Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, September 28, 2001

Courtesy photo

Allure of Azure

By John Berger

Call her a diva, but Azure McCall has had it with people who expect her to come in to some struggling lounge or restaurant, take a dead night in the middle of the week, work for little more than love, and turn its fortune around.

"None of this 'Help me build up Tuesday.' Give me some money and get me a budget and let me get a trio!" McCall said this week when the conversation touched on the local jazz scene. "That's like a broken record to me. Call somebody else!"

It isn't that McCall is tired of singing -- "I feel good when I perform. I like it," she said -- but the room and the night and the money has to be right.

The good news for fans of Hawaii's original diva -- also known these days as Hawaii's Empress of Jazz -- is that she has a spot in mind. Until it comes together, she's singing when she feels like it.

"I've been doing the Musicians' Union (with the Honolulu Jazz Quartet). I love doing those. And I love teaching, and I'd like to produce a collective CD (of young singers), and I'd like to do shows -- but not every night."

A Special Evening with Azure McCall and Friends

Where: Hawaii Prince Hotel, 100 Holomoana St.

When: From 7 p.m. to midnight today; entertainment starts at 8:30 p.m.

Admission: For show only, is $35 per person; for dinner and show, $250 to $1,500 per couple

Call: 944-3325 for sponsorship and ticket information

McCall has been a major presence in Honolulu's jazz scene ever since she arrived almost 30 years ago. Count yourself a true nightlife veteran if you remember her musical partnership with Augie Rey in what was then the Hale Makai adjacent to Fort DeRussy. McCall has played many jazz gigs since then -- most memorably over the years as one-half of Azure-Te with pianist Tennyson Stephens.

Stephens will be on keyboards tonight as McCall presents "A Special Evening with Azure McCall and Friends," a benefit for the American Cancer Society, Worknet (a culinary training program for disadvantaged youth), and the American Red Cross. McCall first envisioned the show as a combination fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society and a memorial celebration for her mother who died of cancer a little over a year ago. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, she added the Red Cross.

McCall has assembled a list of friends almost as diverse as Hawaii itself. Stephens tops the list. Among the others lending their talents are three of McCall's fellow Hoku Award winners -- Roland Cazimero, Fiji, and Henry Kapono Kaaihue.

The presence of Shari Lynn & Fascinatin' Rhythm presents other possibilities since McCall and Lynn are two of the three original Jive Sisters. The original trio -- Lynn, McCall and Annie MacLachlan -- was the first modern Hawaii vocal ensemble to revive the classic American pop sound of the Andrews Sisters. McCall is hoping that MacLachlan will be in the audience.

Is an impromptu reunion part of the program?

"Wouldn't that be fun if it happened?," McCall said.

Other performers include Randy Aloya, Cathy Takara and DisGuyz. The quintet will be singing "Our Nation in Song," the tune they wrote and recorded earlier this month as their contribution to the Sept. 11 fund-raising campaign.

McCall will also have a booth selling off the remaining copies of her Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning album, "Body And Soul." There'll be a Red Cross booth available for any additional donations as well.

McCall's long-range plans include setting up Camp Kya -- a summer music camp for children who are battling cancer. She's also looking forward to doing more music teaching in local schools and private classes.

"I tell everyone I work with that we're gonna get you a 'book' of 10 songs that you'll know how to sing, and then you can record yourself a CD. If you just want to do it for your mom, for Christmas, or whatever. I encourage everybody I work with to record."

She's currently trying to get her new label up and running. Once the label is solid she hopes to "produce some kids (recordings).

"We don't have the money yet but we have a label that we can record them on. If I can get my album out in the stores, then I can get some others out right behind me."

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