Prepare to be dazzled Saturday evening when Uluwehi Guerrero presents an extraordinary concert, "Na Mele O Ku'u Pu'uwai: Songs of My Heart," celebrating love for family, friends and places.
Every two years the Na Hoku award-winning kumu hula mounts a mass production at the MACC, and this weekend's extravaganza features the combined talents of Halau Hula Kauluokala with about 130 dancers, the Kaulupono Chamber Ensemble, the Na Leo Lani O Maui community choir, a Hawaiian band, Maui Taiko drummers and even a group of Japanese dancers from Hokkaido.
"They will be dancing in a Japanese segment," Uluwehi explains. "They're coming all the way from Hokkaido and are going to be doing hula."
For years the concept has always had a heart theme. They’re approached with the love for where we are and where we come from and the things that nurture us.
The evening will be filled with traditional chant, music and hula. "All the songs that will be presented have a personal connection for me, telling a story," he says. "That's why we named it 'Na Mele O Ku'u Pu'uwai, The Songs of My Heart.' We've been working for the past few months putting each piece together. It's a huge job because of the amount of people involved. I just like to give appreciation to all my family and friends and the community for being so supportive in what we do. It's like a big party for everyone."
In September 2008, Uluwehi orchestrated a grand show in the Castle Theater with the theme "Home Is Where The Heart Is."
"For years the concept has always had a heart theme," he continues. "They're approached with the love for where we are and where we come from and the things that nurture us. With that I'm constantly thinking of new ways to bring back the traditions of our family, because I think in this time now when there are so many challenges, our focus changes. The biggest focus is our family, and the foundation of that keeps us together."
About a year ago, Uluwehi released a majestic treasury of Hawaiian music, "Uluwehi Sings Na Mele Hula Aloha - Beloved Hula Songs." Embellished with lush string arrangements and highlighting his heavenly falsetto, the album featured classic gems by such notable Hawaiian composers as Helen Desha Beamer, Alice Namakelua, Charles E. King, Mary Kawena Pukui and Irmgard Farden.
It was no surprise that when the nominations for the 2010 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards were announced, he led the pack with a total of seven nominations including Male Vocalist, Hawaiian Album, Song of the Year and Album of the Year.
"It was amazing. I never expected it," he says. "It's one of my highlights so far. Since the Hokus, it's been crazy. I've been traveling back and forth to Japan, and after the Maui concert I'm performing at the Tokyo Dome, which holds 50,000 people."
One of the entertainers chosen to perform at the Na Hoku ceremony, Uluwehi serenaded the audience with an original song on the CD, "Nani Kamakura," co-composed with Pono Fried, that celebrates the annual blooming of Japan's cherry blossoms.
"I wanted to play it because it's a kind of a bridging of the cultures," he notes. "So many musicians and kumu hula from Hawaii go there. I wanted to show my appreciation of the two cultures. And it was different. Everyone was expecting to see hula because I was up for traditional Hawaiian Album of the Year."
* Uluwehi Guerrero and Halau Hula Kauluokala perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $25, $30 and $40 (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
The MACC's "Solo Sessions" series provides a unique platform for artists to perform and talk about their music in the intimate setting of the McCoy Studio Theater. Following the success of shows by Jake Shimabukuro, coming up Sept. 9 and 10 are two not-to-be-missed opportunities to see acclaimed chanter/kumu hula/entertainer Keali'i Reichel.
We've previously seen Hawaii's most popular recording artist in sell-out concerts surrounded by the Maui Pops Orchestra or his award-winning halau and band. Now he's taking the stage with a stripped-down format, just accompanied by a couple of backing musicians, Aiau and Uncle Moses on guitar and bass, and a few dancers for two special nights of hula kahiko and chant, plus favorite songs and storytelling.
The multi-Na Hoku Hanohano award winner recently headlined a "Sing 4 HUGS," benefit concert in Waikiki, aiding a nonprofit organization that serves children facing life-threatening illnesses.
* Tickets are $35 and $65 for VIP, which includes a post-show meet-and-greet event, plus applicable fees, available as above. Next up in the series, Jake returns on Oct. 7, followed by Robert Cazimero singing and playing the grand piano on Nov. 12.
A night of cool, smooth jazz teams guitarist Peter White with saxophonist Michael Paulo in Castle Theater at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
One of smooth jazz's best-known artists, Peter White toured for many years with Al Stewart, co-writing the hit "Time Passages." He later played on several albums by jazz/pop star Basia, and has worked with Dave Koz, David Benoit and Rick Braun. His latest CD, "Good Day," features Basia on vocals and instrumental help from a sterling group including keyboard great Phillip Saisse.
"He's a superior talent when it comes to what he can do with a guitar," praised an Allaboutjazz review. "Good Day is yet another showcase for White's great technique and style."
Long familiar to Hawaii audiences from years playing with Kalapana, Michael Paulo has enjoyed success in pop, soul and contemporary jazz. His 1989 album, "One Passion," was praised by Jazziz Magazine as one of the most influential contemporary jazz albums in the genre's history. Over the years he's toured and/or recorded with Al Jarreau, Herbie Hancock, James Ingram, Kenny Loggins, Patti Austin and David Benoit. The former music director of the Dolphin Days Waikoloa wine and food festival, he is currently artist in residence at the Java Jazz Festival.
Their accompanying band includes keyboardist Gregg Karukas (Rippingtons, Sergio Mendes) and bassist Dwayne "Smitty" Smith (Anita Baker, Natalie Cole, the Isley Brothers).
* Tickets are $30, $40 and $75 for premium seating with pre-show meet-and-greet event. Applicable fees are added to ticket prices, available as above.
When country legend Willie Nelson needed a band to perform at a recent benefit for friend Neil Abercrombie's campaign for Hawaii governor, he called Tom Conway. The Maui guitarist in turn got hold of bassist Marcus Johnson and drummer Paul Marchetti, and the trio backed Willie at the Summer Jam fundraiser before a crowd of about 6,000 at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.
"I thought a smaller group would be nice, so it was Willie, me, Marcus and Paul as the band - all Maui," says Tom.
And show opener Willie K later joined in on some classics. "We played a couple of blues tunes, a couple of gospel songs and 'Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain' with Willie K," Tom reports. "All three of us traded guitar solos on a blues tune, it was really fun."
Nelson returned to his roots on his latest masterful CD, "Country Music." Standouts include the rousing rockabilly of "Freight Train Boogie," his updated, fiddle-driven original tune "Man With The Blues" and the stark traditional song "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."
The free community event "Ulupalakua Cares" will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Ulupalakua Ranch and Maui Winery. The day will include music, walking tours by environmental leaders and informational exhibits by local conservation groups.
Ukulele ace Derick Sebastian and Joshua Kahula will play from noon to 3 p.m., followed by Lanai's Polihua from 3 to 4, at the winery. Across the road at the ranch store, Bradda Francis Koahou will play slack key guitar from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Derick's first full-length ukulele instrumental album, "From His Heart," earned a Hoku nomination this year for Best Instrumental Album. On June 9, he wowed 24,000 fans attending an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game, performing the National Anthem on ukulele.