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Island Mele: ‘Love’ a dream come true for Leed
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Melveen Leed has been so well known for several decades as a major showroom entertainer, and so well known for the Hawaiian and hapa haole songs that have become her musical signatures, that her first full-length mainstream jazz album will doubtlessly come as a surprise to those who know her only from those previous recordings.
‘I Wish You Love’
After all, Leed’s recording of “E Ku‘u Morning Dew”/“Alone Once More” won her a Na Hoku Hanohano Award in 1978, and her bilingual recording of “Iesu Me Ke Kanaka Wai Wai,” which was released before the Hokus were created, is probably the best known version of that classic Hawaiian song.
Leed was also promoted for years as a “Hawaiian country” singer — her recording of “Panolo Country” is by far the most enduring version of that song as well. However, those who know her know that she has always enjoyed singing mainstream all-American jazz. With this long-awaited album she opens a significant new chapter in her career as a recording artist.
Leed and producer/pianist/arranger Barry Miles keep everything clean and uncluttered. Noel Okimoto (drums) and Dean Taba (bass) complete the trio that backs her on Miles’ beautiful arrangements. There are no synth-string effects or other detrimental add-ons; Miles, Okimoto and Taba provide all the support that’s necessary. Their craftsmanship adds another dimension to the project
With 15 songs on the album instead of the customary 10 or 12 there is a lot to enjoy here. “Blue Skies,” sung to a bright uptempo arrangement, introduces Leed in swinging style and captures her personality. “When I Fall in Love” and “Misty” are benchmark numbers for countless singers; both fit in beautifully here. “Waikiki” is a welcome nod to her Hawaiian roots. “One Note Samba” and “Manha de Carnaval” represent her interest in other genres.
As of the 2012 Hoku Awards last May Leed has won Female Vocalist of the Year five times. “I Wish You Love” could easily make her a six-time winner in the category next spring, and the winner in the Jazz Album category as well.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.