Ron Artis II and The Truth
Return to Maui with soul/funk/rock mix after a Mainland tour
When he first played on Maui, Ron Artis II entranced audiences performing soulful, inspirational songs with his brother Thunderstorm Artis as an acoustic duo. Then he returned as Ron Artis II and The Truth, an electric trio that blew everyone away.
This super talented Oahu-based soul/funk/rock musician will play Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon in Paia on Saturday with The Truth.
The group just returned from a Mainland tour, which included a show in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Soulive and Doyle Bramhall II, where Artis joined Soulive performing the Beatles’ “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (featuring some blazing Hendrix/Clapton-style soloing).
A Live for Live Music review praised, “Ron Artis II from Hawaii sang a beautiful rendition of ‘Something.’ His impressive guitar and vocal skills were especially prevalent in the set-closing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ “
Besides the fact that he shined on the impressive covers, it’s remarkable that it was the first time he had ever played the two songs.
“I had always appreciated the songs, but I had never performed them live or learned,” he says. “I learned them just for the performance and it was really special to get into the head space of where they wrote those songs, especially the melodicism of ‘Something.’ “
With The Truth, which features brother Stevon Artis on drums and Tony Burruso on bass, Artis fuses elements of fiery blues, jazz, rock and soul with a repertoire of entirely original material. It’s quite a contrast with his mellow acoustic approach with brother Thunderstorm.
“The acoustic performances are more sensitive conversations, and the electric performances feel more emotionally expressive and wild, more intensive,” he explains.
Earlier this year his guitar talent was on display at Fleetwood’s on Front St. when he jammed with Mick Fleetwood, Willie K, and The House Shakers. And he just played some Mainland dates with roots reggae musician Mike Love.
Most influenced by guitarists George Benson and Gary Moore, Artis spent every day for about eight years honing his guitar skills.
“I spent a lot of time with my guitar,” he recalls. “I would listen to anyone who had a different approach to the instrument, meaning they didn’t just strum and make noise, but interpreted emotions that really resonated with me.”
His talent caught the attention of soul legend Booker T. Jones of “Green Onions” fame, when he played an Oahu concert last year. Jones was so impressed he invited Artis and his family to his Nevada home to collaborate on songwriting.
“I did a writing session with him, it was such a privilege,” he says. “We worked on a new song together. I listened to his music a lot growing up.”
He also has a fan in Jack Johnson, who invited him to play his Waikiki Shell Kokua Hawaii Foundation benefit shows this week.
“Jack has done a lot behind the scenes to support me and my brothers,” he says. “It’s an honor to support his benefit.”
For the Charley’s show, his brother Stevon will open with the band Heavenly.
“It will be his debut performance. I haven’t heard them live yet, so it’s a surprise to me as well as everyone else. It’s all original rock music. Some of his favorite influences he told me are Celine Dion meets Foreigner. I’m excited to hear it,” said Artis.
Award-winning concert organist Joey Fala returns to Maui to perform on the Oberlinger pipe organ at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Keokea at 6:30 Saturday evening. Recently appearing in concert at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church in Boston and the Washington National Cathedral, Fala just completed his master’s degree at the Yale School of Music, in New Haven, Conn.
His program will feature J.S. Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in E flat major,” Vaughan Williams’ “Three Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes,” Paul Hindemith’s “Organ Sonata No. 3,” Herbert Howells’ “Psalm Prelude No. 2,” and Dietrich Buxtehude’s “Toccata in F major.”
“The St. John’s organ is a neo-Baroque organ designed to play the works of Bach and Buxtehude and the early Germanic composers,” says Fala. “I like to play works that aren’t designed for that instrument to open up the way people see it, so I’ll be playing some English organ music by Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells. They are two of the most important composers in the Anglican Church.”
A 2010 graduate of Iolani School, Fala grew up in Honolulu.
“I always knew that I wanted to play the organ,” he says. “At Iolani I joined the choir and we would hear the organ play every week. The organist, Katherine Crosier, became my first teacher.”
After downloading the sheet music for Bach’s organ masterpiece “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” he learned it on the piano and amazed the school’s organist one day when she invited him to try playing their organ.
Seeking a career in architecture, he set off for college, dropping his music studies until, “someone said, ‘You should try out for one of these organ competitions,’ “ he recalls. “I was sponsored to go to New York and I won.”
A recipient of the Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Scholarship from the American Guild of Organists and the Robert Baker Scholarship of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, he was awarded first place in the 2013 AGO/Quimby competition for young organists.
“It was really unexpected,” he says. “So I applied to Yale and graduated with a master’s in organ performance a month ago.”
During his study time he got to travel to Europe and play on some of the magnificent organs in famous churches and cathedrals, including the Christiaan Muller organ of St. Bavokerk in Haarlem, The Netherlands.
One of the world’s most historically important organs, upon completion, the organ of St. Bavokerk was the largest organ in the world. Many famous musicians played it including Mendelssohn, Handel, and the 10-year-old Mozart, who played it in 1766.
“It was so cool to play works that were composed on these same instruments,” he marvels. “The Muller organ has an impressive sound and it’s equally impressive visually.”
This fall he will move to Durham, N.C., to begin a new post as organ scholar at the Duke University Chapel.
“The organ scholar position is something that’s really common in the U.K.,” he explains. “You do a lot of choral accompaniment.”
One day he hopes to return to Hawaii to maybe create a professional children’s church choir.
“I’d love to return home and start something like that and give kids that opportunity, and the public an opportunity to hear music sung by a choir of mixed ages.”
* Fala performs at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kula. Seating is limited. There will be a calabash (donation) offering. For more information, call 878-1485.
Yale School of Music guitar virtuoso Benjamin Verdery continues his 18th annual classical guitar master class on Maui, hosting concerts in Kahului, Kula, Lahaina and Makena.
“We have some extraordinary young talent this year,” says Verdery. “We’re filming the class and the concerts for a documentary somewhere down the road with Scott Johnson and Sean Michael Hower of Maui’s Polyphonic Industries film company.”
At 3 p.m. Friday at the University of Hawaii Maui College’s Ike Lea Room 144, Ian O’Sullivan and some advanced students will present a free concert with music from Hawaii, Brazil and Spain.
“Ian will play some ukulele and there will be some Bach and some flamenco,” says Verdery.
A classically-trained guitarist and composer from Oahu’s North Shore, O’Sullivan has been a lecturer in classical guitar at UH Manoa since 2012. In addition to the Western classical repertoire, he is well-versed in Hawaiian slack key guitar and ukulele.
At 2 p.m. Sunday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kula, Verdery’s advanced students will present a free concert of music by Roberto Granados, Aaron Cardenas, Tyler Rhodes, Liz Faure and Satchel Henneman.
“This will be more on the classical guitar virtuoso repertoire,” he notes, “more a variety of classical guitar music.”
And finally two free student concerts will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday at the Lahaina Jodo Mission, and at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena.
Verdery says audiences will, “Hear guitar music from around the globe: Spain, Russia, and North and South America. Composers will include Villa-Lobos, York, Bach, Charlie Byrd, Barrios, Koshkin, and even possibly the theme from the movie ‘La La Land.’ “