A multi-Na Hoku Hanohano-winning artist adept at so many different styles of music, Amy Hanaiali'i has teamed with some of our most gifted slack key guitarists for her latest album project, "Amy Hanaiali'i and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii."
Mixing vocal songs with instrumentals, the impressive recording includes novel collaborations with Cyril Pahinui, Dennis Kamakahi, Sonny Lim and Jeff Peterson. Its winning combination of innovative interpretations of familiar songs, stellar artistry and artful production will likely gain Hoku recognition in 2011, and maybe even a Grammy.
"The album was inspired by the idea of bringing together a bunch of artists who I really admire and had learned from over the years," explains Jeff Peterson, who masterminded the project.
Celtic harpist Patrick Ball will perform “O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music” Friday at the MACC
An exceptionally talented guitarist, Jeff was honored earlier in the year with a slack key Hoku award for his latest solo album, "Maui on My Mind." And Amy's previous CD, "Friends & Family of Hawaii," which featured a host of duets with leading male artists including Keali'i Reichel, Robert Cazimero, Henry Kapono and John Cruz, won the 2010 Album of the Year award.
For this new project, Jeff envisioned a collaborative recording that recalled great albums of the past where artists collectively produced music.
"We each sang and played on each others tracks," Amy explains. "So we kind of lent our own musical fortes to each song. Ever since I did the 'Friends and Family' CD I've really enjoyed working with other people."
Amy Hanaiali'i and Jeff Peterson perform at Stella Blues Supper Club on Friday and Saturday. Dinner and show costs $60; show-only costs $30. Reservations are required. Call-874-3779.
"The idea was to get everyone together as producers, performers and arrangers," he continues. "It's not a compilation CD where everyone came in and did a song. This is a collaboration where everyone came together at the same time as an ohana in the studio. It was really exciting. Everyone had fun collaborating and doing new things together."
With this creative context, the ensemble often conjured imaginative arrangements of classic songs.
"Dennis (Kamakahi) had the idea to do the song 'Ipo Lei Manu,' which he's been playing for years," Jeff reports.
"There's a countermelody in the song, which Queen Kapiolani wrote for King Kalakaua when he was very sick. And so Amy sang the countermelody, and it felt like Amy was the voice of Kapiolani and Dennis was the voice of King Kalakaua communicating with each other. It was so powerful. There were lots of moments like that, and they only happened by bringing everyone together."
Other examples of artists creating new interpretations of songs associated with them included Sonny Lim and the Spanish-flavored instrumental "Vaqueros," and Cyril Pahinui with "Hi'ilawe."
"Cyril did it as a duet with Amy, and he felt like he was singing it for the first time again," says Jeff.
"Cyril told me that he had just visited Hi'ilawe (in Waipi'o Valley)," says Amy. "He had been there with his dad and mom when he was a little boy. He hiked all the way back and did some filming. It gave him a whole new twist on Hi'ilawe, that it was really about a love song. I don't think there's been a recording with a man and woman before."
The album opens with a mesmerizing version of Sting's "Fields of Gold," partly sung in Hawaiian.
"I try and find songs for people who are Hawaiian at heart, who don't understand the language," Amy notes. That song is so perfect because it's such a Hawaiian song. Eva Cassidy is one of my favorite singers and once I heard her version -she knocks it out of the park - I thought how could I change it."
Other standout tracks include the beautiful "Manoa," primarily sung by Chino Montero, an original composition by Peterson.
Playing an integral role, the versatile guitarist composed six of the album's 16 tracks, and for the first time crafted some lovely vocal songs with Hawaiian lyrics.
"I've been thinking about it for years," he explains.
" 'Kahealani' on my first solo CD was written for my wife, and I was thinking I'd love to write some lyrics for it. I did some research and study, and phrases came to me. So then I was inspired."
"Jeff spearheaded the whole thing, I'm really proud of him," Amy adds.
Slack key collections have typically won over Grammy voters ever since the Hawaiian award was established in 2005. When compilation albums win, the relevant producers are honored, not the artists involved. With this in mind, Jeff made sure that the six primary musicians playing on "Amy Hanaiali'i and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii" are also all credited as producers.
"I felt if it does get recognized for a Grammy, credit will go to the artists because that hasn't happened yet," Jeff notes. "With all the compilations that have come out, Cyril or Dennis or Ledward has never officially won a Grammy. That's why I wanted to involve everyone as producers. I think the Grammy should go to the artists."
Amy and Jeff will return to Stella Blues on Friday and Saturday evening to perform as a duo. The award-winning singer and guitarist recently played at the club, recording a jazz album. For this weekend's shows, they will feature music from the new album, as well as some jazz and solo guitar.
Dancehall reggae pioneer Barrington Levy returns to our island to perform Saturday at the Reggae Monstah Mash concert at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Known as the canary of reggae for his sweet voice, Levy is one of dancehall's finest singers. Since breaking out in Jamaica 30 years ago, he's captured fans around the world with such hits as "Under Mi Sensi," "Murderer" (about Jamaica's police killing innocent people) and "Living Dangerously," his vibrant collaboration with DJ Bounty Killer.
Over the years he's also collaborated with the likes of Shaggy, Snoop Dogg, Shyne and most recently, Haitian presidential candidate Wyclef Jean, on the new reggae-infused track, "Delilah."
In 2008, Levy released the powerful peace anthem, "No War," which included excerpts from President Barrack Obama's victory speech. A remix of the song features Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes. His latest album project, "It's About Time," includes collaborations with Damian Marley, Buju Banton, Lil Wayne and Beres Hammond.
* The Reggae Monstah Mash with Barrington Levy kicks off at 6 p.m. on the MACC's events lawn. Inna Vision will open. Gates open at 5. Tickets are $30 in advance, and $35 show day, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469, or www.mauiarts.org.
Acclaimed Celtic harpist Patrick Ball will present a performance of his musical-theater work, "O'Carolan's Farewell to Music," on Friday at the MACC. One of the premiere Celtic harpists in the world today, Ball plays the rare brass-strung harp. He has recorded nine award-winning instrumental and three spoken-word albums.
The performance brings to the stage the legendary life, turbulent times and memorable music of Ireland's most celebrated musician, Turlough O'Carolan. It tells the harper's story through the character of poet and musician Charles MacCabe, O'Carolan's friend and traveling companion.
The San Francisco Chronicle hailed Ball as "an American master of the Irish instrument, a peripatetic modern day bard, combining tale-telling, history and music into a seamless compound that reaches all ages and types of listeners."
And the Louisville Courier Journal concluded: "His renditions of musical antiquities were almost a spiritual experience."
* Patrick Ball performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $25, $12. 50 for kids 12 and younger (plus applicable fees), available as above.