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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 24, 2003

Master of 'ukulele goes genre-hopping

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Jake Shimabukuro's second solo 'ukulele CD will be released Tuesday; it's got sizzle and flash, with artistry that makes him the supreme strummer of the moment.

Other releases in the bins: a collection of Jawaiian with substance, an assembly of religious tunes and a foray into the world of a bass voice.

Get with it!

"CROSSCURRENT" by Jake Shimabukuro; Four Strings

• Genre: Instrumental 'ukulele, world music.

• Distinguishing notes: Jake-san, as his fans in Japan call him, is the undisputed 'ukulele king. His second full-length solo uke outing, released in Japan in July, enables him to build on his global success and further expand the appeal of the simple instrument with playing styles that tap jazz, rock, pop, blues, and, occasionally, a hint of Japanese seasoning. Eight tracks are his originals; the covers include "Mrs. Robinson," the Simon & Garfunkel great, and "Fragile," a Sting composition. Chick Corea's "Spain" allows Shimabukuro to venture into Latin/jazz turf in a blink; but the real expressions of his inner feelings come from his tunes including "Wish on My Star," "I've Been Thinking," and "Beat of My Heart." Without words, he communicates volumes.

• The outlook: Mr. Fast Fingers continues to give the 'ukulele greater prominence, wider appeal, increasing respect.

• Our take: Good vibes, from start to end; Shimabukuro is the unchallenged uke master.

"Crosscurrent" by Jake Shimabukuro. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

"FOR AN AUDIENCE OF ONE" by Rupert Tripp Jr.; RTJ Music

• Genre: Religious.

• Distinguishing notes: Get beyond the overt opening prayer, and you'll find some inspirational tracks performed by a voice of reckoning. Tripp, a Hilo native and Kamehameha Schools grad, has a powerful voice (he's lead vocalist for the group, Nalu) that brings purpose and power to a collection of tunes about the Lord almighty, set to various tempos, from a moving "You Jesus" to a guitar-highlighted "Follow Jesus," from the familiar "E Kolu Mea Nui" hymn to the soul-stirring "I Believe in You."

• The outlook: Simplicity works well here: one voice, one guitar, one easygoing menu of songs about Christ.

• Our take: Blessedly good listening, and it doesn't have to be on church-day Sunday.

"You Jesus" by Rupert Tripp Jr. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

"MISTER BASS MAN SWINGS LOW" by Roger "Bass Man" Kurt; R. Kurt Productions

• Genre: Pop standards.

• Distinguishing notes: Roger Kurt's deep voice has been heard in such local groups as the Sounds of Aloha Chorus, the Singers of Hawai'i, the Love Notes and, most recently, Shakapella (which he co-founded). Cheerful revivals in his trademark tones accentuate classic pop favorites such as "Sixteen Tons," "Ol' Man River," "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," "Elvira," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Under the Boardwalk," plus unlikely selections as "Honolulu City Lights" and "Goodnight Sweetheart."

• The outlook: Kurt's mission is to continue and perpetuate the forgotten bass singer; his solo CD is a grandiose effort in this direction — even if production values are minimalist.

• Our take: Clearly, a novelty entry; if you're already a Kurt fan, this will be a happy discovery; his challenge is to get exposure on commercial radio — an unlikely proposition.

"Mister Bassman's Back!" by Roger "Bass Man Kurt. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, 525-8067 or fax 525-8055.