Michael Paulo feat. David Benoit and the Magenta Symphony Orchestra
(Apaulo Music Productions)
Michael Paulo’s credits as a recording artist go back to his days as a member of Kalapana. He became an official member of the group in 1977, and after the original group dissolved, spent several years working with Al Jarreau. Since then, Paulo has been a purveyor of instrumental "smooth jazz" in his own right, and active as a concert promoter, record label exec and recording artist. He teams up here with jazz-fusion pianist David Benoit for a project that draws on Benoit’s talents as a conductor/arranger. Where many artists chose for budgetary reasons to use synth tracks, Paulo and Benoit add the lushness of a live orchestra.
The "smooth jazz" feel kicks in with the opener, a Paulo original titled "Magic." Benoit joins in the second cut and then he and Paulo take turns in the spotlight while also showcasing Paulo’s musicians and the symphony.
With "Last Tango In Paris" the program shifts from originals to contemporary jazz standards; Paulo explores the melody in beautiful style. "Rise" juxtaposes electric keyboards with Paulo’s sax and the symphony in ways reminiscent of jazz/fusion popular in the ’80s.
Paulo and Benoit close with an expansive arrangement of composer Hoagy Carmichael’s ever-popular "Georgia On My Mind." Benoit takes the first few bars, then Paulo steps forward. The interplay from is mesmerizing through the final extended note.
(Higher Level Music)
Many artists in Hawaii’s hip hop and underground music communities prefer to provide the instant availability of music files, and they often lag in making their work known to the world at large by taking that final big step of releasing it as a traditional CD. But there’s still added credibility in the release of a professional-quality physical album.
Local music veteran DJ Audissey’s long-anticipated collection of original music elevates him to a higher level and positions him as a front-runner in the Best R&B/Hip Hop category in the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards next spring.
He introduces himself with "E Ho Mai," a short and untranslated Hawaiian piece that gives the listener a sense of his island roots. From there he throws out a couple of Jawaiian numbers for local "kanakafarian" consumption and then slides into a more mainstream R&B/urban style that deserves recognition outside Hawaii.
The English material gets off to an engaging start with "Internet Love Affair." Communications technology — letters, telegrams, telephone calls, answering machines, pagers — has provided the theme of countless songs over the years. Audissey brings that tradition forward in imaginative style.
He also distinguishes himself as singer/songwriter with his romantic R&B originals. From time to time, a melodic hook or turn of phrase echoes another artist’s work; "My Girls" borrows a hook from Smokey Robinson’s iconic hit composition for the Temptations, for example. Overall, however, this collection is imaginative, original and beautifully done.
Audissey’s tight-knit lyrics and smooth delivery make "Physical Attraction" one of the standouts. "Super Fly" benefits from his imagination as a storyteller — as he updates a musical tradition that dates to 1957.
Guest vocalists — Siaosi, E-Dawg, Tim "Papa T" Troxell and Joe "J.D." Daniels — star on several tracks, but the others show that Audissey is a competent singer, too.
‘Masters Of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Volume III’
(Daniel Ho Creations)
Another year, another new title in this commercially successful series of compilation albums consisting of performances culled apparently at random from appearances at the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar concert series on Maui. Four of the five previous albums in the series have won the Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Music Album — raising the ire of many who dismiss them as nothing more than "slack-key albums," and those who find them lacking in other areas. This one has all the strengths and weakness of its predecessors and therefore seems the front-runner for Grammy honors in 2011.
The critics who say these albums don’t represent Hawaiian music should note that "Volume III" includes Hawaiian-language vocal performances by slack-key masters Elmer "Sonny" Lim Jr., George Kahumoku Jr., Dennis Kamakahi and Kawika Kahiapo. Steel guitar is represented with Bobby Ingano, who plays "Kawika Slack Key" as a duet with Kahumoku. Hawaii’s unique falsetto tradition is heard in Richard Ho’opi’i’s zesty rendition of "Aloha ‘Ia No ‘O Maui."
A song by Owana Salazar acknowledges the contributions women have made to island music. Keoki Kahumoku and Daniel Ho earn their places as well. In short, there is a lot more here than slack key.
The weaknesses repeat as well. Granted, the title of the concert series is "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar," but several of the acts that the four producers (Ho, Kahumoku Jr., Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong) include are not yet "masters" of any genre of Hawaiian music. The album also lacks artists’ bios, song lyrics, translations, and slack-key tunings — basic information that should be a part of all Hawaiian albums.