Island Mele

John Berger



"Cool Breeze"

Kohala Palm

Guitarist Charles Michael Brotman found a winning formula when he introduced his trio with an eponymous instrumental album in 1999. Brotman plays with nylon strings, Charlie Recaido and Kevin Teves use steel, and they emphasize the tonal contrast on their albums with a mix that puts Brotman in the center.

That concept has served them well through several albums, but with this one, they're featuring a couple of new twists. The emphasis this time is on original acoustic jazz rather than island standards or pop tunes, and a unobtrusive percussionist joins them from time to time.

Three songs are by other writers: One is a Japanese tune that will be new to most listeners and the others, Liko Martin's "Sun Lite, Moon Lite" and the Beatles' "I Will," appear as welcome points of reference in what is otherwise unfamiliar but consistently well-crafted musical territory.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Night Marchers"
Bullet "Winds of Kahala"
Bullet "I Will"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info



"South Sea Island Magic"

Love Notes featuring Maki Inouye
U'ilani Productions

It takes some perusal to determine that this beautiful album was recorded in Japan by a Japanese sextet that loves Hawaiian and hapa-haole music -- and plays it well. Some Japanese artists can't get past the "plitty led hibiscus" level, but Inouye sings perfect, unaccented English, and her Hawaiian pronunciation sounds good as well. Local folks skeptical about "foreign" Hawaiian recordings should embrace this one.

Credit the group with exquisite acoustic arrangements of 15 island standards and contemporary Hawaiian-language compositions. Each seems more enchanting than the next and all are beautiful. "Maile Swing" and "For You A Lei" are updated as smooth island jazz so fine that a full-length jazz album would be welcome. In the meantime, this album is a perfect introduction to a remarkable singer and her group.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Po La'ila'i"
Bullet "Pohai Kealoha"
Bullet "For You A Lei"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info




Derek Nakamoto
Daniel Ho Creations

Seven familiar Hawaiian melodies are refracted through New Age arrangements in this instrumental album by keyboardist Derek Nakamoto. The former Hawaii-born resident has aligned himself with Daniel Ho's Los Angeles-based label and this collection of Hawaiian standards in his first release.

Approaching the melodies of songs such as "Honolulu City Lights" and "I'll Remember You" with a solo acoustic piano would suffice to show Nakamoto's capabilities. Fortunately, the soothing synthesized sonic washes he runs beneath his meticulous acoustic interpretations add solid substantial textures, rather than the thin drone that mars so many local recordings. The electronic tracks add a spiritual ambience instead of being annoying sonic filler.

It's easy to dismiss this music in general as disposable product, but anyone seeking tranquil instrumental music for stress relief or as a sleep aid will find Nakamoto's work worth the time.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Honolulu City Lights"
Bullet "E Ku'u Morning Dew"
Bullet "I'll Remember You"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info

See the Columnists section for some past reviews.

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


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