Island Mele: Jazz album fine but strays from genre

Nov. 12, 2010 | 1 Comment In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition


‘All That Hawaiian Jazz’

Paul Shimomoto
(Lei Hano)

Several artists have described their music in recent years as “Hawaiian jazz.” Vocalist Paul Shimomoto makes a more convincing claim than most. His musicians — von Baron (drums), Dan “The Man” Del Negro (piano), Jeff “Jeffrito” Peterson (guitar and ukulele) and Mark Tanouye (bass) — have the necessary credentials, and Shimomoto is a fine pop crooner in his own right.

The quintet gets things off to a swinging start with “Sophisticated Hula.” Peterson reminds the world that he can play jazz as well as ki ho’alu, Del Negro defines the melody in ear-catching style in between his solo spots, and von Baron and Tanouye contribute noteworthy solos. The irony is that hula dancers require lyrics to dance to, and the instrumental solos would leave even the most “sophisticated” hula dancer with no lyrics to interpret. Well, the theme here is Hawaiian jazz, not hula!

Shimomoto begins his gradual departure from Hawaiian jazz with “Let Me Try Again,” a song with no apparent connection to Hawaii that he and the guys interpret with a light bossa nova rhythm. Next comes a Spanish number, “Como Fue.” Both are nicely done; Peterson adds the instrumental magic behind Shimomoto’s romantic rendition of “Como Fue.” Fortunately for everyone not fluent in Spanish, the liner notes booklet includes an English translation. It isn’t Hawaiian but it certainly is beautiful.

Shimomoto deserts the jazz format completely with a “Wonderful World Medley” that attaches “Ahi Wela” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to “What a Wonderful World,” the Louis Armstrong hit, not the Sam Cooke/Herman’s Hermits classic. Shimomoto doesn’t explain in his liner notes how the well-known 19th-century Hawaiian song, with its relatively explicit sexual imagery, connects to the other two. The medley is imaginative, but jazz it is not.

» “Sophisticated Hula”
» “On A Coconut Island”
» “Mapuana”

‘Accident’ a skilled one-man offering

‘Picture an Accident’

Picture an Accident
(no label)

Hawaii resident David Morris commemorates the life and death of his father, comic actor and voice-over artist Howard Morris, with this download-only suite of seven original traditionalist alt-rock songs. It is entirely a one-man project. Morris sang all the vocal parts and assembled all the instrumental tracks. It is an impressive requiem.

Morris writes that the name he chose for the project “is based on a protective instinct, which lives inside of us. When you picture an accident, you envision what harm might come to you, or others, where danger exists.” However, music buyers will not have access to that information with this download-only release.

The songs are not first-person accounts of Morris’ loss or generalized songs about dealing with the death of a family member. The lyrics, delivered in dry, dispassionate style over an expansive mix of guitars, drums and keyboards, are often cryptic — “For the next show, you get a brand new life/ For the next show, you get a brand new car,” Morris sings in “A Brand New Life.”

Other songs are clearer. “Heaven or Hell” describes the search for solace and spiritual answers that countless people experience. “Closed Eyes” addresses the desire to reach out and see again someone who is no longer there.

Morris is an accomplished composer. His broad, slightly ominous musical landscapes accentuate the sense emotional darkness and vague foreboding.

“Picture an Accident” is available as a digital download from Amazon, iTunes and at

» “A Brand New Life”
» “Gotta Be Mad”
» “Faces Everywhere”

Ing has no misses with his ‘Swing’

‘Swing with Ing’

Alvin Ing
(no label)

Broadway veteran Alvin Ing teamed up with pianist-arranger Betty Loo Taylor and her nephew, bassist Steve Loo, for this collection of 14 contemporary pop tunes. Most are standards, several are Broadway classics. All are nicely interpreted.

The most notable in historical terms is “My Best Love,” which Ing introduced on Broadway in 2002 when he appeared as Chin in David Henry Hwang’s controversial make-over of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s original 1958 hit musical, “Flower Drum Song.” The song was cut from the production before it opened on Broadway; Hwang used it in place of “The Other Generation.” Most people will hear it for the first time — and most embrace it — here thanks to Ing.

Ing successfully explores familiar Broadway material with “I Have Dreamed” (“The King and I”), “So in Love” (“Kiss Me Kate”), “Love Look Away” (from the original “Flower Drum Song”) and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (from the show of the same name). He gets the album off to the good start with “I Have Dreamed” as his delivery captures the joy and breathless enthusiasm that greets a dream come true.

“Love Look Away” also stands out. In the original version of “Flower Drum Song,” and in the definitive 1961 film as well, it was the showcase number for star-crossed Helen Chao. (Hwang eliminated both the character and the song from his rewrite of the show.) Ing’s vibrant rendition shows that the song can be equally compelling as a man’s lament; the bridge gives Taylor and Loo a delightful turn in the spotlight.

It’s been much too long since Taylor last recorded a first-rate album with a vocalist of Ing’s caliber. She and Ing are a good match, and her arrangements do justice to the composers’ work without ever stealing the spotlight.

Ing closes on a poignant yet inspirational note with “More Than You Know.” The textures of his voice convey myriad conflicting emotions — hope, fear, doubt and faith. It is such a compelling performance that the impact lingers even after the final notes have faded away.

» “I Have Dreamed”
» “Alone Together”
» “On A Clear Day”