For his latest CD release, "In a Dream," Grammy-nominated pianist Peter Kater collaborated with Sting's longtime guitarist, Dominic Miller. This tranquil acoustic instrumental project also features contributions by cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and Kenny Loggins on layered vocal harmonies.
"I've been a fan of Dominic's playing for years and I'm a huge fan of Sting," says Kater. "I was working on a large film project last year and had a decent budget, and thought I could afford to fly him in from England. We hit it off and we were both thinking it would be cool to do a record together. He came back out six months later. Then my wife said Kenny (Loggins) would want to sing on it. Kenny and I had worked on some projects so I sent him the music and he thought it was gorgeous. Dominic tuned me on to the cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, who worked with Sting on 'Fragile.' We called it 'In A Dream,' because for me in a lot of ways it was a dream come true to work with someone I admired that much. Next summer I want to bring Dominic out here. We're going to do a three-week tour with concerts in Colorado, California and Hawaii, and record another album while he's here."
For the CD cover, Kater chose a painting by Maui artist Avi Kiriaty, who has a gallery in Paia.
'When someone says, ‘I had some problem and listened to your music and it gave me strength,’ it makes me happy. What else is there but really touching somebody?'
– Peter Kater
"I met Pierce Brosnan last year when I was doing a concert on Kauai," explains Kater, who moved to Maui earlier in the year. "He came to the concert with his family and we've been getting to know him. We went over for Pierce's birthday party and Avi was there. He showed us his amazing artwork. I asked if I could use one of his paintings for an album cover and at first he said no. But then we got to know each other more and he let me use it."
A multiplatinum-selling musician, Kater has received five Grammy nominations in the New Age music category. He's scored many TV programs (including the "How The West Was Lost" Discovery Channel miniseries) and films, and composed music for a number of Broadway and Off- Broadway plays with actors such as John Malkovich, Jon Voight and Ethan Hawke.
Kater's recent recording "Ambrosia" was just nominated for a New Age Grammy. "It's a great honor to be nominated," he continues. "It's been four years in a row, but to tell you the truth, it feels a little less significant now that I'm here and can wake up and watch the sunrise and breathe clean air and swim in clean water."
Since beginning recording in 1983, this prolific artist has released more than 30 albums.
"I haven't had any difficulty coming up with new ideas," he notes. "It just comes naturally. It's actually hard for me to hold back and only release one or two records a year. That's why I'm really happy I'm doing more film work. I have a creative outlet that doesn't always need to be on a CD."
Kater recently completed his most ambitious film score to date, composing the music for a new animated feature film "The Legend of Secret Pass," working with a 70-piece orchestra and a 50-voice choir.
"It was a huge step for me," he says. "I don't come from formal school in orchestration. I think it came out really well. It will be my first big exposure in the film world."
Some Maui filmgoers will have heard Kater's music previously in the wonderful documentary "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama," which screened at the Maui Film Festival. The soundtrack includes chanting by Tibetan teacher Tulku Orgyen, Tibetan flutist Nawang Khechog and Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai.
"Nawang Khechog often plays for the Dalai Lama and we did a record years ago called 'Dance of Innocence,' " he says. "The director, Rick Ray, used several tracks in his rough cut. He tracked me down and asked if I was interested, so we used a few of those tracks with Nawang and I wrote a bunch of original music, and they used some tracks from a record of mine with Carlos called 'Migration,' "
The pianist and acclaimed Native American flutist have collaborated on a handful of popular recordings including "Through Windows & Walls," "Honorable Sky" and "Natives."
"We moved to Maui the weekend Carlos was doing a concert here with Keola Beamer at the MACC," says Kater.
"Working with Carlos was great. I had a fascination with Native American culture for many years. I bought one of his cassette tapes and started playing along to it. Then I tracked him down and said, I've been playing along to your music and it sounds really cool. He checked out my music and we got together. We had this uncanny knack for improvising together. After 10 years of a bunch of albums and concerts, it ran its course."
Born in Germany, Kater moved to the U.S. as a 4-year-old. While in high school, he formed a band that played at clubs and high school dances around northern New Jersey and New York. Moving to Boulder, Colo., he began developing a solo piano style first heard on his debut album, "Spirit."
Often acclaimed for his soothing approach - Kenny Loggins has noted, "His albums capture both romance and peace better than any other instrumentalist I know of" - many have benefitted from the therapeutic impact of his music.
"It's something I stumbled upon," he says. "Originally I made music to make myself feel good; it was therapy for me. My mother made me play classical and I hated it, but when I turned 18, my mother had died of cancer and everything blew up, so from then forward I started playing my own music and improvising and playing stuff that felt healing and balancing to me.
"People would say that it really touched them. I never thought I would go into healing music, but that's what has evolved for me. I'm serious about sound and vibration and how it affects the body. I get a lot of feedback and it means a ton to me. The last thing I'm interested in is being great background music for someone's wine and cheese party. But when someone says, 'I had some problem and listened to your music and it gave me strength,' it makes me happy. What else is there but really touching somebody?"
* Peter Kater makes his Maui debut at 7:30 p.m. Saturday performing in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. He will be accompanied on a couple of pieces by guitarist Bruce BecVar. Tickets are $22 plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org. Samples of Kater's music can be heard at www.peterkater.com.
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You'll have to head to Wal-Mart to find the new CD collection "Christmas Aloha: From Our Ohana to Yours." Released by the Mountain Apple Company and only available at the megastore, it features two seasonal classics from Willie K's "Willie Kalikimaka" album - his sublime rendition of "O Holy Night" and the winning collaboration with Willie Nelson on "Away In A Manager."
The Brothers Cazimero celebrate the holiday on this compilation with "We Three Kings," while Amy Hanaiali'i delivers a sweet Hawaiian version of "Hark the Harold Angles Sing" - "Hamau E Na Kanaka."
Also of note, an instrumental "Joy to the World" by Barry Flanagan and Keli'i Kaneali'i, Keali'i Reichel's gorgeous "Ke Aloha Kalikimaka" (from "Maluhia"), and Eddie Kamae & The Sons of Hawaii getting in the festive spirit with "I Love Christmas."
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For purely instrumental music, don't miss the popular Big Island acoustic guitar trio Kohala's latest offering, "Kohala Christmas." Fans of Windham Hill-style catalogue will enjoy their elegant arrangements of Christmas classics including "What Child Is This," "The Christmas Song," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and "O Come Emmanuel." Led by Grammy Award-winning producer/musician Charles Brotman, the trio also performs the charming original composition "Waimea Christmas Bells."
More instrumental treasures can be found on James Kimo West's "Kimo's Slack Key Hawaiian Christmas." This former Hana resident, now based in California, expresses his passion for slack key guitar with impressive versions of such favorites as "Deck the Halls," "Silent Night," and "White Christmas." Aside from the distinctive island sound of these ki ho'alu interpretations, this talented guitarist includes the original composition, "Mauna Kea Sleigh Ride." It's a perfect antidote to soothe any Christmas shopping frenzy.
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An inspired promotion combines tasty mac nut chocolates with Raiatea Helm's distinctive vocals for a perfect holiday treat with Hawaiian Host's sampler box featuring "Raiatea: A Christmas Medley." This unique three-song offering features Helm's first original composition, "Where I Belong," in addition to the favorites "Maile Swing" and "Poi 'Awa'awa," from her two Grammy-nominated CDs. The new song, composed with Johnson Enos, will be featured on Helm's upcoming album, set for early 2009 release.
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Maui Jam featuring slack key guitarist Al Nip and bassist Jon Toda, have released "Aloha Kalikimaka: A Hawaiian Christmas." With help from other Maui musicians including keyboardist Fulton Tashombe, Fea-B-Lei Alcomindras on ukulele and vocals, and drummer Paul Marchetti, Maui Jam serves up renditions of island-themed holiday treats such as "Mele Kalikimaka," "Hawaiian Santa" and "Christmas Lu'au."
And finally Marty Dread has a re-mastered version out of his song "Reggae Christmas." It's from his "Keiki Reggae" album, now available for download on iTunes.