You could call them Hawaii’s super duo. Multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners Nathan Aweau and Jeff Peterson rarely perform together, but when they do, you can expect an evening of superb, virtuoso musicianship.
Among their accomplishments, Jeff has contributed to three Grammy Award-winning recordings and Nathan has been bestowed with Na Hoku Hanohano Awards three times for Male Vocalist of the Year.
Both have just released new solo albums, and they’ve collaborated on their first recording together, “Mamo,” which is presently only available in Japan.
These gifted musicians share a mutual admiration and respect for each other.
“Jeff amazes me every day,” praises Nathan. “Every time we jump on stage and we haven’t played for a couple of months, I hear something new coming out of his guitar. He’s the only guitarist I can think of in Hawaii that has no weakness. I can call out any type of style from jazz to Hawaiian to contemporary pop, and he just slides right into it. That’s the kind of musician I’ve always wanted to be. To work with him is so easy.”
“Any direction we feel like going in, the other person is totally into it,” Jeff concurs. “We love Hawaiian music and many other styles, so we have a big range. He’s a great guitarist and does everything from percussion and bass to vocal harmonies. His sense of timing on rhythm parts is so spot on, more so than anyone I’ve ever played with. And when we play jazz tunes and he takes a solo, it’s incredible.”
They began playing together about a year ago at occasional gigs in Hawaii and on the Mainland and a later tour of Japan, which led to the “Mamo” project.
“A Japanese company wanted me to do something with them, but more of a jazzier thing,” Nathan explains. “I said, I know this guy, Jeff Peterson, who is an incredible guitarist. We released it last year.”
Along with some of Jeff’s originals, the album features some hula standards like “Pua Lililehua” and “Mokihana Lullaby,” with a little jazz twist.
“We’re hoping to put it out (in Hawaii) the later part of this year,” he adds. Until then, you can catch a cool peek of the duo performing live online at www.hisessions.com
Nathan’s remarkable new album, ” ‘Io,” marks an artist at a creative peak. The former Don Ho band arranger and member of Hapa has repeatedly won awards for his solo work and his latest should definitely secure major attention when the 2013 Hoku nominations are announced in April.
This incredibly accomplished musician not only composed all the songs, he also played all the instruments, sang all the vocal parts, and arranged, produced, mixed and mastered the disc.
Besides playing guitar, bass, percussion, keyboards and ukulele on it, he excels at crafting a wide range of material from majestic, Brothers Caz-like sounding anthems like “Ho’olana,” and moving ballads like “Kou Leo Nahenahe,” which you could imagine as a highlight of a Keali’i Reichel recording, to a jazz flavored instrumental, where he demonstrates his extraordinary bass playing, and a new English language pop standard.
“I come from a musical family, my father was a band director, and growing up there were always so many instruments around the house,” he recalls. “There was a lot of pop, jazz and classical. My interest in Hawaiian music took off about 16 years ago. When I was with Don Ho, he challenged me to think about my own solo career. He knew I did a lot of writing and arranging, but he said, ‘Have you ever written a Hawaiian song?’ I wrote my first Hawaiian song about 12 years ago and it won Song of the Year.”
On some tunes he plays so many instruments you’d think a whole band was backing him. And he brings the powerful song, “He’e Nalu,” to a close with an amazing choir of 16-tracked voices.
Exemplary musicianship also distinguishes Jeff Peterson’s latest “Slack Key Travels.” An exceptionally talented guitarist, fluent in a variety of styles from jazz and classical to Hawaiian slack key, the Maui-born artist’s recordings include the Hoku-winning “Maui on My Mind,” and he contributed music to the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning movie, “The Descendants.”
Inspired by his time on the road, including journeys to Asia, “Slack Key Travels,” is a perfect prescription for anyone needing to decompress from stress.
As one of one of our leading, innovative exponents of Hawaiian slack-key guitar, he’s conjured up a delightful collection of serene and soothing, mostly original instrumentals shaped by his love for our islands.
“I do a lot of writing while I’m on tour, but even if I’m away, my thoughts turn back home so they still have island themes,” Jeff explains. “Some songs were written in China and Singapore.”
Stylistically he shifts between enchanting traditional slack key (“Aloha ‘Ia No O Maui” and “Mahina ‘O Hoku”) and evocative instrumentals like “Hotel Street,” which reflect a neo-classical influence.
“I was thinking of starting with the tradition of slack key and traveling out, exploring different sounds,” he continues. “The feeling is very nahenahe, very soothing and relaxing. A lot of the songs are in new tunings that I’ve never written in before.”
Next month Jeff will head to Brazil and Venezuela with Keola Beamer on an official State Department-sponsored tour.
“I’ve been immersed in different Brazilian rhythms for the past month, and I’ll talk Nathan into joining me on some Brazilian and South American inspired music at the Maui concert,” he notes.
Later in the year he will travel to Indonesia, Singapore and China, playing a series of concerts with Nathan.
* Jeff Peterson and Nathan Aweau perform tonight at 7:30 in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $30 standard and $45 for VIP, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
It’s rare for a veteran artist to spotlight so many songs from their latest albums in concert like Bonnie Raitt did with “Slipstream” last Friday at the MACC, but then how many are capable of releasing such a powerful work more than 40 years into their career.
And so this magnificent musician opened the show, mightily rocking the house, with the Grammy-winning recording’s funky first track, “Used to Rule the World.”
Spotlighting almost half the album, she immediately segued into the reggaeish cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line,” and strapped on an acoustic guitar for some deep, sultry blues with her rendition of Dylan’s “Million Miles.”
A unique performer who can combine such soulful balladry with sizzling guitar playing, Raitt is also defined by her personal aura and generous heart. Time and time again she expressed gratitude for her superb band members and the composer’s work she illuminates, and her joy of being on Maui. It felt like she was just hanging out with a bunch of friends and treating us to a private concert.
It would be hard to find a tighter, more accomplished ensemble, than guitarist George Marinelli, drummer Ricky Fataar and keyboardist Mike Finnigan (who once recorded with Jimi Hendrix on “Electric Ladyland”), and Maui’s Hutch Hutchinson on bass (whose wife in the audience had a song dedicated to her).
Even if one of them soloed, nothing was overplayed. And that’s a hallmark of the approach of the guitarist B.B. King has acknowledged as his favorite slide player. It’s elegant, subtlety understated and so sensual.
Of course Raitt didn’t disappoint her fans by not performing some of her most beloved songs. But there was nothing rote about them. Classics like John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” were treated so tenderly and with such presence, it was if they were being played for the first time.
Thanking contemporary artists like Adele and Bon Iver, who have covered one of her signature tunes, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” she opened her encore pouring her soul into the heart-wrenching ballad, and drew the night to a close, ripping through an old Elvis classic, “A Big Hunk O’ Love.”
Somehow the MACC has secured the only Hawaii concert appearance of Eagles’ co-founder Glenn Frey. And that goes for James Taylor in April, too.
Frey, who performs with his own band on May 4, composed some of the most famous Eagles’ songs, including “Desperado,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Best of My Love,” “One of These Nights,” “Take It to the Limit,” “Hotel California,” and “Life in the Fast Lane.”
As a solo artist, he released a string of well-received albums and scored hits with “The Heat is On,” “You Belong to the City,” and “Smuggler’s Blues.”
His legendary band has a new documentary out, “History of the Eagles,” which premiered at Sundance.
Tickets go on sale for MACC members on Saturday, general public on March 30.