Sunday, September 8, 2002


Emi, left, Angela, and Rich Crandall, gather at the piano at Studio Six at the Musician's Association.

Crandalls make
beautiful music

Gary C.W. Chun

Angela Crandall was just a kindergartner, eager to make her singing debut on "Glory of Love" on her father Rich's first album. "I was wearing these HUGE headphones and I was saying to myself 'I'm gonna be famous!' "

At 18 months, Angela is already preparing for a life of music appreciation.

Well, fame is a relative term, and while Angela is well-known to regulars at Rich Crandall's weekly Tuesday jazz concerts at Studio 6 of the Musicians' Association building on Kapiolani, at least she knows that, with mom Emi and piano-playing dad in her corner, the Crandalls are a close, loving and supportive family.

Rich Crandall has been a staple on the local jazz scene ever since he arrived from San Francisco in the '70s. "It was Dec. 18, 1975, to be exact," he said, "and I remember it because it was the day the Chart House restaurant caught fire. I was flying into Honolulu that day because I got a job at the Opus One at the Ilikai, which was just adjacent to the Chart House. As I was arriving at the hotel, I thought the place I was going to play was burning down!"

Crandall had visited Honolulu before, first staying at a college friend's place in the summer of '71, but there were too many opportunities here at the time for a gigging musician like him to ignore.

"Back in San Francisco, there are a lot of fine musicians, but here, there were so many places to play in comparison; in Waikiki at that time there were around 28 shows and clubs up and down Kalakaua. My first gig was with Teddy and Nanci Tanaka."

Wife-to-be Emi didn't enter Crandall's life until 1981. Originally from Tokyo, she came to Hawaii to study at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her interest was in American studies courses, and all things American included live jazz music, which led to Crandall.

"My friend was crazy for Rich when we first saw him at John Dominis," Emi remembers. But it would be she and Crandall who would hook up after meeting again at a Terumasu Hino concert at the Jazz Plus club at the top of the Mitsukoshi building on Kalakaua Avenue.

Later that year, Crandall finished a six-month gig at the Hawaiian Regent and Emi headed back to school in Japan after an unfortunate accident in Kapiolani Park.

"Our friendship just sparked," Emi said, "more so after I literally fell out of a tree about 25 feet up in the air." (Here, Angela interjects, saying 'my mom told me that she thought she was a bird and wanted to fly!' Hmmm ... ) "I hurt my back and had to mend back home in Tokyo. While I was recuperating, Rich nearly wrote to me everyday, or made tapes and phone calls."

THE COUPLE became husband and wife about a year later, celebrating their love with three parties -- one in Tokyo as a combination farewell and engagement party for Emi, the actual wedding ceremony in the back yard of Crandall's parents' home in Chicago, and then a party in Honolulu with friends.

And it was here that the two decided to call home. "We could've started anywhere," Crandall said, "but neither Emi nor I wanted to live in Chicago or Japan."

Emi Crandall belts out a song at her engagement party in Tokyo.

At the time, Crandall saw the once-busy Waikiki scene starting to slow, so he became "one of the early guys who would get into freelancing. Before that, doing six or seven nights a week was not unusual. Now I was trying to keep busy doing conventions and occasionally playing on the neighbor islands."

Angela Hitomi Skye Crandall was born April 26,1987. Rich was 38 at the time, Emi, 35. "I had a mandatory amniocentesis because of my age," Emi said. "But Rich and I decided we didn't want to know the fetus's gender. We just wanted to have a healthy child."

Later, at the Crandalls' cozy Moiliili apartment, Angela proudly brought out the yellow birth blanket that she was originally swaddled in, the words "Baby Crandall" delicately sewn into it.

"The day Angela was born, Emi had had a long labor and both of us had already been up two days straight," Crandall said. "On top of that, I had a concert at OCCC through the Jazz in Schools program I was participating in at the time. So after the birth, I drove down to the prison as quick as I could, got there late, came charging into the hall, took my place at the piano, looked around, and saw all these deadpan faces on these kept men.

"Seeing this, I felt I owed them an explanation, so I said in a quiet, tired voice, 'Scuse me for being late, but I just became a new father.' Smiles broke out on their faces and they gave me a spontaneous round of applause! It was certainly a touching moment for me."

AS AN ONLY child, it was natural that Angela was doted on. "For her first three years, one of us would always be with her," Emi said. When Emi got a job at United Airlines as a flight attendant, Rich and 2-1/2-year-old Angela joined her in Chicago for part of her eight-week training session.

The parents also decided not to rely on television to help keep Angela entertained (to this day there is no TV set in the Crandall household, although there are two computers).

Instead, Angela grew up in a household filled with music, either performed by dad at an upright piano or played on the stereo.

"The apartment was small enough that nobody could not be a part of it, so it was natural to make her like music," Crandall said. "With her mom being out of town for three- to four-day trips, I would take her to rehearsals -- in fact," he said, turning to his daughter, "you were a very easy baby."

"I remember listening to all kinds of music," Angela said, "and I remembered, as a preschooler, my teacher asking me what my favorite TV program was, and I surprised her by saying, 'I don't have a TV, but I like listening to classical music with my dad.'"

Angela takes the mike at the Hawaii Jazz All-Stars concert at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Behind her are, from left, Connie Kissinger, Sango Mwyiwa and Mike Lewis.

She also remembers singing nursery rhymes at age 2. It was also a time when her dad would take her to all-day UH spring tournament baseball games at nearby Rainbow Stadium. Her first public venture as a singer was game-related.

"I sang with dad in public for the first time at Unity Church," she said. "After a gig there, the minister saw me singing with my dad and wanted me to perform with him the next time he played at the church. So after my dad played a jazz version of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game,' I sang it with him, both of us wearing baseball caps."

Angela often played catch with her dad as a child, and knowledge of the game put her in good stead when she became the only girl on a Little League team when she was in the 5th grade, both hitting and playing left field.

"But I really got into sports in the 7th grade," she said. "I was playing both softball and basketball, and I enjoyed the camaraderie and teamwork. It was a good experience, playing on a winning softball team." She enjoys playing point guard for the girls' basketball team and she added volleyball to her school athletic activities last year.

NOW ANGELA is a 14-year-old and a freshman at University Lab School. Perhaps because her mom started speaking to her in Japanese while still in the womb, Angela grew up bilingual. She's conversant enough to have been a 5th grade junior ambassador in Fukuoka, Japan, and this summer served as a junior counselor to first- to sixth-graders in Japan, teaching both dance and English.

But she hasn't forgotten her singing. She now has a repertoire of around 80 songs to draw from when she sings with her father's trio during his Tuesday gigs. Her favorite singers run the gamut from Sarah Vaughan to Norah Jones and Avril Lavigne.

While everyone in the family is on different schedules, whether in school, teaching or traveling, they still get together whenever they can on Tuesdays. Emi collects money at the door and greets longtime friends and patrons, Rich lays down acoustic jazz at the piano with his group, and Angela chimes in on vocals.

When asked if being an older parent to Angela is ever a problem, Crandall shrugs it off by saying "she helps us keep young at heart."

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --