Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 21, 2003

Innovation marks final night of jazz festival's O'ahu gigs

By Joseph Rothstein
Special to The Advertiser

The 10th annual Hawaii International Jazz Festival closed its O'ahu portion Saturday night with a concert that highlighted virtuoso playing in traditional and experimental styles.

The Hawaii International Jazz Festival

On Maui: 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at the Wailea Marriott Resort's Aulani Ballroom, $30, $45. Tickets at Borders, Request Music in Lahaina and (beginning tomorrow) Wailea Marriott.

Friday: "International Jazz," featuring Larry Coryell, Tiger Okoshi, the San Diego State University Big Band, Honolulu Jazz Quartet with Keahi Conjugacion, and others.

Saturday: "Hawaiian Jazz," featuring saxophonist Gabe Baltazar, vocalists Jimmy Borges and Conjugacion, Gypsy Pacific, and Ukulele Madness. Jam sessions will follow the Maui concerts at the Lokelani Ballroom.

Information: 526-4400, www.hawaiijazz.com

Gypsy Pacific, a Maui-based quintet that specializes in the music of jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt, opened the show. The lineup of violin, two acoustic guitars, piano and bass perfectly captured the spirit of gypsy jazz in Paris during the early 20th century.

Such classics as "Minor Swing" and "Nuages" made for joyful music with an undercurrent of sadness just below the surface. Their finale, "Sweet Georgia Brown," gave the band members room to strut their stuff, especially Tim Conway on guitar and Willy Wainwright on violin.

Local favorite Jake Shimabukuro followed, opening with a beautiful solo 'ukulele rendition of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." His lullaby styling made for an interesting contrast with Keahi Conjugacion's uptempo version from the previous night. John Kolivas on bass and Noel Okimoto on drums then joined Shimabukuro for a set of straight-ahead jazz featuring "Fly Me to the Moon" and Chick Corea's "Spain." Shimabukuro was an irrepressible bundle of energy, musicianship and dazzling 'ukulele skills.

Not to be outdone, flutist Nestor Torres closed the first half with a spectacular display of lightening runs, sinuous melodic lines and double-, triple- and flutter-tonguing.

With a rhythm section augmented by congas, Torres performed several tunes from his recent Grammy award winning discs, including such standards of Latin jazz as "Tambora" and "Besame Mucho." His high-energy version of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" had the audience shouting and clapping along.

Torres closed his set with his signature encore, "Over the Rainbow," to wild applause.

The concert's second half featured two Japanese international superstars of jazz. Makoto Ozone played a set of his own tunes, showing off impressive chops on such tunes as "Stinger," "Asian Dream," and "No Siesta." Ozone's compositions and solos combined classical precision with melodic imagination. He too was ably assisted by Okimoto and Kolivas.

The trio remained on stage for trumpeter Tiger Okoshi, who veered off in a different direction. Tiger inhabits a musical world all his own — his performance was a travel guide for the rest of us. Whether on his original compositions or on hoary standards, Tiger brought a unique, appealingly skewed perspective to the music.

He was by turns engaging, cerebral, perplexing and funny. Louis Armstrong, the father of jazz trumpet, would surely have recognized Tiger's far-afield version of Armstrong's hit, "Hello, Dolly," but Satchmo would likely have shaken his head and said, "Whoa, Dolly!"

Bringing the evening to a fitting end, Tiger brought out alto saxophonist Gabe Baltazar. Their rousing version of "Basin Street Blues" melded Gabe's lyricism with Tiger's soaring flights of fancy, along with a series of inventive solos by Ozone, Kolivas and Okimoto. It was testimony to an art form that respects its traditions even as it reinvents them.

The 10th Annual Hawai'i International Jazz Festival continues this weekend with two concerts at the Wailea Marriott on Maui.

At his day gig, Joseph Rothstein is a certified financial planner.