Monday, June 13, 2005


Buffett sings high praises
for uke star joining tour

Jimmy Buffett can barely contain his excitement: Ukulele phenom Jake Shimabukuro performs with him for seven concerts beginning Wednesday in Virginia.

Jake & Jimmy

Listen to Jake Shimabukuro's performance with Jimmy Buffett in Bristow, Va.:

Live broadcast: On Radio Margaritaville, linked to Buffett's Web site, margaritaville.com

Time: 2 p.m. Wednesday

"I can't wait until when Jake walks out onstage and sees 26,000 screaming people," Buffett says from Toronto, where he performs tonight.

Buffett had been a fan of Shimabukuro's music, but it was a longtime member of his Coral Reefer Band, guitarist and vocalist Mac McAnally, who convinced him that "this kid is the real deal."

McAnally had heard Shimabukuro live and suggested to Buffett that the Hawaii musician should sit in for a few songs during the band's April show at the Waikiki Shell.

"I've got a pretty good instinct about these things, but I really trust Mac more than me," Buffett said. "But this band isn't a democracy, so I went to Ala Moana Center -- with a hangover mind you -- to buy one of his CDs just before my concert."

After a listen: "I agreed with Mac."

The next day, during a visit to the Waikiki Local Motion surf shop, Buffet saw a poster that said Shimabukuro would be doing a private performance in the store, to be broadcast live to Japan.

"I left a note with Local Motion to give to Jake saying I liked his (music) and to call me if he had the time," Buffett said. "I wanted him to sit for some songs."

Shimabukuro was speechless when he learned the details.

"I thought, no way, is this a joke?" Shimabukuro said.

He played two encores with Buffett at the sold-out Shell Concert that night, including one song with Henry Kapono. When he finished a solo piece, Buffett whispered, "Passing the torch, Jake. Now run with it."

Jimmy Buffett, left, and Jake Shimabukuro perform together in seven mainland concerts beginning Wednesday.

As Buffet said, his band is not run as a democracy, but in this case it may as well have been. The entire Coral Reefers Band gave Shimabukuro an extended round of applause.

"Let me tell you," Buffett said. "This is one tough band, and when they do something like that, I know there's something there.

"Mac looked at me on stage, smiled and nodded, and I knew I wanted him with us on tour."

Buffett's motivation, he says, is strictly altruistic.

"I don't think Jake has a large mainland fan base because he hasn't had a lot of exposure over here; I can help with that. My band and I are really at a peak and get so much media attention, so Jake will get some benefit from that."

Buffett believes he can help Shimabukuro and his manager navigate "the craziness of this industry."

"I don't want anything because I'm too rich to care about that," Buffett said.

He predicts that the Nashville crowd will "go nuts" over the ukulele player's style and energy. Buffett even mused about Shimabukuro recording a CD on his Mailboat Records label.

For the upcoming concerts, Buffett and the Coral Reefers are reworking a Dave Matthews' song for Shimabukuro to join in.

"We'll feature Jake on a couple songs with the acoustic section, some ensemble stuff with the entire band, then a duet with percussionist Ralph MacDonald," Buffett said.

Buffett returns to Hawaii in October to finalize plans for his One Particular Harbor restaurant in Waikiki and is considering a concert "in a small Maui venue."

Plus, "Maybe when Jake goes back to Japan to perform he'll let me open for him there," Buffett said. "I would love that."

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