Hailed by Allaboutjazz as "one of the most intelligent, fluent, and interesting players around," jazz pianist Bill Mays makes his Maui debut tonight in the McCoy Studio Theater, accompanied by guitarist Phil Benoit.
"I am very excited about the program," says Phil. "It will be Bill and me on guitar, with a guest appearance by Angela Benoit on vocals. It will be a real intimate evening of great jazz with one of the very best jazz pianists of our time."
The acclaimed pianist has spent much of his career as a first-call studio musician in Hollywood, accompanying artists like Sarah Vaughan, Al Jarreau, Dionne Warwick and Frank Sinatra, and playing on movie soundtracks.
Pianist Bill Mays plays sophisticated jazz with Maui guitarist Phil Benoit tonight in McCoy.
JUDY KIRTLEY photo
Mays began working in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, with some of the city's best players including Harold Land, Shelly Manne, Bud Shank and Art Pepper. Among his eclectic engagements during this time he played with Tom Scott's L.A. Express, Indian electric-violinist L. Subramanian and one of Frank Zappa's large ensembles.
Relocating to New York in the '80s, Mays' talent produced collaborations with many jazz greats including Ron Carter, Clark Terry, Toots Thielemans, Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods.
Often lauded, Jazz Review praised his 'Going Home" album: "Throughout the world of avid admirers and jazz connoisseurs, Bill Mays has become known as an innovator and major contributor."
Reviewing May's album "Summer Sketches," Entertainment Weekly affirmed: "Mays deserves wider recognition for the outstanding work he's done with his latest trio."
And a Toronto Globe and Mail concert review noted: "Mays plays on pure inspiration, that exalted level where mere technical concerns have been long forgotten. The result is jazz of a sophistication and sheer spontaneity that's rarely heard."
Phil and Angela Benoit have performed together on Maui since 1997. Their most recent CD, "Golden Sun," was nominated last year for the Best Jazz Album Hoku award. As Benoit JazzWorks, the talented couple performs an enticing mix of originals, jazz standards and Brazilian music. Phil previously played with the popular gypsy-jazz group Gypsy Pacific.
"I met Bill some years ago, when he and his wife walked into my gig and introduced themselves," says Phil. "He suggested we do a concert, and I was honored and thrilled."
* Bill Mays performs with Phil Benoit at 7 tonight in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $30 plus applicable fees, available at the MACC box office, 242-7469, mauiarts.org. A "Meet the Artists" gathering in the McCoy Courtyard will commence after the show.
HAPA returns to the MACC on Friday for a special "moonlight" concert in the wonderful setting of the new Yokouchi Pavilion courtyard. Special guests at the show include 10-year-old ukulele whiz Aidan James and former Miss Hawaii, hula dancer Radasha Ho'ohuli.
"Aidan just did a show at the Kahala with us, and he's like a Jake that can sing," Barry Flanagan enthuses. "He's fearless, a barn burner, the next big thing."
The popular duo of Barry Flanagan and Ron Kuala'au recently completed a West Coast tour where they were acclaimed as the "Simon and Garfunkel of Hawaii."
"Ron is doing fantastic," Barry reports. "I'm blessed to be back working with the guy who taught me how to harmonize in Hawaiian."
Barry is currently completing two new albums - a contemporary solo project titled "The Bodysurfing Diaries," and a hula collection for the Japanese market.
"It has three originals and eight of the most popular hula songs over there," he explains. "And we'll probably release an EP here of some of the hula songs along with 'Manoa in the Rain,' which we're rereleasing with Ron singing. We've been doing it in concert and it's brining the house down. I actually wrote it for Ron 20 years ago."
* HAPA performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the MACC's Pavilion courtyard. Tickets are $30 standard, $45 premium (plus applicable fees), available from the MACC as above.
It seems like a bit of an anomaly -a hip indie band playing Maui? But with The Airborne Toxic Event making its Hawaii debut at the Castle Theater on Friday, we have an opportunity to experience what the Los Angeles Times raved was "nothing short of amazing."
This L.A.-based five-piece was initially formed by singer/guitarist and author Mikel Jollett in early 2006, with guitarist Steven Chen, bassist Noah Harmon, drummer Daren Taylor and (classically-trained) violist/ keyboardist Anna Bulbrook.
Jollett named the band after a section of Don DeLillo's novel "White Noise," in which the main character is exposed to a chemical explosion, dubbed an airborne toxic event, and is forced to confront his mortality.
Airborne quickly developed a reputation for cathartic live shows. Turning down offers from major producers, they made their debut album themselves and hit on a novel way to promote it, by releasing a series of one-take acoustic videos for each song on the record, filmed in different locations around L.A.
The video for "Something New" was filmed on a boat with the drummer steering and tapping a snare drum with his free hand.
Embarking on a "30 Shows in 30 Days" tour in the U.K. in 2008, they inspired rapturous reviews. The Times praised their "compelling collision of influences from Springsteen, the Clash, Modest Mouse, Pulp, Franz Ferdinand and Arcade Fire cooked up into classic status."
And Britain's music mag NME lauded: "Occasionally you get lucky and stumble across a band at the very moment they ignite the engines and blast off into the heavens. The Airborne Toxic Event just gets louder and richer until the music practically bursts at the seams and spills its steaming guts across the stage."
The American press also got excited.
The Boston Herald named "The Airborne Toxic Event" album "the best debut CD of 2008." And the Seattle Weekly praised it as "a true poetic experience, beautiful, painful and terrifyingly real."
When U2's musicians were asked in a radio interview to name some of their favorite songs, bassist Adam Clayton singled out Airborne's sublime "Sometime Around Midnight." And during dates on U2's 360 Tour, a recording of the song was played before they entered the stage.
Impacted by the human rights demonstrations in Iran, Airborne released a new song and video, "Neda," in 2010, a tribute to Neda Agha-Soltan, the young Iranian woman who was shot dead by government thugs. All proceeds from the sale of the single on iTunes were donated to Amnesty International.
Their follow-up album, "All at Once," arrived last year to more acclaim.
"This is the sound of a band willing itself into stadiums and Grammy nominations, every song an anthemic melodrama hinging on the crux between life and death," noted the L.A. Times. The B.B.C. hailed it as, "a crushing classic."
Again they enhanced their album's appeal with a series of "Bombastic" videos featuring one-take acoustic performances, including the charming "Half of Something Else," shot on a moving carousel.
In concert they're known for exhilarating, supercharged shows.
"Everyone's got to sweat," Mikel Jollett explained in an interview. "Something has to happen. You've got to wonder if a riot is going to break out or if the whole place is going to burn down. That's what makes it rock 'n' roll. Otherwise it's just folk with a backbeat."
Besides their majestic originals, they sometimes slip in covers like Bruce Springteen's "I'm on Fire," Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," and "I Fought the Law" popularized by The Clash.
Next week they will be heard performing Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" on the forthcoming, four-disc collection "Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International," along with artists like Sting, Adele, Pete Townshend and Dave Mathews.