Island Mele

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Friday, August 29, 1997

Bruddah Walta
shows his range

Ko Ho'ina: Bruddah Walta (Po'alima Records)

IT long seemed that Bruddah Walta's claim to fame was having been one of the earliest and most successful perpetrators of Jawaiian pseudo-reggae. This album makes that appraisal obsolete. Despite a couple of questionable remakes, this disc is solid and substantial.

Walta's original "Aloha E" is immediately impressive. The lyrics are a powerful call for Hawaiian nationalism and cultural pride. The driving soul-rock arrangement displays his increased range as a recording artist. "My Baby Hot Cha Chas" is another notable example of his artistic growth.

Well-executed renditions of "Ka'a Ahi Kahului," "On A Coconut Island" and "Tropical Baby" display other facets of his diverse repertoire.

Reggae derivative material is there too, but Walta, his band (Rick Asher Keefer and Erik Allred), and a squad of guest artists generally succeed in playing Hawaiian reggae rather than playing at being imitation Jamaicans. Between the reggae and remakes he should be getting major play on island radio.

Through The Years: Nightwing & Friends (MGC)

FEW local recording acts have a double-disc album to their credit. This 22-song anthology adds Nightwing to that list. It is an excellent retrospective.

Nightwing surfaced as a recording act in 1987 as part of Ken Kahanu Post's Kahanu Records empire; a self-titled debut album won the Hoku for Most Promising Artist(s) in 1988. Timmy Pajimola kept the group going through many personnel changes. Pajimola and Todd Adamski (a sometime member) document the 10-year odyssey in a liner notes booklet that includes complete performance and publishers' credits.

Nightwing was one of many groups playing the style of local pop music defined by Kalapana in the mid-1970s. Pajimola wrote much of the most commercially polished material: "Lover Tonight" and "Carousel of Love" are included here. So are two of Adamski's best Christian songs. Some group members' dabblings with Top 40 remakes and solo projects are included as well.

"Gabe": The Gabe Baltazar Quartet (Rim Jazz)

THE ace saxman Gabe Baltazar went to California to record with mainland-based players of comparable stature. The obvious standout is "Ukulele Blues," an imaginative original that successfully transmutes basic uke exercises into Baltazar's jazz idiom.

He and his friends deliver memorable interpretations of standards that span decades of jazz. The one questionable call is an uptempo rendition of "Music of the Night" that loses the erotic romanticism of the melody.

John Berger, who has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Home Zone section on Fridays for the latest reviews.

See Record Reviews for some of John Berger's past reviews.

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