Artist 2 Artist show will celebrate the music of James Taylor
If you heard a recent song by Alx Kawakami on the radio, you might wonder for a moment whether you were hearing new music by James Taylor or Jason Mraz, because this Oahu-born musician has a gift for composing catchy, memorable pop songs that are influenced by Taylor and Mraz.
“The influences on my music are C&K, James Taylor, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and Jack Johnson,” says Kawakami. “It’s got that acoustic pop, folk style, a mix of everything.”
While living in Los Angeles a few years ago, Kawakami had the opportunity to work with Grammy Award winning producer, Ken Caillat (Fleetwood Mac), who began calling him the “Hawaiian James Taylor.”
On Friday, he will perform with Henry Kapono for a special Artist 2 Artist show in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater, which will celebrate Taylor’s music.
“I’m a huge James Taylor fan,” he continues. “I try and model my songwriting and how I play after James Taylor. He has so many hits. I’ll play a bunch of them. It’s going to be so exciting.”
“You Can Close Your Eyes,” is one of his Taylor favorites. “I listened to it a lot when I was away for college,” he recalls. “I found out that my now wife would listen to that song when she was little to help her go to sleep. That song means more to me now.”
A Hoku Award-winning musician, Kawakami has previously performed with Kapono in “The Songs of C&K” show at the MACC, and was a featured artist on “The Songs of C&K” album, singing “Sunflower,” in a breezy, Jack Johnson style.
“I put a group together with Blayne (Asing), Alx and Johnny Valentine,” Kapono previously reported. “Alx added a new flavor to ‘Sunflower.’ “
Recently presenting a memorable Artist 2 Artist show with Jerry Santos at the MACC, Kapono has been debuting songs from his latest work in progress, a “re-imagined” album of new interpretations of classic songs including the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” “Fever,” made famous by Peggy Lee, and the Everly Brothers’ “Let it Be Me.”
“I’ve known Henry a long time,” Kawakami notes. “My dad used to play with C&K when they got back together in the ’90s. We reconnected a couple of years ago and our styles really melded together. The good part is playing the classic C&K music. They were my favorite band growing up. I knew all of their songs. When Henry first asked me to jump up on stage and play a C&K song, I had a whole list because I learned them since I was 10.”
Picking up ukulele at two he eventually started taking lessons from the legendary teacher Roy Sakuma. After becoming one of Sakuma’s “super keikis,” he took lessons from one of his idols, Jake Shimabukuro.
Before pursuing a solo career, he composed songs and performed with the award-winning, contemporary Hawaiian family band ManoaDNA, with DNA standing for Dad, Nick and Alx.
Their first three albums generated seven Na Hoku nominations, and won the 2007 Hawaii Music Award for Contemporary Album of the Year.
“We started it with my dad and my older brother Nick,” he explains. “We’d play at family parties and we were asked to play at a restaurant, so we needed a band name and a repertoire, and the rest is history. We’re still going strong.”
They plan to release a new band album next year.
Kawakami’s original compositions “Discover Aloha with Me,” “Only in Hawaii,” and “Our Hawaii,” recorded by Manoa DNA, were featured as Hawaii Tourism Japan campaign songs, and became hits in Japan.
Recently returned from performing in Japan he reports, “it’s my third trip this year. I used to go there all the time with ManoaDNA and my dad and brother. We still go there with the band.”
Their most recent album, “Family Memories — The Best of Dad, Nick, and Alx — Manoa DNA,” was nominated for a Hoku for Anthology of the Year in 2018.
As a solo artist in 2016, Kawakami released the well-received album, “Rise & Shine.”
“We were playing around town in 2014 and I decided I needed to do something adventurous,” he says. “I took a break and went to Los Angeles for a couple of years. I played solo and learned how to produce and write a little better. It was a great experience, which made me a more well-rounded musician. The adventure is still going strong.”
* The Artist 2 Artist show with Henry Kapono and Alx Kawakami is presented 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 for $45 (plus applicable fees). Patrons must purchase a concert ticket to purchase the backstage ticket.
Making good on his word to raise money for environmental causes, Paul Simon has donated $1.1 million of his net proceeds from performing his two shows at Maui Arts & Cultural Center and at San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival in August, to Maui and California environmental organizations.
Legendary hardcore punk band Black Flag will ignite Mulligans on The Blue on Saturday night. Best known for hits like 1978’s “Nervous Breakdown,” as well as “Rise Above” and “Six Pack” from 1981’s “Damaged,” the band was reformed earlier this year by vocalist Mike Vallely and founding guitarist Greg Ginn. They’ll be joined by Gregory Moore on drums and Dale Nixon on bass.
Formed in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, Calif., by Ginn, the group’s primary songwriter, and sole continuous member, Black Flag have released seven studio albums and two live ones. Vallely first sang with the band as a guest vocalist in 2003, before becoming the band’s lead vocalist and touring with the band in 2014.
“I’m truly happy for the opportunity to be able to perform this music,” Vallely reported. “It’s a very substantial catalog of timeless songs, and a lot of great vocalists have sung these songs before me, and that both inspires and encourages me.”
Influencing countless bands, Black Flag was acclaimed as the definitive Los Angeles hardcore punk group, who created a ferocious, edgy, and ironic amalgam of underground aesthetics and gut-pounding metal.
Former members included punk rock icon Henry Rollins, who first jumped on-stage to sing with the band during a New York performance, and fronted them from 1981 to 1986.
When Black Flag signed with a subsidiary of MCA Records, the label refused to release their album “Damaged,” citing the content of the music was “anti-parent” and too dangerous and vulgar. Subsequently self-released by the band, it became known as one of the most influential punk rock records ever made, with Kurt Cobain including it in his list of top 50 albums of all time.
* Black Flag play Mulligan’s on the Blue on Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m., show at 7. Tickets are $39.50 in advance, with a $5.50 increase day of show. Tickets available at www.bampproject.com, www.eventbrite.com, Mulligans on the Blue, and One Eighty Maui.
Texas blues rocker Chris Duarte performs at the Maui Coffee Attic on Nov. 14. He will be joined by Vince Esquire and Beth Lee.
The Austin-based musician cites Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Coltrane as prime inspirations. Named Best New Talent in Guitar Player’s 1995 Reader’s Poll, he finished fourth in the magazine’s Best Blues Guitarist category behind Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King.
Reviewing his latest album “The Fan Club,” Rock and Blues Muse noted that Duarte has a, “well-deserved reputation for blazing honky-tonk style SRV-esque blues.”
“I’m here to try and further my craft and to try to play better than I did the night before,” Duarte told Rock and Blues Muse. “That’s what gives me solace because I’m still out there trying to get better. That’s my goal in life, not just to get better and better, but to have more peace with myself for my accomplishments and my efforts toward reaching that nirvana in music.”
Admission is $30 and $20. Duarte will also lead a guitar workshop on Wednesday at 5 p.m. for $35.