and a sprinkling of vocal selections, crisply recorded by his Hawai`i Island buddy Charlie Recaido (who brings a guitarist’s ear to the sessions.) Though he shares writing credits on two songs (one with his wife, and one with a poet friend), all of the pieces are originals; at least one track was written in 1981 (and previously recorded with a different arrangement), another dates from the mid-90s, and others are from the past year. Keawe tastefully multi-tracks in some cases, adding `ukulele here and mandolin there.
After several years of declining to record a solo album, Kaua`i’s Paul Togioka was finally convinced to do so in 2004. His debut disc, “Kī Hō`alu Inn,” garnered him quite a number of new fans who should be pleased with his second all-instrumental offering, titled “Here, There And Everywhere Slack Key Guitar”(Rhythm & Roots). Hawaiian standards (“He Hawai`i Au,” “Kāne`ohe,” “Lei Awapuhi”) stand alongside sweet arrangements of songs in medley combinations (“Somewhere Over The Rainbow/White Sandy Beach” and the title track Beatles tune, combined with another of their ballads, “I Will”) and several originals. Togioka is joined on some tracks by additional musicians, including Ledward Ka`apana, and the liner notes give the guitar tunings for each track.
Hawai`i ’s tropical climate is excellent for growing tremendous plant life, and it also seems to be doing the same for young musical talents. The latest to step into the spotlight is 15-year-old Danny Carvalho, who has recently released his premiere CD, “Slack Key Journey – On My Way”(Lava Rock). A student of Ozzie Kotani, Carvalho has been playing for a little over five years, yet there is a maturity in his music that is most clearly reflected in the patient pacing of the gentler tracks. Two of his own compositions are on the disc, along with standards and favorites such as “I’ll Remember You,” “Hawaiian Soul,” “Kimo Hula,” “Sanoe” and “Whee Ha Swing,” and an arrangement of Santana’s “Europa” (a piece that is becoming part of the repertoire of many young Island players.) This young artist has been profiled on a national radio program, as well as having appeared at several Island music festivals.
The recent three-show tour by young and old `ukulele stars Brittni Paiva (age 17) and Bill Tapia (age 98) swung through Mount Vernon and Kirkland, before wrapping up with a concert at Kalama’s 2nd “Days of Discovery” event, where they were joined by Hema Pa`a (Chris Kamaka, William ‘Baba’ Alimoot & Jan Luna), and led two days of workshops. Paiva has a new CD coming in the fall, and folks in Kalama were treated to an impromptu duet when she invited Kohala’s guitarist Charlie Recaido (who was also helping with p.a. mixes that weekend) to accompany her on guitar for three songs. The next day, she also joined the stage band (which included this humble writer on bass) to play for a halau from Longview. Tapia was joined in concert by Bay Area bassist Ruth Davies and singer Mihana (daughter of Irmgard `Aluli, of “Puamana” fame), and between songs, he told many captivating stories from nearly a century as a professional musician.
Newly released: Amy Hānaiali`i Gilliom’s “Generation Hawai`i,” completed during her recent pregnancy. Coming this month: “Gently Weeps” from `ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro – the U.S. release differs extensively from the Japanese issue, with each album having about five or six tracks not available on the other version. The long-awaited biography of Israel Kamakawiwo`ole, “IZ: The Voice of the People,” was finally issued in mid-August as well.
…and just because EVERYBODY has to talk about it, the recent film “Snakes On A Plane,” starring Samuel L. Jackson, also stars some Hawaiian music, with songs from the afore-mentioned Amy, IZ, and Brother Noland. Apparently, the movie’s flight originates in Hawai`i , which we all know has such an extensive snake problem…
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