Saturday, January 6, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 6, 2001

Island Sounds
Reviews of CDs by Samson, Kallen, Ke 'Ope Ono

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

"SOMEWHERE IN TIME" by Kit Samson, Samsonata Records, SR 001.

Kit Samson has long endeared himself to this town as a versatile keyboarder and the mastermind of Kit Samson’s Sound Advice (a staple in the glorious days of the Kahala Hilton and still seen around town at various special events) and currently as a soloist at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Mahina Lounge.

Through the good and the lean times, his ivory power has been unchallenged. He’s equally at home plucking out dance-floor favorites or big show medleys or standards from Tin Pan Alley - even the occasional original.

This new release examines these various facets of his styling: his quiet, assured manner bringing dignity to the piano, his easy-going and unblemished touch adding a measure of the personal to his interpretations.

If you’ve been following his three-decades-long career here, this one’s for you. From the jazz-flavored Vince Guaraldi "You’re in Love, Charlie Brown" to the medley of "Titanic" tunes, "Time To Say Goodbye/My Heart Will Go On," Samson is a Goliath of adaptation, making the familiar his own, adding originality yet maintaining fidelity to the tunes he embraces. And he does it without the frills of production overkill, enabling the piano to speak its own simple language.

One of the best is "All I Ask of You," the ballad from "The Phantom of the Opera," which has been a request item for several years. The Rachmaninoff "18th Variation on a Theme by Paganini" is coupled with the John Barry title tune from a Christopher Reeve film, "Somewhere in Time," with shades of pure charm in the marriage. And "Somewhere Out There" (the "E.T." theme) and "Beauty and the Beast" (from the film and the Broadway show) showcase his convivial pop approach, while "To Love Again," with its Chopin origins, demonstrates his roots in and loyalty to the classics.

In short: A musical Kit worth adopting.

"HAND MADE PIANO" by Timothy Kallen, no label.

Timothy Kallen works full-time at the Diamond Head Gallery, where this CD is available, but veteran Waikiki lounge regulars will recall his music and his presence in clubs and restaurants over the past two decades.

This sampler of his piano artistry has a very cozy and even smoky jazz personality, as Kallen explores Cole Porter ("I Concentrate on You," "Let’s Face the Music and Dance"), John Lennon and Paul McCartney ("So Far Away," "Eleanor Rigby") and even Johann Sebastian Bach ("Ode to Joy").

It’s also a hands-on effort for Kallen, who did practically everything beyond playing the keyboard - photography, hand-cutting the cover - and the labor of love shows.

"LUNCHWAGON MAN" by Ke Ope Ono, Island Groove IGPD 2010.

Ke Ope Ono, which means the Six Pack, is a sextet comprised of Curt Takahama, Larry Lopez, Owen Kajiwara, Ryan Hashiro, Dwayne Higa and Brad Choi.

The group was a winner in Mt. Kalihi Productions’ "Battle of the Bands" contest at the annual Makaha Bash.

This debut CD shows promise and potential, though the group’s sound is more imitative than innovative for now. Still, these guys know how to celebrate, Island style, and the title song - what act hasn’t sung about local foodstuffs? - radiates with Takahama’s joy in food.

Several in the group write music, including Choi’s "I No Wanna Boy" which is all sweetness and innocence, with ukulele accompaniment, about things we don’t want to do as kids. Go bed. Get up. Go school.

Covers of "Flying," "How Can I Be Sure," "If" and "Hualalai" also serve as friendly pathways into the hearts of these musicians.

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