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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 28, 2002

Next generation lives up to 'ukulele legacy

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

The 'Ukulele Festival today at Kapi'olani Park Bandstand will showcase the artistry of scores of strummers. Keoki Kahumoku, Herb Ohta Jr. and Herb "Ohta-san" Ohta, who have new albums, will be on stage.

Go. Enjoy. Then stop at a record counter to pick up these CDs. You won't be disappointed.

'Treasures of Aloha'

  • Artists: Keoki Kahumoku and Herb Ohta Jr.
  • Label: Roy Sakuma Productions RSCD 9820.
  • Genre: Contemporary and traditional Hawaiian.
  • Distinguishing notes: Two next-generation artists team up again with the mutual mission of sharing and showcasing songs they have learned for future generations to enjoy. Kahumoku's father is a master at ki ho'alu, storytelling and singing, and the senior Ohta also is a pioneer in his 'ukulele craftsmanship, so this sons-of-the-'aina collaboration is a feel-good keepsake.
  • The outlook: Kahumoku is an expressive performer, using voice to parlay emotions that go well beyond the written words. "I'll Remember You," a Kui Lee composition, typifies his ability to take the familiar and reap new insights. His father George Kahumoku Jr.'s original, "Hale 'Olu," is a sweet, country-road remembrance. Ohta mostly lets his fingers do the talking, though he occasionally vocalizes, and you can hear the hustle on instrumentals such as "Glass Ball Slack Key" and "Kaimana Hila." The songs are the duo's personal favorites from the distant and near past, revived because they have something to say for current and future listeners.
  • Our take: An enterprising franchise is the works — the "Other Sons of Hawai'i," maybe?

'Live Hiroshima Japan 2001'

  • Artist: Ohta-san Trio (Herb Ohta, Bob Albanese, Bruce Hamada).
  • Label: M&H Hawai'i MHCD 2121.
  • Genre: World music, easy-listening.
  • Distinguishing notes: Recorded live at the Hiroshima Kenmin Bunka Center, with Nihongo intros by Ohta and occasional applause, this concert outing features the virtuoso 'uke player in the company of Albanese's piano and Hamada's bass and vocals. A new rendering of Ohta's signature, "Song for Anna," retains its music-box clarity and essence in its solo-'uke presentation.
  • The outlook: A varied repertoire ("Hi'ilawe," "Rhapsody in Blue," "Sayonara," "Concerto de Aranjuez") demonstrates the prowess and power of Ohta's 'uke as a solo instrument. The mode is jazz on "Autumn Leaves"; "Time After Time" enables Hamada to take center stage.
  • Our take: Don't be put off by the Japanese intros and focus instead on the performances; Herbie rides again, with his usual steadfast dignity.