Amy and Willie preview ‘Reunion’
BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
History was made once again at Washington Place on Wednesday when Amy Hanaiali’i and Willie K celebrated the upcoming release of their aptly-titled album, “Reunion,” with a pau hana reception and mini-concert co-hosted by Governor Neil Abercrombie and his wife, Nancie Caraway, with support from Adrian Kamali’i and the Island Agency.
Gov. Abercrombie paused several times while commenting about the importance of the event happening “as I bring my administration to a close.”
“This venue that we’re sitting in tonight, because it has been completely restored. … Amy and Willie are baptizing the reopening of Washington Place here tonight. I cannot think of a more appropriate new beginning for Washington Place than to have Amy and Willie here tonight and their glorious music which will honor Hawaii’s queen and her music.”
Abercrombie also described it as “a defining moment in Hawaii’s history” and proclaimed Wednesday “Amy Hanaiali’i and Willie K Day” in Hawaii.
“Reunion” is scheduled to be released Nov. 4 and marks the return of the biggest male/female duo in the history of Hawaiian music. Amy and Willie worked together in the late 1990s, first with Willie as her producer, then as a duo; the two albums they released together won them four Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
“Amy & Willie Live,” a souvenir of a one-of reunion concert tour in 2003, was a Grammy Award finalist for Best Hawaiian Music Album in 2004. “Reunion” is their first project together since the “Live” album and their first studio project since “Nostalgia” in 1999.
Willie told the crowd he and Amy had worked so well together on their latest reunion that they had roughed out 52 new original songs before slowly winnowing them down to 14. The survivors are a mix of hapa-haole and Hawaiian compositions that range in style from contemporary Hawaiian to a soul/R&B blend that Amy and Willie described as “Babyfacial,” and a Mexican-style song titled “Tequila Senorita.”
There’s “Hawaiian Man,” written by Amy for Willie as a sequel to “Spirits in the Wind,” and “Waikolu,” which tells of a valley on the north side of Molokai that becomes inaccessible in winter. Willie did a very credible one-man impression of the Brothers Cazimero on a third song.
“It’s our time now,” Willie said. “We built that bridge, now get over it.”
Willie mentioned a song he’d written titled “Never Got Over You,” stopped a beat, and then joked about “how quiet it just got.”
The duo also played some of their classics — Amy’s early hits, “Haleiwa Hula” and “Hanaiali’i Nui La Ea,” and Willie’s ever-popular “You Ku’uipo.”
And, by Caraway’s request, Willie closed the show with an Italian aria.
There was, of course, a hana hou after that — “Palehua,” the song that won Amy and Willie a Hoku Award as songwriters in 1999.
The guests were primarily music industry and music media figures: Lehua Kalima and her fiance, Tommy Alvarez; Harry B. Soria Jr., host/producer of “Territorial Airwaves”; Mountain Apple Company execs Jon de Mello and Leah Bernstein, and her husband, attorney Mark Bernstein; intellectual property law specialist Bill Meyer; Bruddah Wade of Hawaiian 105 KINE; Alan Yamamoto; and Hawaii Pops executive Donna Bebber.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz was an unobtrusive party guest. And, in keeping with the down home, backyard party vibe, Hina Wong-Kalu stepped up twice to entertain with impromptu hula while Lauren Easley, Ayson Kaneshiro, Marley Rall, Tyana Tamanaha and Alan Texeira helped out with serving drinks.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.