What the Heck?
COURTESY OF HONOKAA JAZZ BAND
Honokaa High School's Jazz Band, with instructor Gary Washburn, at left, rocks it way into Honolulu this week.
Band on the run from Honokaa
Few months back, at a farmers market on the Big Island, I met ornamental horticulturist Steve Soros. He was selling orchids but seemed just as interested in selling me a CD of the Honokaa Jazz Band, for which his son Grant plays guitar.
I slipped it in the player in the rental car -- and awhop-bopaloo-bop awhop-bam-boom. It sounded like no high school band I'd heard before, especially one from a rural school with 800 students.
Sure, there were a few missed notes, but when vocalist Kiani Ventura-Tampos belted out "Hold Me" for the band's James Brown medley, the hairs along the back of my neck stood up. The band's under the direction of teacher Gary Washburn, who once got a gold record for co-writing a hit for a minor Motown act.
Each year the band records a live CD at the 1931 Honokaa People's Theatre. However, short of flying to the Big Island, it was hard to buy one. You can't technically buy one, anyway; you can only donate $10 to the band and get one as a gift.
So you'll be pleased to hear that this week the Honokaa Jazz Band, CDs and all, will be making its annual "Big City" tour, the big city in question being Honolulu.
Starting Thursday, the band plays Oahu venues as diverse as Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park and Ward's Rafters, including a Friday appearance on KHON Morning News. For more details: 524-8416.
How to Be a European
This month, Keahi Conjugacion sings Saturdays at the Honolulu Design Center. It's a warm-up for her summer tour of Sicily and Romania, with Italian saxophonist Nat Minutoli.
Wait a minute. How does a Hawaii jazz singer end up fronting an Italian band in Romania?
It's a 21st-century story. Conjugacion went on MySpace and began "friending" European jazz musicians -- sometimes auditioning by singing over Skype with her webcam on.
"They all want to come to paradise," she said. "I really wanted to go to Europe."
The MySpace thing worked in reverse as well. Conjugacion was contacted on her MySpace page by the Abrigo 'Ohana of Maui. That's three siblings -- Timmy (13), Emily (9) and Quinn (5) -- who perform as a Hawaiian trio. "I looked them up," said Conjugacion. "They seemed pretty cool."
When Conjugacion and her band took a break, the Abrigos, in Honolulu from Kihei, did a short set. While brother Timmy was tuning his guitar, ukulele player Emily decided to tell a joke.
"What nationality are you when you go to the bathroom?" she asked. "You're a-peein'." When the room was slow to laugh, she said, "Everybody on Maui knows that joke."
Conjugacion's sets are no joke -- and a bargain, since $15 admission buys two drinks. Last chance: Saturday, April 26.
Ken Leung and Michael Emerson at Dragon Upstairs.
Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?
Actors Michael Emerson and Ken Leung of "Lost" were part of the standing room only crowd at Dragon Upstairs last Saturday for Bop Tribal, the jazz quintet led by pianist Satomi Yarimizo.
Yarimizo recognized Emerson, not from the show, which she'd never seen, but from earlier concerts. She said hello. Only later, did someone tell her he was an actor. "I looked him up on the Internet, and, 'Oh, my, yes!'" she said.
Unlike the chilling character Emerson plays on "Lost," the actor himself was quiet and polite -- unlike the large party of young Honolulu urban professionals who proceeded to talk loudly over the band.
"Oh, that was a before-hours private party," said Yarimizo. Owner Hank Taufaasau invited them to stay for the music. "He won't do that again," said the pianist.
Early Lost Youth
Speaking of "Lost" actors, when the show resumes this week, Ella de Coligny will make her acting debut. Ella is 7 months old.
Ella was supposed to cry and did so, right on cue. "Hurley was holding her and the minute shooting stopped, he'd rush over and give her back to me, to calm her down," said her mom, Ashley de Coligny.
Ella actually plays a baby boy. "I hope that doesn't give her identity problems later in life," said Ashley. "Or that she doesn't burst into tears every time she sees Hurley on the screen."
In the meantime, Ella now has $500 tucked in her college fund.
Exit Stage Left
Chef Jon Matsubara has quietly left Stage, as has master pastry chef Mark Okumura -- creating questions about the future of that perhaps too-high-end-for-Honolulu eatery.
"It was always a risk, doing designer cuisine," said Matsubara. He insists the parting was amicable. "It was a mutual decision to do it now, without giving time for things to get ugly."
Batteries Not Included
Hawaiian Airlines flew about 150 VIPs on its first flight to Manila last week. "My breasts almost caused an international incident," said KHNL news anchor Diane Ako.
Ako, who's still nursing daughter Olivia, was unable to bring her along. Instead, she brought a breast pump, complete with battery pack. In the air, she confided to a helpful flight attendant that it wasn't working.
The flight attendant, thinking there might be some place on the plane to plug it in, tried contacting a mechanic, causing a number of passengers seated nearby, including Emme Tomimbang, to inquire if the plane was having mechanical difficulties.
No, said the flight attendant discreetly, it was Ako who needed help. Tomimbang, assuming there was something wrong with her video gear, proffered the services of her cameraman. Informed of the real situation, Emme said, "Oh, I can't help with that."
Ako never got her breast pump to work -- but, if this isn't too much information for you already, former first lady Vicki Cayetano explained to Ako how to deal with the problem, ahem, manually.
When she got back to Honolulu, Ako realized she'd put the batteries in backward.