Island Mele: Home’ is where Kapala shines most brightly
“Come on Home”
Kapala (Kapala Music Group)
Guitarist Zanuck Kapala Lindsey is a man of diverse musical interests. He played hapa haole swing-band music as the leader of Hoku Award-winning Hula Joe & the Hutjumpers (Jazz
Album, 2000). He plays concerts with Kalapana — Malani Bilyeu, DJ Pratt, Kenji Sano and Gaylord Holomalia — although as a sideman rather than an official member of the group. He also plays contemporary Hawaiian music and original Hawaiian rock with his namesake group, Kapala. The sextet’s new three-song CD-single covers both ends of the spectrum.
“Come on Home,” a country rocker, describes the sentiments of many islanders who leave Hawaii for better economic opportunities only to discover that the unique multicultural milieu of Hawaii is impossible to replicate.
“Chigasaki,” a Hawaiian-language song, has a similar feel as far as the music is concerned. A translation of the lyrics is not provided, but as with the full-length album the group released in 2009, Lindsey is on the edge of Hawaiian-language music.
“Sugarcane Shack” is straightforward hapa haole rock. The locale, a “low-down joint right before Kaena Point,” and a few Hawaiian words, suffice to make it “hapa.” The arrangement — drums, electric keyboards and guitar — is rock all the way. Add the lyric references made to two ’60s pop hits and there is plenty of commercial appeal.
There are “groups” on the scene that are in fact a singer/songwriter
/producer and some sidemen. Kapala isn’t one of them. Lindsey shares writing credits with group members Kimo Artis and Lopaka Ho’opi’i, and the arrangements use the talents of all six plus several guests. As in 2009, Kapala is making a noteworthy contribution to the evolution of Hawaiian-language music.
Padilla stretches wings, strings
Duane Padilla (self-published)
Here’s another album that the Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA) might have a hard time classifying when time comes to prepare the ballot for the 2012 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. Is it jazz or instrumental? And, although violinist Padilla is a founder and leader of the Hoku Award-winning group Hot Club of Hulaville (Jazz Album, 2011), this is officially a solo project, so can he go for most promising artist as well?
Wherever it ends up on the Hoku ballot, this is beautiful and imaginative work. Americans tend to think of the violin either as a classical music instrument or as the fiddle of country fame, but so much for conventional perceptions. Padilla applies his violin to a collection of 10 American pop classics from the pre-rock era — “Body and Soul,” “Autumn Leaves” and “Embraceable You,” to name three. He shares the spotlight with pianist Tennyson Stephens, while Stephen Jones (aka Steve Jones) provides unobtrusive support on acoustic bass. It’s an all-star trio, and Padilla’s violin makes it something fresh and unusual for the local jazz scene.
What’s more remarkable is that Padilla describes the project in the liner notes as “a celebration of ‘ideas of the moment'” that was recorded live and without rehearsals. The three musicians stretch out on songs they all know, playing in a style “somewhere between Frank Sinatra and Stephane Grappelli.”
The project gets off to an excellent start with “How High the Moon.” The contrasting textures of violin and piano are clearly displayed in the opening bars; then Padilla steps back a while to let his sidemen shine.
Stephens’ solo intro on “Cry Me a River” sets an appropriately somber mood that Padilla builds then builds on with the emotional tones of the violin. There’s a nice change of tempo along the way before the trio brings the tune to a satisfying conclusion.
Padilla strikes a deceptively jaunty tone on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” in an arrangement that brings Jones’ bass to the fore and gives Stephens well-deserved time in the spotlight as well. It is one of the best numbers in a superb set. “Our Love Is Here to Stay” is a joyful delight as well.
Tagalog love songs translate well
“Himig Ng Damdamin”
Martin Nievera (PolyEast)
Martin Nievera is not a Hawaii resident, but, like Frank Orrall and many other successful recording artists, he grew up here and has many friends and fans here. Add the fact that he’s appearing with the Society of Seven at the Outrigger Main Showroom through July 2, and his latest album, released just last month in the Philippines, is “island” enough to be reviewed here.
Writing in the liner notes, Nievera describes this collection of 13 songs — all of them originally hits by other Philippine vocalists — as a tribute to the many “gifted composers, arrangers, musicians and singers” in the Philippines. All are “Martinized” (his term) as wistful introspective ballads. All but one are requiems for lost or squandered love. Nievera has excelled with this type of material in recent years. He does so again here.
Americans not fluent in Tagalog will at least be able to fully appreciate the sentiments shared in the English-language selections. “Now That You’re Gone,” “One More Try,” “Everyday” and “Before You Go” describe different phases of love lost and heartache in eloquent style. Nievera shares his personal investment in each in the liner notes; the Tagalog songs cover similar topics. Some — in both languages — could have been inspired by events in Nievera’s own very public life. Perhaps it’s appropriate that none of the many photos included with the CD show him smiling.
Nievera breaks format with the final song,”Beautiful Morning,” which describes the wonder of finding love after all seems lost. Nievera is a fine spokesman for the broken-hearted of both sexes, expressing timeless emotions in commanding style, but it’s nice to wind up with the idea of finding love again.
Karaoke is as popular in the Philippines as it is in Hawaii. “Himig Ng Damdamin” includes not only all the lyrics, but a second, “minus one” disc for use at parties or perhaps a one-on-one serenade for that special someone.
“Himig Ng Damdamin” is available at the SOS/Martin Nievera show at the Outrigger Main Showroom. Show time is 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Get more information on the record at www.polyeastrecords.com.
—John Berger / email@example.com