Review: Cazimero shows pop talents at Lewers

Feb. 22, 2014 | 0 Comments
Robert Cazimero performs during "Live at Lewers," presented by Hawai‘i Pops, at the Halekulani on Friday. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Robert Cazimero performs during “Live at Lewers,” presented by Hawai‘i Pops, at the Halekulani on Friday. (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Robert Cazimero has been known for more than 40 years as a Hawaiian singer and musician, as well as kumu hula and Hawaiian cultural practitioner for nearly the same amount of time.

Cazimero’s two-night engagement at Lewers Lounge in the Halekulani this weekend introduces him as a talented and entertaining mainstream pop singer. The music is a natural fit for the elder member of the Brothers Cazimero; the performances — part of the Hawai‘i Pops’ “Live at Lewers” series — are a fine showcase for him and reminiscent of the glory days of Trappers in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, circa the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

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‘LIVE AT LEWERS’

Featuring Robert Cazimero

» Where: Lewers Lounge, Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Rd.
» When: 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday
» Cost: $50; $85 premium seating
» Info: (808) 923-2311

Friday night’s early performance started almost exactly at 8 p.m. and Cazimero entertained the crowd with a casual, yet solid, 70-minute set of selections from his version of “The Great American Songbook.” Most of his choices were indeed pop standards and Broadway show tunes the term usually refers to: “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Our Love Is Here To Stay” and “Over the Rainbow,” for example. Others were more contemporary.

At one point, Cazimero revealed his fondness for the compositions of David Gates and sang a beautiful, suitably introspective rendition of “If.” Memories of growing up in Kalihi segued into a joyfully uptempo arrangement of “Our Day Will Come,” the 1963 Hot 100 chart-topper by Ruby & The Romantics.

He split the difference with “I Only Have Eyes For You,” featuring guitarist Jeff Peterson. (The song was written and first recorded in 1934, which would make it “Songbook” material, but is known to most Americans under 70 as a 1959 R&B hit for the Flamingos.)

Cazimero received excellent instrumental support from an all-star quartet. It was guitarist Peterson working with Noel Okimoto (drums), Dean Taba (acoustic bass) and Tommy James (piano). Just for the record, and to avoid any possible confusion, James is not the Tommy James of “Hanky Panky” and “Crimson and Clover” fame, but he is an outstanding jazz pianist — and certainly an asset to the local music scene.

Several of the arrangements offered distinctive, fresh perspectives on familiar songs.

“When I Fall In Love” had a nice optimistic lilt to it. “On The Street Where You Live” was infused with shades of happiness, and “Our Day Will Come” was delivered at a significantly faster clip than the original.

James and Peterson embellished the melodies with ear-catching detail work; Taba and Okimoto were a solid unit as the rhythm section.

Robert Cazimero returns to Lewers Lounge on Saturday for two additional performances of personal selections from "The Great American Songbook." (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Robert Cazimero returns to Lewers Lounge on Saturday for two additional performances of personal selections from “The Great American Songbook.” (Photo by Kat Wade, Special to the Star-Advertiser)

Cazimero’s famed talents as emcee and storyteller, and his frank enjoyment of doing a mainstream pop music show, added further to the evening.

He responded to calls for a “hana hou” with a solo rendition of “Lightning in the Sky,” an original from his “Love Songs” album, accompanying himself on piano while the musicians looked on. It was a fine final number, and a glimpse at yet another side of his repertoire.

All going well, he’ll be doing more pop shows in the future.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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