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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 29, 2001

Bla Pahinui comes out of musical semi-retirement

 •  Album reflects Pahinui's growth, reverence for roots

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

James Daniel Pahinui — Bla Pahinui to his fans — is back in the limelight after a brief respite, continuing the tradition and legacy of his famous family.

Bla Pahinui's musical explorations diverge from his Hawaiian roots more than those of his brothers Cyril and Martin. His new "Guava Soul" CD, released this week, is heavy on rhythm 'n' blues. The next album will focus more on straight blues, he says.

Mountain Apple Co.

His "Guava Soul," released this week, reintroduces the lesser-known of the Pahinui brothers, who also include Martin and Cyril.

"It's going on three years since I did anything," said Pahinui, 60, a full-time employee of Honolulu's Parks and Recreation Department. "I'm still doing my Hawaiian stuff,

but I'm really caught up in blues, the rhythm 'n' blues I grew up with in the '50s."

There are slight changes in his demeanor since the '60s, when, as one of the three performing sons of the late and legendary Gabby Pahinui, he started playing music, for fun, on records, and in local clubs.

"I was in sort of semi-retirement," Pahinui said of his recent obscurity. "I stayed away from the scene, which gave me time to get little creative."

He's adopted a black bandanna (he used to wear colorful ones) and black attire ("it's basic ... and kinda fashionable") but otherwise he's laid back, as all Pahinuis tend to be.

One day, when he was sitting by the Ala Wai Canal, where he frequents a neighborhood park, he ran into Jon de Mello, CEO of the Mountain Apple Co., with whom he had done an earlier solo CD.

"I didn't recognize him at first, but we hugged and started talking story, mostly about music," he said.

De Mello asked Pahinui if he had one wish, what would that be in the realm of music. "I thought I did everything — except a rhythm 'n' blues CD," said Pahinui. "Jon told me, 'When you want to start?' and I answered 'What about next week?'"

That was about two years ago, and Pahinui didn't have a band.

He has since linked up with Milan Bertosa (bass, accordion), who's worked on a number of Mountain Apple projects. Bertosa was involved with Third Degree, a blues band, which eventually formed the nucleus for his studio backup crew.

"It was all exciting for me," said Pahinui, who secured the services of Chris Palanas (acoustic and electric guitars, 'ukulele), Bailey Matsuda (piano, keyboards) and James Ganeko (drums, percussion), plus Roland Cazimero (bass), Jerry Byrd (steel guitar) and Sean Thibadeaux (rub board) on selected titles of "Guava Soul."

While there are blues tints on the disc, it's not his full-tilt blues album — that would be the next project.

"What's going to be different is the flamenco guitar stylings of Chris Planas," said Pahinui. "It's just the sound I wanted, just the thing to be different from all the Jawaiian that forces me to change the channels because of the sameness."

He said the inspiration for the new album title came one day "when I saw this guava tree with yellow ones on 'em."