At age 60, Steve Winwood is creating more vital, new music than any of his legendary contemporaries. Last year this extraordinarily talented musician released one of his best albums in decades. A finely attuned ensemble including Brazilian guitar virtuoso Jose Neto, who has played with Airto Moriera and Flora Purim, helped Winwood craft an inspired recording that rivaled the glory days of Traffic.
"The miracle of Steve Winwood's voice in the '60s, on his churning R&B hits with the Spencer Davis Group and in the bucolic psychedelia of the first Traffic records, was that a white English teenager could sound so black and adult," noted Rolling Stone. "The wonder of his new album is that Winwood sings with the ecstatic force of his youth."
A fortunate group of golfers got to experience this legendary multi-instrumentalist and his superb band performing on Friday evening at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, as part of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz Championship.
JON WOODHOUSE photo
Steve Winwood performing
Jetting in all the way from England, Winwood opened with an impassioned version of his early classic "I'm a Man," enthralling his audience with a 90-minute show that scanned his more than 45-year career, from the intoxicating R&B of the Spencer Davis Group to the improvisational magic of Traffic and stellar Blind Faith through his solo peak years represented by "Higher Love," to his current work from "Nine Lives."
Aside from Neto on guitar, Winwood's band included veteran drummer Richard Bailey, who has backed Jeff Beck and Bob Marley, percussionist Karl Vanden Bossche, who has played with acid-jazz pioneers The Brand New Heavies, Basia and Sade, and London-based saxophonist/flutist Paul Booth, who also handled the organ when Winwood switched to lead guitar.
Drawing from his funky R&B roots laced with a Latin-jazz influence, Winwood sounded as vocally magnificent as ever. A master of the Hammond B-3 organ, he's equally adept on guitar and proceeded to exchange blistering solos with Neto on the funky rocker "Dirty City" from the new album.
Highlights abounded including a sublime "Can't Find My Way Home" from his brief Blind Faith days with Eric Clapton. Traffic classics such as an amazing medley of "Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys" and "Empty Pages," and "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone" were stunningly revitalized.
Closing with the rousing, crowd-pleasing hit "Higher Love," for an encore Winwood returned to the stage strapping on a guitar for "Dear Mr. Fantasy," accompanied only by Bailey on drums and Booth on organ; then the rest of the band dove into a fiery, closing version of the classic "Gimme Some Loving."
Later backstage, Winwood talked about his guitarist's obvious influence on his new music. Neto co-wrote six of the nine songs on "Nine Lives."
"It's the Cotswalds meets Brazil," he said referring to the rural area of England where he's resided for 40 years and recorded his last two albums.
The two musicians first collaborated on Winwood's wonderful CD "About Time," released in 2003, which closed with an epic 11-minute song "Silvia," inspired by a Shakespeare poem, featuring blazing electric guitar by Neto (a bonus CD features "Voodoo Chile" with Neto ably stepping in for Hendrix). The classically trained Brazilian guitarist has just released a lovely new solo CD "Mountains and Sea," where he plays nylon string acoustic. One track features vocals by Flora Purim.
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Keali'i Reichel will team for the first time with the Maui Pops Orchestra for concerts on Saturday and Sunday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. One of the most successful and popular contemporary Hawaiian musicians, Reichel has amassed a remarkable 29 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, along with a Hawaiian Grammy Award nomination.
Known for his innovative concerts, the weekend will showcase Reichel's repertoire embellished with orchestral arrangements by Matt Catingub.
"We've had the opportunity to work with Jake and Amy and Na Leo, and we're now looking forward to working with Keali'i," says Maui Pops Conductor Stuart Chafetz.
"Depending on the arrangements, we'll have the full orchestral accompaniment or the strings only. It's such a great opportunity for the Maui Pops to shine."
In December, Reichel released a new compilation CD, "Kamalei: Keali'i Reichel Collection Two." Digitally remastered, the collection ranges from favorites like "Akaka Falls" and "E O Mai," to his memorable versions of Sweet Honey in the Rock's "Wanting Memories" and the Beatles' classic "In My Life."
Reichel's most recent CD of all new material, "Ke'alaokamaile," won seven Na Hoku Awards in 2004, including Album of the Year. In April, the kumu hula and his Halau Ke'alaokamaile will compete for the first time at the Merrie Monarch Festival.
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Punk rockers NOFX play The Cellar in Lahaina tonight and Friday.
Formed in L.A. in 1983, NOFX has sold more than 6 million records worldwide, while steering clear of major labels and commercial exposure.
Politically active in recent years they launched Punk Voter, a movement of punk bands that sought to empower disenfranchised youth and vote President George W. Bush out of office; and they spearheaded the "Rock Against Bush" compilations.
In 2006, they released the CD "Never Trust a Hippy," which included the satirical song "The Marxist Brothers," with lyrics such as - "We protested the G8, Got maced by female police, In hot black uniforms and boots, I got one's e-mail address." And who could not love the title of their last live album - "They've Actually Gotten Worse Live!"
Maui's Erin Smith and the Throwdowns open the 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $25.
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On Wednesday the Maui Film Festival screening at the MACC features the docs "Wisdom" and "Playing For Change." Notables talking about life include the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and musicians Willie Nelson and Lou Reed in "Wisdom."
Anyone who loved the global span of "One Giant Leap" should check out the exhilarating doc "Playing for Change." Roaming across four continents, the filmmakers pay tribute to the unifying power of music, recording an amazing array of musicians all seamlessly fused together in global song. An elderly guitar player in Santa Monica opens "Stand By Me" to the accompaniment of a washboard player in New Orleans, a rocking veena player in India, a Cuban improvising with a stick and corrugated plastic tube in Barcelona, a South African tribal chorus, and much more. And Bob Marley's "One Love" gets the same inspired treatment.
For details, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com.