Island Mele: Shimabukuro’s ‘Travels’ a diverse album
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Jake Shimabukuro’s newest album starts off in a familiar mode with a solo instrumental tune titled “Departure Suite — Part 1.” But among the 16 tracks that follow, there are many surprises.
Jake Shimabukuro (Hitchhike)
The biggest surprise is probably his uptempo remake of “Low Rider,” one of the best-known hits by WAR in the 1970s. Shimabukuro plays an electric ukulele on it as well as a conventional acoustic instrument. He also does an extremely rare turn as a vocalist. Dean Taba (bass), Noel Okimoto (drums/percussion), Michael Grande (keyboards) and Jeff Richmond (guitar) join him on an imaginative reworking of a classic Top 10 hit.
Shimabukuro’s solo rendition of “Hi‘ilawe” is noteworthy twice over. First, because it is one of two traditional Hawaiian songs on the album. Second, because he plays it on a larger baritone ukulele instead of his standard tenor instrument. The different textures make it a standout song in a beautiful collection.
And there’s “Everything Is Better With You,” an original that is presented here as a showcase for his longtime friends Bryan Tolentino, Chris Kamaka, Del Beazley and Asa Young — aka the Side Order Band. They play and sing; he sits in as the fifth member of their group. The results are the most divergent of anything on the album, but the song is still a soothing intermission amid the instrumentals. Shimabukuro will always be known as one of Hawaii’s great ukulele players, but this song shows that he can also write for other artists.