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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 1, 2006

ISLAND SOUNDS
Island grooves, jazz, a musical about homelessness released

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

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Bruce Hamada goes on a personal odyssey on his latest jazz sing-out.

A musical about the homeless which played Honolulu last year is available on CD complete with song lyrics.

And a contemporary group finds its Island grooves via a cluster of original tunes.

"TWO FOR THE ROAD" BY THE BRUCE HAMADA TRIO; DON DON RECORDS

  • Genre: Jazz.

  • Distinguishing notes: Bruce Hamada, an acoustic bassist who has been a staple at the Halekulani hotel for years, enlists Jeff Hamilton (drums), Tamir Hendelmen (pianist-arranger) and Jim Howard (pianist) here in support of his vocals. He taps a rich tradition of classics from Cole Porter ("You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To"), Rodgers and Hart ("It Never Entered My Mind") and Ray Noble ("The Very Thought of You"). A Hamada original, "Hammerhead Meets Hammertone," is fun; there's inventive interplay on "Learnin' the Blues," a song that Frank Sinatra rendered so beautifully and on which Hamada holds his own. Hamada has made jazz a viable commodity in Hawai'i, and this CD continues his effort.

  • The outlook: Hamada's singing just gets better with time and experience.

  • Our take: A satisfying jazz collection.

    "TRULY DUALLY" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS; MICHAEL ULLMAN RECORDS

  • Genre: Soundtrack for an original musical about homelessness.

  • Distinguishing notes: Michael Ullman, author of a musical that urges dignity and respect for those in need, teamed up with composer Roslyn Catracchia to create a soundscape for a play that had a run in Honolulu. The "dually" of the title refers to an individual diagnosed with both mental illness and substance abuse. Toss in the problem of homelessness, and you have many challenges to overcome. Roslyn provides moments that tug at the emotions (check out "Today" and "Hast Thou Now Forsaken Me"). The singers include Kau'ionalani Mead, Dion Donahue, Matthew Pennaz, TJ Tario, Nolan Hong, Mike de Ycaza, Michael Pa'ekukui, Megan Mount, Katie Beth Hicks and Catracchia herself. Lyrics are included in the liner notes a real plus for those who haven't seen the show.

  • The outlook: This ambitious and amiable project is a dream come true for its makers, but it's a tough sell on the commercial market.

  • Our take: Unless you've seen the musical, this would be a left-fielder.

    "JOURNEY" BY MANA 'OHANA; LYRI-COOL PRODUCTIONS

  • Genre: Island contemporary, world music.

  • Distinguishing notes: Mana Ohana is a contemporary ensemble with harmonic pop sound led by David Yokoyama. Yokoyama writes all but one song (the exception is Mickey Ioane's "Hawai'i '78," popularized by The Makaha Sons and Bruddah Iz). Best bets: the title song,"Would U B the 1," and "Pops."

  • The outlook: One break-out hit should emerge.

  • Our take: This Ohana has a lot of mana'o (spirit).

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.