Island Mele: Jake Shimabukuro forms a trio in new album
With his latest album, Jake Shimabukuro is submerging his virtuosity as a solist into what is truly a group project; Hawaiian group Ei Nei’s debut album “Hui!” celebrates island traditions.
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“Jake Shimabukuro Trio”
Jake Shimabukuro/Nolan Verner/Dave Preston
(Music Theories Recordings)
In his 18 years as a solo artist Jake Shimabukuro has taken the ukulele in many directions. At one point in his career he experimented with speed strummng, at another with the principle of “letting each note breath,” at others he explored the possibilities of using steel strings, of playing a solid body instrument, and the opportunities inherent in playing ukuleles of different sizes. With his latest album, Shimabukuro is submerging his virtuosity as a solist into what is truly a group project. Shimabukuro and his ukulele have their moments in the spotlight. Nolan Verner (bass/piano/percussion) and Dave Preston (guitars/lap steel/percussion) each have their moments as well.
Working as a balanced trio they delve into genres as divergent as hard rock (“When The Masks Come Down”), ambient (“Morning Blues”) and acoustic country blues (“Fireflies”). Although a majority of the songs are the work of the trio writing as a team, keen ears will recognize a familiar melody, “Wai‘alae,” written by Bob Brozman and Cyril Pahinui. It’s a welcome nod to Shimabukuro’s birth place.
None of the three men sing but guest vocalist Rachel James pops up on the final track to close the project with a wistful rendition of Stevie Nicks’ now-classic, “Landslide.”
(Ei Nei Music)
A welcome sign of the recurring talent in a current generation of young Hawaiian musicians has arisen with the work of groups such as Maunalua, ‘Ale‘a, Holunape, Pilioha, Waipuna, Na Hoa and Keauhou — and now, Ei Nei.
The trio — Ekolu Chang (acoustic stand-up bass), Dane Fujiwara (guitar) and Grant Kono (ukulele) — does it the way Hawaii likes to hear it. They have sweet falsetto lead voices and smooth falsetto harmonies, strong lower register voices and a repertoire of island standards that includes Lena Machado’s classic, “Ei Nei,” which they sing in an exquisite falsetto arrangement.
The album’s two originals are noteworthy as well. Kono pays tribute to his home district with “Keu A Ka U‘i.”
Fujiwara does the same with “Wailuku.” Both songs will likely become standards for future generations.
The trio translates their name as “a term of endearment founded in a unique relationship” and explain in the liner notes that it also describes their relationship with the audience: “We are nothing without you.”
Ei Nei completes their Hoku Award-worthy debut with a beautifully illustrated booklet of song lyrics, translations and essential background information.