‘An Ukulele Christmas’
Why wait till after Thanksgiving to start shopping for Christmas? Veteran local record producers Bob and Patti St. John are accommodating early shoppers in search of newly released Hawaiian-style Christmas music with this compilation. Released without fanfare last month, it consists of recordings by an eclectic assortment of ukulele players supported by an equally eclectic assortment of musicians.
For instance, Herb Ohta Jr. is joined by Todd Adamski (bass and guitar) on a soothing arrangement of "Silent Night." Salaam Tillman provides percussion for Daniel Baduria (ukulele, bass and guitar) on "We Three Kings of Orient Are." And there’s Adamski and percussionist Tillman teaming up with Jan Luna (ukulele and keyboards) on "The Christmas Song."
Ukulele virtuoso Troy Fernandez leads Tillman, Baduria and guitarist Eric Lee on a pair of medleys: "Mele Kalikimaka"/"Jingle Bells" and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"/"Jingle Bell Rock."
The collection also includes two songs recorded by the De Lima ohana at their own Bu Print Studios. Family patriarch Kelly "Kelly Boy" De Lima plays ukulele, of course, with daughter Lilo De Lima on bass and son Kapena De Lima playing keyboards and drums. Kapena’s drums give both tracks a bigger and much louder sound than that of the other contributors.
Ukulele purists will appreciate Kalei Gamiao’s beautiful solo rendition of "White Christmas," but his take on "Carol of the Bells" with Adamski and percussionist Richard Ricardo stands out as well.
The biggest surprise is Aaron Crowell’s solo rendition of "The Chipmunk Song — Christmas Don’t Be Late." It’s a fresh spin on one of the season’s most overplayed songs.
This would be a better showcase for the artists if the producers had included brief artist bios, the tunings they use and what distinguishes them in terms of style and technique. But maybe people who buy Christmas music in October are only interested in being able to cross another name off the list of people they feel obligated to buy gifts for.
Chu’s voice on single shows maturity and range
‘Aloha Means Hello and Goodbye’
The experience of leaving — and missing — Hawaii has inspired countless songs. Ricky Hana and Alan Satchwell wrote this song after they met Allison Chu at the Hawaii Music Awards and learned that the teenage singer/actress would soon have to leave her family and friends to pursue her career dreams in either Los Angeles or New York, or resign herself to the limited opportunities for her in Hawaii.
Chu has matured tremendously as a song stylist since her early recordings as a pre-teen. She sounds both youthful and determined as she sings of her need to "spread my wings" even at the cost of leaving loved ones behind. These are feelings many high school graduates experience as they anticipate departing for college, military service, or to pursue their dreams in the entertainment industry.
Unlike many young vocalists come-of-age in the "minus one" era, Chu is comfortable working with live musicians. The current version of the song produced with a synthesized "orchestra" behind her is a fine platform for her voice, but if the producers had chosen to include a couple of alternate versions using acoustic instruments, it would have reinforced the Hawaiian aspects of this contemporary hapa-haole song.
"Aloha Means Hello and Goodbye" is available at CD Baby and iTunes.