Supercontinental Jazz


POSTED: Friday, May 15, 2009


von Baron
(von Baron Music)

; Jazz musician von Baron has earned a high profile around Honolulu as a member of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet and as drummer of choice for at least one all-star “;pickup”; group. His second album builds on the first, “;Pangaea,”; in displaying his versatility—he plays keyboards as well as drums and other percussion instruments—and skill as an imaginative composer.

“;New Age music on steroids,”; is how he describes his music, and it's apt enough.

The title track is one of four on which he does it all: drums, keyboards and percussion. They're all substantial enough that von Baron could easily have worked solo throughout and come out with a praiseworthy album. Give him credit for doing more than that and sharing the musical spotlight with several A-list guests.

Jeff Peterson joins him on “;Well-Traveled Gypsy”; and local jazz veteran Jimmy Funai on “;One Life To Love.”; Tim Tsukiyama and Dan Del Negro sit in on “;Leap of Faith,”; and they both appear elsewhere. Each guest is a good fit. Each song adds another mood or different ethnic shadings to von Baron's soothing “;virtual journey to worldly destinations evoking a deep sense of peace and belonging.”; In short, “;Souljourner”; can entertain with the musicianship of von Baron and his guests or be enjoyed as background music.

And, don't let the “;new age”; tag obscure the fact that “;Souljourner”; will certainly be one of the best jazz albums to come out of Hawaii in 2009.


;» ”;Well-Traveled Gypsy”;
;» ”;Springtime In Paris”;
;» ”;Souljourner”;

'Songs for Trixie'

Joe Kingston
(Flying Mongoose)

; If there was a Hoku Award for politically incorrect original songs, the kind that irk self-appointed guardians of teenagers' morality, the release of Joe Kingston's latest album would give him pride of place as this year's front-runnner. The “;Trixie”; of the title is, apparently, one Trixie Fong, a young lady whose favorite pastime is the subject of the one original song on the album, “;Bonging Along.”; The most non-PC part of what is, truth be told, a whimsical love song, is the love-struck singer's decision that the best way for him to stay close to Trixie is to start “;bonging along”; with her!

Wrong! Romantic but wrong!

Trixie, if there is a real-life Trixie in Kingston's life, evidently appreciates a wide range of contemporary music. “;Songs for ...”; includes hapa haole classics, a Broadway show tune and pop hits by the Beatles, Todd Rundgren and the Young Rascals. Kingston does them all as a one-man multitracked group, playing acoustic bass, guitar and ukulele and singing all the vocal parts. It is an impressive and perplexing project—on one hand, Kingston does almost all of them well, and with a winning enthusiasm. On the other, how many people will embrace acoustic rock remakes of Badfinger and the Dave Clark Five?

Here's hoping they do! Good luck, Joe. And to Trixie as well!

;» ”;No Matter What”;
;» ”;Waikiki Chickadee”;
;» ”;Bonging Along”;

'Independently Bizarre'

Kiwini Vaitai
(Lost Coast)

; Laga Savea and Wendel Ching are the local record industry veterans behind this solidly produced debut album by Kiwini Vaitai. Savea was the producer and contributed backing vocals and some instrumentation; Ching engineered. Credit Vaitai as the composer as well as the lead vocalist. With material like this he should quickly become a “;name”; in Hawaii's indestructible Jawaiian music industry, and at least a finalist for reggae album at the Hoku Awards next year.

Vaitai makes a great first impression with the lead-off song. “;Don't Play”; is an ironic tale of “;a friend that I was working with on Maui”; who was cheating on his wife but went ballistic when he saw his girlfriend “;with a white boy.”; The title is short for “;don't play if you can't play nicely.”; The song is a great calling card for Vaitai, and perfect for local radio play.

Vaitai's evident knack at coining ear-catching phrases pops up elsewhere, like when he describes a girl whose “;skin color was pina colada”; (rather than, say, cafe au lait) or sings that he'd “;climb a ladder to heaven to see if you're alone.”; Some of his writing takes liberties with the basic principles of using words that rhyme, but most of the almost-rhymes work.

Savea and Ching complete the project with full-bodied mainstream local reggae arrangements throughout.

Vaitai switches from English to an unidentified Polynesian language with “;Lupeolo,”; the only song he didn't write. Presumably it's there for the folks back home in the South Pacific, but including an English translation would share the song's significance with everyone else.



;» ”;Don’t Play”;
;» ”;Independently Bizarre”;
;» ”;Pina Colada”;