Island Mele


POSTED: Thursday, April 16, 2009

”;Solo 'Ukulele Orchestrations”;

Gordon Mark
(Daniel Ho Creations)

; Gordon Mark's third album is a soothing cross section of his immense repertoire. Producer Ho is doing for Mark what George Winston did for slack key by documenting and preserving his work. Like many Hawaiian musicians of earlier generations, Mark does not read or write musical notation - his arrangements of classical melodies, rock hits, pop standards and Broadway themes exist only in his mind, and now in his recorded work.

Mark covers several of those genres here. Hawaiian music is represented with “;Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani,”; “;Ku'u Ipo I Ka He'e Pu'e One”; and several others, pop standards “;The Shadow of Your Smile”; and “;Here's That Rainy Day,”; and the music of the rock era with “;If”; and “;Yesterday.”; Each intricate yet uncluttered piece is beautifully executed.

Some ukulele virtuosos and/or their producers like to present the artist and his instrument in a setting where the ukulele shares the spotlight with other instruments. To each his own, but Mark's imagination in playing elaborate melodies on a four-stringed instrument, and his technical skill in simultaneously playing melodies and harmonies, is best appreciated as it is here with no other instruments, voices or studio add-ons.

Mark closes with a medley of “;Rhapsody in Blue,”; “;Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”; and “;An American in Paris”; that fans and students of the instrument will want to dissect at their leisure.


;» ”;The Shadow Of Your Smile”;
;» ”;Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani”;
;» ”;If”;


Eric Lee
(Lee Enterprises)

; The tremendous changes in marketing and distribution of recorded music are seen in the release of Lee's solo album. The founding member of Na Kama could have released it as a conventional “;hard copy”; album on the Hoku Award-winning trio's in-house record label. Instead, he's going online only - May 1 is the date it goes on sale on iTunes and Amazon.com.

Lee explains in press materials that he wanted to represent his career experiences playing “;a little of this, a little of that”; and include some of his original compositions as well. He opens with “;Ku'i Ka Lono,”; a song commemorating King Kalakaua's 50th-birthday jubilee in 1886, and continues with an assortment of Hawaiian, hapa-haole and pop tunes presented in clean contemporary Hawaiian arrangements.

Lee uses studio technology to present several songs as they would be done by a group - he plays several instruments, and harmonizes with himself on multiple vocal tracks. Fans of Na Kama can count on liking Lee as a solo artist.

“;E Ho 'Ho'olalelale”; is a beautiful example of his feel for traditional Hawaiian music. “;I'll Never Find Another You,”; originally a hit for the Seekers in 1965, is a wistful yet romantic sample of his talent as a pop artist.

“;Sunrise,”; a meticulously crafted guitar instrumental, spotlights yet another portion of his repertoire.


;» ”;He Mele Lei No Namakaalohakawena”;
;» ”;I'll Never Find Another You”;
;» ”;On The Shores Of Waikiki”;

”;Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience”;

Rachel Gonzales, Les Peetz and Lou Benanto
(OK No Name Productions)

; Pianist Peetz has been one of the local pioneers in embracing DIY marketing of limited-edition self-produced recordings. This one consists of recordings made during a performance for Hawaii Public Radio at the Atherton Performance Studio in January 2007. He describes it as “;a lyrical, irreverent and quietly subversive look at jazz and the American songbook.”; As usual, he is right on the money.

Gonzales opens with an a cappella rendition of “;Shenandoah”; and follows it with a dark and ominous take on “;When Johnny Comes Marching Home”; that somehow suggests Johnny won't be marching when he comes home.

The 15 songs that follow are mix and match - Gonzales sings on some, while others showcase the talents of Peetz and Benanto as a duo. Gonzales is one of Hawaii's underappreciated jazz vocalists; “;Night and Day”; shows off her voice and her talent at improvisation. The guys stretch out as an instrumental duo elsewhere, and “;Route 66”; features all three in equal measure.

“;Lydia the Tattooed Lady”; adds a vintage comic number to the collection. Fans of the trio, and curiosity seekers with a taste for the unusual, can order a copy from Peetz at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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;» ”;Shenandoah”;
;» ”;When Johnny Comes Marching Home”;
;» ”;Perdido”;