Jake Shimabukuro's affection for The Beatles has led him in the last few months to record with classical cello legend Yo Yo Ma and pop star Cyndi Lauper. The ulukele virtuoso and cellist teamed for an instrumental version of John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War is Over) on Ma's latest CD, "Songs of Joy & Peace," and he recorded "Across the Universe" with Lauper for a forthcoming Beatles' tribute.
"I still can't believe it," Jake says about his collaboration with Ma. "He was doing an album and putting together a group of artists that would be fun to collaborate with. We're on the same label and people on the label thought it would be a good idea. I was absolutely thrilled; I flew out to New York and recorded a track, just the two of us with a couple of microphones. It was such an experience sitting two feet away from him."
Besides Shimabukuro, the "Joy & Peace" holiday project includes songs with James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Cuban clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, and jazz legend Dave Brubeck. While Taylor contributed George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun," it was Jake who suggested the Lennon Christmas classic. "We were thinking of songs associated with winter and I'm a huge Beatles' fan," he continues. "Anything by those guys is always welcome to me."
Photo courtesy Maui Arts & Cultural Center
From The Beatles to Bach, ukulele genius JAKE SHIMABUKURO is HERE THERE and EVERYWHERE.
Thus when executives at his Japanese label suggested they were thinking of a releasing a Beatles' tribute album, he immediately embraced the project, and secured Lauper's help on one track. Jake has previously recorded Lauper's "Time After Time" on his "My Life" EP, and she had invited him to play at her concert last year in Kona.
"It's for a project I'm releasing in Japan," he explains. "We did a recording of The Beatles' 'Across the Universe.' I just played the ukulele and she sang. She likes being spontaneous, so prior to the session we didn't really plan much, she just wanted to see what would happen. It's basically a Beatles' tribute album with all ukulele arrangements. There are songs like 'Norwegian Wood,' 'Michelle,' 'Something,' 'All You Need is Love' and 'Here There and Everywhere.'"
This amazing ukulele wizard has cultivated a huge fan base in Japan. Touring there three to four months a year, his stature increased after his soundtrack for the Japanese independent film "Hula Girls" earned him a Japanese Academy Award for Best Sound Recording.
Releasing some albums exclusively in Japan, last summer, he crafted a new recording, "Yeah," which was inspired by Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach. It features his interpretation of Bach's "Two-Part Invention No. 4."
"I arranged the two-part inventions for solo ukulele," he reports. "That was a huge undertaking. The rest of the album was based on that tune, the counterpoint melody. It was a really interesting project, new territory to explore."
The Bach recording led to his inclusion in a new documentary still being compiled on the great classical composer by filmmaker Michael Lawrence. Other artists on board include Philip Glass, Bela Fleck, violinist Joshua Bell and Bobby McFerrin.
"He asked me to be part of it and that's when I thought about learning a Bach piece," he says. "I have hinted at Bach melodies in the past."
Also on the horizon, Jake will release a new live album in the U.S. "It's from concerts in Japan and the east and west coast," he notes. "It's all completely solo. I really like it because you can hear the interaction with the audience. They become part of the music."
* Jake Shimabukuro performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.Tickets are $12, $28, and $37, and half-price for kids 12 and younger, available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org. He will perform solo and with musicians Noel Okimoto on drums, Dean Taba on bass, and Michael Grande on keyboards. Prior to his MACC show he will make a few radio appearances on Friday: at 8:20 a.m. on KPOA 93.5 FM with Alaka'i, at 11 a.m. on KAOI1110 AM, and with Kathy Collins from 5 to 6 p.m. on Mana'o Radio 91.5 FM.
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The David Nelson Band will perform on Friday evening at Stella Blues Caf in Kihei and on Saturday at Charley's. This group of veteran musicians' collective history encompasses playing with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jefferson Starship, John Fogerty, Rod Stewart, John Lee Hooker and the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. Besides Nelson, the band includes former Jefferson Starship bassist Pete Sears, guitarist/pedal steel player Barry Sless, keyboardist Mookie Siegel and drummer John Molo.
One of the founders of the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the vocalist on their biggest hit "Panama Red," Nelson has fronted his own band for more than 10 years.
A long association with Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia began in the early 1960s when Nelson was a member of the bluegrass trio the Wildwood Boys. He later formed the psychedelic country-rock legends the New Riders of the Purple Sage. In their early days with Dead members Lesh on bass and Mickey Hart on drums, the New Riders often toured as the Dead's opening act.
Having previously been invited to play on the Dead's "Aoxomoxoa," Nelson also contributed to the classic albums "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead." Before he moved from England to the Bay Area, Sears' keyboard talent was utilized by Rod Stewart on four classic albums including "Every Picture Tells a Story" and "Gasoline Ally." Performing with the Jefferson Starship from 1974 to 1987, he then joined former Airplane musicians Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen in Hot Tuna.
Drummer Molo has played with Bruce Hornsby, John Fogerty, Phil Lesh & Friends, and the Dead spin-off The Other Ones. A gifted pedal steel guitarist, Sless' resume includes time with Lesh and The Flying Other Brothers.
A live double CD "Aloha Nugs" from the Nelson Band's Hawaii shows in 2007 has recently been released.
* David Nelson & Friends will perform at Stella Blues Caf at 9 p.m. Friday and at 10 p.m. Saturday at Charley's. Vince Herman from Leftover Salmon and Great American Taxi will open. Tickets are $30 at both locations.
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Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist/vocalist Rick Vito will front his own band at 10 p.m. Sunday at Mulligans on the Blue. Playing with Fleetwood Mac from 1987 to 1991, he now plays lead guitar and handles vocals with the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band.
A superb guitarist, hailed by English blues pioneer John Mayall as, "a master of his instrument," Vito has recorded and toured with the likes of Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, John Fogerty and Stevie Nicks. On New Year's Eve, he jammed with Carlos Santana at Mala Wailea.
* Tickets $7 advance, $10 at the door.
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Celebrated pianist Leon Fleisher makes his Maui debut playing the MACC's Castle Theater on Sunday. This acclaimed concert pianist, a child prodigy who performed at Carnegie Hall at the age of 16, almost saw his career tragically collapse in 1965, when his right hand was gripped by a mysterious affliction.
"When the gods want to strike, they know where to strike," Fleisher noted in a CBS interview. "They struck me in my hand. My life was virtually over."
Employing only one hand, in time Fleisher was still able to fill concert halls with an eruption of intricate notes. Now through surgery and Botox treatments, he's back playing with two hands.
"A selection from Albeniz and Chopin revealed this 80-year-old spirit undimmed, playing the third scherzo with daring flights of fancy that his younger self might not have ventured," praised a U.K. Observer review last November.
"Rapturous applause continued long after this legend from musical history had quietly left."
* Leon Fleisher plays the MACC's Castle Theater at 5 p.m. Sunday. The program includes Schubert's Landler for Piano from D.790 (Op. 171); Brahms' Waltzes for Piano, Op. 39; Ravel's "Valses nobles et sentimentales"; Dvorak's "Slavonic Dances for Piano Four Hands"; and Ravel's "La Valse" (pome chorographique) for Piano Four Hands. Katherine Jacobson Fleisher will play the second half. Tickets are $12, $30, $40, and $45, half-price for ages 18 and younger, plus applicable fees, available as above.
A 20-minute Oscar-nominated documentary, "Two Hands," about Fleisher, will be screened in the MACC's Haynes Room between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
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Pianist Allaudin Mathieu and singer Devi Mathieu will present an evening of contemplative music on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Makawao Union Church Sanctuary.
The concert will feature the music of 12th-century Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen, and song settings of Sufi poets Rumi and Hafiz, and Mary Oliver.
Early in his career, Allaudin worked for several years as an arranger for Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington. He later studied Indian vocal music with Pandit Pran Khan, and African music with legendary Egyptian percussionist Hamza El Din. He was the original director of the Sufi Choir founded in 1969 in San Francisco.
Devi Mathieu has devoted more than 14 years to the study and performance of music from the Middle Ages, including songs and dances associated with sacred pilgrimage routes.She specializes in the music of Hildegard von Bingen.
* Tickets are $15 at the door.