‘Django Would Go’
Hot Club of Hulaville
Some bodies of work are meant to be enjoyed as part of a larger package. As such, the Hot Club of Hulaville’s "Special First Edition" version of the group’s debut album, "Django Would Go," is a precedent-setter for Hawaii.
The premise is that famed guitarist Django Reinhardt took a side trip to Hawaii and Latin America when he visited the United States in 1946. The CD is in a package that includes Reinhardt’s passport showing (fictional) stops in Hawaii, Brazil, Argentina and Tahiti, a (fictional) interview with Reinhardt in Hawaii, and a (fictional) letter from one of his American fans.
The music is as well conceived as the story around it. The core quintet and three guest musicians pay homage to Reinhardt in superb style.
The title song, written by Hulaville guitarist Emmett Mahoney, sets the theme. A medley that combines a Reinhardt composition with a Richard Kauhi tune is an impressive cross-cultural creation.
There is an obvious anachronism, however: Ginai and the musicians do a beautiful job with "Some Enchanted Evening," but Reinhardt couldn’t have heard the song in 1946; Rodgers & Hammerstein didn’t start working on "South Pacific" until 1948.
Rhythm Summit is indeed an appropriate name for this project by three master musicians, with remarkable performances. Kenny Endo has been Hawaii’s foremost taiko drummer for years, bassist Dean Taba has an ever-growing list of credits as a working musician and recording artist, and Noel Okimoto is not only a world-class jazz drummer but a master of the vibraphone. The trio has crafted an impressive collection of recordings that represent various styles of jazz, Exotica and traditional Japanese music.
They open with a jazz number that has Endo playing drums while Okimoto plays the vibes. By the time they’re into the third track, "World Piece," there’s no question that there are many other genres in play.
Endo takes over in "Symmetrical Soundscapes," with a strong traditional Japanese edge. The trio goes in another direction entirely with "East Meets West Parts 1 & 2." Vibes and electric bass blend in "Part 1" to create a welcome feeling of tranquility and inner calm in following the robust percussion of "Symmetrical Soundscapes." Percussion returns on "Part 2," and the piece segues from what might be considered "new age" to jazz.
"Gumbo Luau," an Okimoto composition, opens with just a hint of rock drummers Cozy Cole or Sandy Nelson and then continues as a percussive solo. With "Beckoning Blues Bird," Taba switches from electric to acoustic bass for an engaging change of focus; Okimoto’s vibes provide the melody over tropical percussion to create a tune of interest for Exotica fans.
No question about it, "Rhythm Summit" is one of the year’s landmark local releases.
‘The Hits 2003-2010’
(Five Corners Music FRC0015)
The term "hits" turns out to be a relative thing regarding the contents of this anthology. Four tracks on this anthology by Maui-based reggae artist Marty Dread are from an album he released in 2006, and seven more come from an album last year. At least five of the other "hits" are previously unreleased, and others come from work in progress. "Hits" that have yet to be released? How does that work?
In any case, two tracks stand out. One, "No Mo’ Slippah," continues Dread’s autobiographical tale of his life as a "no more slipper ragamuffin bare foot MC."
The other, "No Ice In Paradise," puts a crucial anti-drug message in a local context ("We no want no ice, we no want no ice, no ice in Paradise").
Dread includes another local touch by adding what sounds like steel guitar to "Pure Aloha," featuring Maui recording artist HHB. The song celebrates the continuing evolution of reggae-style music in Hawaii.
Willie Nelson — Hawaii’s favorite celebrity guest vocalist for more than a decade — contributes his star power to "Worried Man."
Other selections show that he can rock it reggae-style. Without composers’ credits there’s no way to give the composers the props they’re due, but props to the writers of "Baby Girl" and "Only Conversation," whoever they are!
On the downside, Dread’s version of "She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful" adds few insights to Sammy Kershaw’s original chart-topping country version. Peter Tosh did a brilliant job personalizing "Johnny B. Goode" when he reworked it as reggae in 1983. Would that Dread could have come up with something half as imaginative.