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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 22, 2005


Round & Round a new Island group worth keeping an eye on

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

A new vocal trio with a familiar sound should put Round & Round into the mainstream.

A Maui resident, who has roots on O'ahu and Las Vegas, puts his Island spin on country music.

And original religious material, with jazz undercurrents, is amazingly graceful.

Listen up.

"OUR FIRE" by Round & Round; Stickboy Productions

Genre: Contemporary, world music.

Distinguishing notes: Considering the makeup (three instrumentalist-singers who concoct a sweet, 'ukulele-accented sound) and its producer (Jon Yamasato and Steve Kramer), it's no accident that Round & Round is profoundly evocative of Pure Heart, the trio that launched Yamasato and his former partner in song, Jake Shimabukuro. Add the fact that Lopaka Colón (also with Pure Heart linkage) sits in on percussion, and the sound sizzles. Accept Round & Round on its own merits. The trio features Kekoa Young on vocals and guitar, A.J. Kumukoa on bass and background vocals, and Nate Mata on a frisky uke, whose synergy and sound happen to be commercially pure and loaded with heart. The title song, plus "Round and Round," "Lucky You Get" and "Rain" are keepers; Young's voice is appealing and listener-friendly. Since Pure Heart is no more, Round & Round should soar with its winning formula.

The outlook: A very promising act worth endorsing.

Our take: Round & Round is destined to glide up and up.

"Lucky You Get" by Round & Round. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

"MY 9TH ISLAND PANIOLO RANCH" by Danny Estocado; DE Records

Genre: Hawaiian-country.

Distinguishing notes: Estocado is a Maui resident who was born on O'ahu and graduated from Castle High School. His sixth release is linked to the "9th Island," the affectionate designation for Las Vegas, where he has a home. Thus, he's a two-island local, who sings country and Hawaiian-country tunes, including originals ("Po'o Wai U Makawao Rodeo," "My 9th Island Paniolo Ranch") and covers ("Ring of Fire," "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights") with a twang of country, a sliver of Hawaiiana. A hidden bonus: Maui's falsetto whiz, Richard Ho'opi'i, makes a guest appearance.

The outlook: Good mix of country and Island tunes with western flavors; would have been a lot more inventive if a couple of established hits — like "It's Only Make Believe" or "Ring of Fire" — were rendered with Hawaiian translation lyrics, the way lesser-known "Pele Pu'uwai" has been tweaked.

Our take: Should find a niche audience, in the Islands and in Nevada.

"Hook in my Heart" by Danny Estocado. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

"REVELATIONS" by Michael Chock, with Aaron Aranita; Sugartown Records

Genre: Religious, jazz.

Distinguishing notes: Michael Chock, who plays trombone and acoustic guitar here (as well as sing lead vocals), has composed a batch of tunes that obviously combine two passions jazz and religion. With Aaron Aranita, who plays everything from sax to keyboards and bass to percussion, the disc is a harmonic new-age look at two conventional genres that also embrace the vocals of Gail Mack and electric guitarist Joe Siababa. "Rejoice," "I Will Worship You," "Give Thanks: and "Joy" are inspirational originals that have that cool jazz undercoat. "Amazing Grace," the ageless hymn, perhaps best exemplifies Chock's hybrid — mellow, bluesy, still reverential; with new music set to familiar lyrics.

The outlook: Limited appeal, but enough invention to lure the curious — or even the devoted.

Our take: Amazingly graceful excursion, and one that's easy to worship.

"Call to Worship" by Michael Chock. Audio sample available in mp3 format.

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