Jake Shimabukuro returns to Castle Theater Saturday
With each successive album, Jake Shimabukuro has creatively advanced finding new ways to express his virtuoso talent on the ukulele. With his remarkable latest release, “Trio,” Jake has taken another adventurous step forward with an eclectic work reflecting a variety of flavors and textures from rock fusion, flamenco and Hawaiian, to covers of classics by Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac.
“With this album I really got to explore different sounds with the ukulele,” he enthuses. “It’s a little different. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”
Returning to the Castle Theater on Saturday, Jake will perform with guitarist Dave Preston, who is prominently featured on the album and Oahu bassist Jackson Waldhoff, plus vocalist Rachel James, who sings on “Trio.”
“It will be Dave Preston’s first time to Maui,” Jake continues. “He really got to showcase all the magical sounds that he can create on the guitar. He’s like an electric orchestra, and can sometimes sound like a string section and horn section, and then he brings in the lap steel which is really cool and kind of brings it back to Hawaii, and at the same time using it in a very ambient way. And he can really shred at the live shows.
“I’ve been touring with Dave and (bassist) Nolan Verner for about two and half years and at sound checks we’ll just start improvising and break into spontaneous tunes. So the idea for the record was to get in the studio and create and see what we could come up with. I wanted the three of us to explore the sounds between the bass, ukulele, and the guitar.”
Unlike his most recent records, there are no drums on “Trio.” “It was a conscious effort,” he says. “We don’t tour with a drummer and I wanted something that was more reflective of what we do live.”
Opening with the fiery, prog rocking “When the Masks Come Down,” we next encounter the haunting, abstract “Twelve,” and then the dreamy Pink Floyd flavored “Lament,” followed by some dazzling flamenco on “Red Crystal.”
“I was really happy with my ukulele solo on ‘Lament’,” he says. “I’ve never played a solo with that type of phrasing before. The whole week leading up to the recording session, all I did was watch (Pink Floyd’s) David Gilmour videos. I was really inspired.”
And on it goes with the beautiful “Morning Blue,” the warm embrace of “Summer Rain,” an evocative cover of Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” a trip home to “Wai’alae,” and a venture into cool country blues with “Fireflies.”
Every track is a standout. It’s an extraordinary achievement from this master of the ukulele accompanied by two stellar instrumentalists who have brilliantly assisted Jake in expanding his creative palette.
“Trio” closes with a vocal track, Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Landslide,” sung expressively by Rachel James (Preston’s wife), sounding a lot like Stevie Nicks. It’s a harbinger of great things to come.
Near the close of 2020, Jake will release another project, mostly a duets album, guaranteed to expand his popularity, teaming him with an array of famous artists. Titled “Jake and Friends,” it features an amazing array of musicians collaborating with the ukulele player. The list includes Willie Nelson, Bette Midler, Ziggy Marley, Michael McDonald, Jon Anderson of Yes fame, Vince Gill and Amy Grant, Warren Haynes from the Allman Brothers, Kenny Loggins, Jack Johnson with Paula Fuga, and Lukas Nelson.
Covering songs associated with the artists and some Beatle tunes, it includes a “14 minute killer song” with guitarist Warren Haynes.
“We just finished the last track two days ago,” he reports. “I’ve been working on it for a couple of years. There’s about 14 tracks. A lot of them are duets, just the ukulele and them singing or strumming a guitar. I’m so excited about this record. I can’t believe all these people agreed to do it. Everyone sounds amazing. It’s such an honor.”
* Jake Shimabukuro performs on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in MACC’s Castle Theater. Ho’onanea preshow festivities start at 5:30. Preshow entertainment in the courtyard will feature the Kalama ‘Ukulele Band led by Benny Uyetake, who will also play after the concert in the courtyard. Tickets are $15, $25, $45, $65, and $85 (plus applicable fees). There’s a 10 percent discount for MACC members and half-price for kids 12 and younger. Tickets are available at the MACC box office, by phone at 242-SHOW, and online at mauiarts.org.
After playing to convention folks at the Grand Wailea, along with a couple of thousand fans on the beach, superstar Ed Sheeran hopped on a plane to Oahu and headed to Jack Johnson’s north shore house to hang and jam with Johnson and Paula Fuga.
“When you meet him he’s genuinely interested in you,” says Paula. “He’s fully present. He shared some of his new songs and I shared some songs with him and one that’s going to be on my next album, called ‘Too Hot Mama.’ Ed flew to Honolulu from Maui just to hang out with Jack. When we were done hanging, he jumped in a car and went straight to the airport and flew home to the UK.”
Paula says Sheeran especially loved seeing fans on the beach at his Wailea show. “That was the best part of it he said, because they were there to watch him, all those Maui fans. He really appreciated that. I forgot to tell him out of all the islands, Maui’s the most supportive of live music.”
Paula will join Henry Kapono on Friday for an Artist 2 Artist show in the McCoy Studio Theater. “Henry is like a godfather in Hawaii’s music industry, and he’s so humble,” she says.
One of the younger musicians who sang on “The Songs of C&K,” collection, Paula brought the project to dramatic close with a stunning, 6-minute version of “Song for Someone.”
Paula remembers being profoundly moved hearing “Song for Someone” as a child.
“I was about four or five years old and my mom was visiting a friend in Waikiki,” Paul recalls. “She said sit by the radio to occupy me. Then I heard Henry’s song come on. It blew my mind. I told myself when I grow up I’m going to write a song like that.”
It’s been a long time coming, but Paula is finally completing recording a new album.
“It’s called ‘Rain on Sunday’ and it’s been in the works for about three years. It’s 98 percent done and we plan on releasing it in the fall.”
Primarily featuring original songs, it will include two covers. “One’s a Sade cover, ‘Lovers Rock,’ which I’ve been singing for years. The other cover is by George ‘Boogie’ Kalama, ‘Hokule’a, Star of Gladness.’ which was made famous by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. George was a crew member on the original Hokule’a voyage. I love to sing it for kids.”
Last year she contributed to the Grammy nominated album “Hawaiian Lullaby,” which was organized by Kimie Miner, featuring tracks by Kalani Pe’a, Anuhea, and Josh Tatofi.
“I really love Kimie,” she says. “I’m her baby’s godmother. I’m going to do more with her. We’re going to come out with a Christmas album with all of the same people. My passion is helping kids and Kimie’s passion is being able to help other artists.”
* The Artist 2 Artist show with Henry Kapono and Paula Fuga is presented on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $35, $45, and $65 (plus applicable fees).
Slack key guitar virtuoso Makana returns to The Shops at Wailea on Wednesday, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. In September he released the new reggae flavored song, “See You on the Mauna,” featuring a Hawaiian chant by Lanakila, in support of the protectors of Mauna Kea.
Organist Monica Czausz presents a free concert on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Makawao Union Church. A rising star among young classical musicians, Czausz is one of the finest young American organists performing today. She recently performed at the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Meyerson Symphony in Dallas, and international festivals in Helsinki, Finland.
The sons of Gregg Allman (Devon Allman) and Dickey Betts (Duane Betts) along with Berry Oakley Jr. (son of original Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley) have joined forces to form The Allman Betts Band, which will play the MACC on April 17. They perform original songs and Allman Brothers’ classics.