R. Carlos Nakai explores new territory with quartet
Previously performing on our island in concerts with Keola Beamer and Peter Kater, Grammy-nominated Native American musician R. Carlos Nakai will debut his quartet in Maui Arts & Culture Center’s McCoy Studio Theater on Saturday.
A member of the Navajo-Ute tribe, Nakai is probably the best-known Native American musician. Worldwide he has sold more than four million records, with “Canyon Trilogy” and “Earth Spirit” certified gold.
Mixing original compositions with inspired improvisation, the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet features saxophonist/keyboardist AmoChip Dabney, drummer Will Clipman, and bassist Johnny Walker.
“This is my improvisational, indigenous jazz ensemble,” Nakai explains.
Nominated three times for a Grammy, Nakai was initially classically trained on trumpet. He began experimenting with the Native American cedar flute in the late 1970s, after an accident ended his ability to play trumpet.
Over the years Nakai has collaborated with an array of diverse artists including the Japanese folk ensemble Wind Travelin’ Band, Israeli cellist Udi Bar-David, legendary composer Philip Glass, Tibetan flutist Nawang Khechog, and Hawaiian slack key guitar master Keola Beamer on the album, “Our Beloved Land.”
“This is another way to work improvisation, not to do the old standards, but to do something new and different,” he says about the quartet. “And I bring the indigenous flutes that I work with into a more contemporary context. We all work to put a sound together that works with a flute melody.”
A versatile musician, Dabney has worked with Sun Ra and his Omiverse Arkestra, O.J. Ekemode and the Nigerian All-Stars, zydeco star Queen Ida, and the avant-garde ensemble, the Rova Saxophone Quartet. Drummer Will has performed with Nakai-Eaton-Clipman trio, the William Eaton Ensemble, and Stefan George & Songtower.
The group’s most recent recording,” What Lies Beyond,” was praised by World Music Central as, “a beautifully-crafted album that showcases the talent of a musician who is taking American Indian/Native American music to exciting new territories.”
People really enjoy what I’m doing now,” says Nakai. “Being a schooled musician, I find new ways to approach what I do and what the instrument is capable of doing within its own realm. No two concerts sound alike. I’m sure we will have a good response in Hawaii.”
• The R. Carlos Nakai Quartet performs in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30, $40, and $50 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information, visit the box office, call 242-6469, or go online to www.mauiarts.org.
Best known for his work in the musical group Olomana, Jerry Santos has maintained an influential presence on the Hawaii music scene for more than four decades. On Friday he will join Henry Kapono for an Artist 2 Artist show in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater.
Born and raised on the windward side of Oahu and a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Santos established himself early on as one of Hawaii’s most prolific songwriters. As a founding member and lead singer of the legendary group, Olomana, he helped to create a unique and easily recognizable musical style, blending Hawaiian music with contemporary rhythms.
Some of his most cherished songs include “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u,” “The Lovelight in Your Eyes,” and “Ho’omaku Hou.”
• Kapono and Santos perform in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, $45, and $65 (plus applicable fees). A backstage “Hangin’ with Henry” package is available, before the show (6:30-7 p.m.), along with his guest for the evening, with some talk-story, music, and photo/autograph opportunities. Hangin’ with Henry tickets are $45 per person/per show (plus applicable fees) and available at the box office in person or by phone. Patrons must purchase a concert ticket to purchase the backstage ticket.
Making his debut in the Castle Theater tonight, Christian Sands has been hailed as the greatest jazz pianist of his generation.
Recording his first album, “Footprints,” at the age of 12 in 2002, Sands told Jazz Times: “It was really just to document what I was doing at the time. We sent them out to family members, and then suddenly there were people asking for it. It just became bigger and bigger.”
Currently one of the most in-demand pianists working in jazz, in the last few years, he has toured around the world as a bandleader and recently appeared as a sideman on records by Christian McBride and Gregory Porter.
For his Maui concert he will be joined by bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer John Davis. “I like the freedom of the trio format,” he reports. “It’s more dramatic to me. It’s a smaller entity but with a big personality. I can fit it into different situations dynamically, compositionally.”
Beginning piano lessons at the age of four, by five Sands could play Mozart and had written his first composition. “I was playing Chopin and a lot of Mozart, and then I started playing harder things like Beethoven and Rachmaninoff,” he told Keyboard Magazine. “I also used to improvise on many classical pieces, and as we know, in the classical world, you’re not supposed to do that. My teacher finally got tired of telling me not to do that, and suggested that my parents put me in jazz lessons.”
By 11, he was playing around New Haven, Conn., with accompanists in their 60s. Mentored by Dr. Billy Taylor, while still a teenager, he closed a set by Taylor at the Kennedy Center.
Sands went on to study at the Manhattan School of Music. After graduating, he toured internationally with Inside Straight, a band fronted by acclaimed bassist Christian McBride. Sands cites McBride as an influence, along with Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Garrett and Marcus Roberts, because, “they’re coming from the tradition of bringing people into the music, but also moving it forward into new directions.”
Reviewing his latest album DownBeat praised: ” ‘Facing Dragons’ involves preternatural maturity, an uncanny sense of the moment and, as Sands once again proves, an exquisite understanding of writing material that speaks on its own and equally feeds the fires of improvisation.”
• The Christian Sands Trio performs tonight at 7:30 in MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $40 and $50, and half price for kids (plus applicable fees).
Drawing from an ancient well of British culture, a reviewer once suggested one could imagine Richard Thompson as a busker at Stonehenge. Armed on Sunday night at MACC with a formidable electric trio that somehow expanded to a quintet with his girlfriend, Zara Phillips, on backing vocals, Thompson delivered a stunning performance that often veered into riveting, primal rock territory.
Having a week earlier played to a sold out crowd at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Thompson showed how he’s a peerless, virtuoso guitarist, who can recall a fusion of early Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page on songs like “Can’t Win,” furiously jamming with drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk. While on “Guitar Heroes,” he paid homage to the early influences of Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, and Chuck Berry.
And an astonishing acoustic guitarist, he shone a spotlight on his classic song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” playing it solo.
A “Regruvenation” show celebrating the music of New Orleans’ funk legends The Meters will be held at Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon on Friday at 9 p.m. Musicians performing include Mark Johnstone on keyboards, Matt Del Olmo on lead guitar, John Zangrando on sax, bassist John Michael Jeliffe, drummer Brad Canton, and Berto Prieto on percussion, with special guest DJ Sweet Beets.
Admission is $10.