After collaborating last year on the CD "In a Dream," Grammy-nominated pianist Peter Kater and Sting's long-time guitarist Dominic Miller will play together live in concert for the first time on July 23 in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
"I'm really thrilled for the opportunity - who wouldn't go to Hawaii to play music?" Miller enthuses. "The last time I was there was with Sting, and we had a great time."
The acclaimed guitarist and multi-platinum selling keyboardist had initially collaborated on a soundtrack composed by Kater. "I played some guitar on the soundtrack he was composing, and we both thought we should make an album one day," Miller explains.
The resulting acoustic instrumental project also featured contributions by cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and Kenny Loggins on layered vocal harmonies.
"Mostly we played on each other's respective tunes and did it very quickly," Miller adds. "We had a blank canvas and we wrote as we felt the mood."
Best known for his work with Sting, Miller has worked with many leading artists from Phil Collins and the Pretenders to Rod Stewart and Tina Turner. He has also released a number of solo albums including the classical work "Shapes."
This exceptional guitarist has spent more time playing with Sting than any other musician, contributing to albums from "Soul Cages" in 1991, through to "Sacred Love."
"I've clocked about 20 years now and over a thousand gigs," he notes. "He's like an older bother; he's become part of my musical life. He's a great musician and leader, and his song writing has influenced me as an instrumental musician."
Miller especially enjoys the unpredictability of playing with Sting. "He's such a lateral thinker with music, he never goes to the chord you would expect." Miller explains.
"We do that live in arenas where we'll take completely unexpected risks. And he's quite clever with his lyrics. They've always got a hidden meaning, he disguises the real meaning of a song behind another story."
Before he began working with Sting, Miller wasn't exactly a fan of his music and didn't even know songs like "Fragile."
"I was 29 years old and perhaps somewhat arrogant," he recalls. "I was riding the crest of being a top session player, having played with Paul Young, the Pretenders and Phil Collins, and I arrogantly went into an audition in New York thinking Sting, yeah, he's that guy from the Police, and now he's a jazz guy, f*** that. I went completely unprepared and we just started jamming and played a few of his songs, which I didn't know. I can see now that worked in my favor, because I didn't know the guitar parts. Anyone can play 'Every Breath You Take' or 'Roxanne,' but coming up with the guitar parts is the trick. I couldn't quite believe it when he told me he gave me the job, I thought he must be mad. I spent three months working on the 'Soul Cages' album, and was completely seduced by his musicianship and persona. I was in."
Miller will be heard playing on Sting's latest project, "If On A Winter's Night," set for October release. The CD features traditional British music, songs, carols and lullabies, along with a new version of "The Hounds of Winter," Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and a reworking of Schubert's "Der Leiermann."
"We went into this album thinking it would be something completely different, and it turned into a traditional folk album," he reports. "The cast of musicians led it that way. It's really good, some beautiful, deep songs. But I don't know what his rock 'n' roll audience will think of it; it's hard-core stuff.
"And we're going to try and do another record soon, we'll finish the promotion for the folk album and then put something together, and no doubt a tour would precede that, and Hawaii is always an important stop whenever we can make it."
Besides playing on Sting's albums, Miller has released a handful of solo recordings spotlighting his acoustic playing. "Shapes," released in 2004, features novel interpretations of compositions by classical greats including Bach, Beethvoen, Elgar and Satie.
"I wanted to create my own arrangements, I wanted to deconstruct the music and put it together as if it were written today," he explains. "It was very successful; it was number one on the classical charts for four weeks in the U.K. and Japan. It was a good experience, but I wouldn't want to repeat it."
Having musicians like Sting, opera star Placido Domingo and Clannad's lead singer Moya Brennan contribute obviously helped. "I've got a good phone book, I've got good mates," he adds.
In September he'll release something quite different, an electric fusion album.
"I've done a few solo albums, kind of moody, nylon string style, and I've just finished a new album. It's all on electric with Mark King (of Level 42) on bass and Ian Thomas (Clapton, McCartney) on drums," he explains. "It's the album I wanted to make when I was 16, but didn't know how. It's probably a midlife crisis album; it was either make a heavy record or get a bike. But I'm not convinced what's more dangerous. It's a tribute to the stuff I used to listen to in the mid-'70s like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever. I'm just trying to capture that atmosphere again."
And down the road we'll be hearing a new collaboration with Peter Kater.
"We're going to start laying tracks for a new album," says Kater. "It's going to go in new territory. We'll bring in another vocalist, and Dominic will probably play a little electric guitar. I love his electric playing, he's my favorite guitarist."
A prolific artist, Kater has received five Grammy nominations in the New Age music category. He's also scored documentaries ("10 Questions for the Dalai Lama") and films, and composed music for a number of plays with actors such as John Malkovich, Jon Voight and Ethan Hawke.
Now this Maui-based artist is looking towards creating music with film. "I'm going to start doing some filmmaking," he explains. "I'm inspired to do a doc based on the creative process with remote recording on Maui and in the Southwest. We'll do some filming around the concerts that Dominic and I will be doing here and in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona."
Kater and Miller's "In a Dream" tour opens on Maui and ends in Virginia on July 30. "We'll do a bunch of songs from the 'In a Dream' album and loosen them up, play more than on the record," he says. "And we'll do some songs from his records and from mine, and we might do a couple of new songs."
* Peter Kater and Dominic Miller perform at 7:30 p.m. July 23 in the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $30 plus applicable fees, available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org
Acclaimed classical guitarist Ben Verdery returns to Maui to play a concert at St. John's Church in Keokea at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Hailed by Guitar Review Magazine as "an American master," Verdery has recorded and performed with such diverse artists as Police guitarist Andy Summers, Leo Kottke, classical guitar legend John Williams, and flamenco master Paco Pea.
The Keokea concert will feature music by Bach, Bresnick, Albeniz, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis, as well as his own compositions.
"I will play a few things I've never played on Maui before, including a new piece I wrote inspired by the documentary 'Man on Wire,' " Verdery explains. "It's a digital delay piece about Philippe Petit's (high wire) crossing of the World Trade Center. And I'm excited to premiere an arrangement of Elvis' 'Don't Be Cruel.' All these guitarists are recording a tribute to Elvis and I was asked to do an arrangement."
Verdery has also been busy recording a new album with Celtic guitarist Bill Coulter, which includes an interpretation of Eddie Vedder's song "Rise."
"It's a really good song from 'Into the Wild,' and I'm really thrilled how we captured its feeling," he reports.
Blending classical nylon and steel-string guitars, the project also features, "quite an elaborate version of Cream's 'White Room,' " Verdery adds. "And we did a transcription of Bach's beautiful 'Sheep May Gently Graze.' There's something about the steel- string and classical guitar that's a perfect marriage."
Celebrating 12 years of hosting master guitar classes on Maui, Verdery will also present evening student programs at Makena's Keawala'i Congregational Church and the Lahaina Jodo Mission. Previous student concerts have featured an arrangement of Hapa's "Lei Pikake" performed by 22 guitarists. This year we'll hear a special multiple guitar arrangement of a work by Honolulu composer Darin Au.
* Ben Verdery plays at St. John's Church in Keokea at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Donations requested at the door will benefit the Nature Conservancy. Student concerts will be held at 7 p.m. July 29 at the Lahaina Jodo Mission, and at 7 p.m. July 30 at the Keawala'i Congregational Church in Makena. Donations are requested at the door to benefit venues.
Uluwehi Guerrero has just released a new CD, "Uluwehi Sings Na Mele Hula Aloha." He will sing selections from the CD, accompanied by dancers from his halau at a special book singing at Borders Books Music Movies and Cafe in the Maui Marketplace at 5 p.m. Saturday.
One of India's premier classical vocalists, PanditJasraj,joined by Hindustani classical vocalist Pandita Tripti Mukherjee, perform in concert at The Studio Maui at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Blessed with a rich, soulful voice which spans over three and a half octaves, Pandit Jasraj is credited with creating a unique jugalbandi (a performance featuring two solo musicians) based on the ancient system of moorchanas, between male and female vocalists, each singing respective scales and different ragas at the same time.
"Panditji's voice invokes a divine feeling, he helps listeners see God through his music," noted a review.
Pandita Tripti Mukherjee is also blessed with a divine voice. Her vocal renditions are characterized by refined, intricate qualities, with a tremendous depth of power and conviction.
* Tickets are $20 in advance, and $25day of the show(half price for students 18 and younger). Call 575-9390.
* This story includes a correction from the original published on Thursday, July 16, 2009. The date for the Peter Kater and Dominic Miller concert was incorrect.