Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cat's Out The Bag

One of the biggest musical shifts I've made was revisiting and focusing on my 'ukulele playing. It was somewhat of a "back to basics" endeavor since the 'ukulele was where I began my musical journey. Though I have still been playing all these years and working in 'ukulele shops, my musical interests led me to the guitar after I fled the nest and hence my shift in focus. Full circling I've returned to the 'ukulele and started putting in the time I needed to help define and sort out my playing.

To me playing the 'ukulele is not just about technique and skill but it also takes a certain mentality. I feel the contemporary player needs to be able to call upon the greats yet still have a voice of their own. If we explore the history and subtleties of the instrument we can begin to understand what makes an 'ukulele sound great. That being said it's easy to sound good on the 'ukulele but hard to sound great.

I wanted to find a voice through the 'ukulele.

And while I know that will be a task I will be pursuing for the rest of my life I came to the realization that I shouldn't let my determination stand in the way of creation. This life is to short to be too scared to throw the first punch, to wait for perfection, or ultimately let ego dictate our actions.

We must create.

So when Milo Fultz approached me to put together a group and record some videos I took it as a sign to seize the initiative.  Alongside Merlin Showalter on percussion we got together and worked up a few tunes. These guys were phenomenal to work with not just musically but professionally as well. Stand up gentleman with exceeding talent both in their instruments and in composition. Truly an inspiration and a great way fan the already burning flame.

Behind the scenes at Pacific Winds Music. LR: Merlin Showalter, Milo Fultz, Nathan Alef

Working with a small crew we filmed three songs at Pacific Winds Music. The choices were very personal to me and I wanted to share some of the inspiration for choosing these tunes.

Cat's Out the Bag
One afternoon I came home from teaching with a feeling like I conquered the world (a residual side effect of teaching wonderful students). I decided I would use my inspiration as fuel to practice so I sat down with my 'ukulele and spiritedly began tapping my foot. The song sort of wrote itself and I was so lucky to grab it. Taking it to Milo and Merlin we directed it a little more and shaped into a concise tune. I wanted to portray the feeling of triumph and the beauty of a strong resolve. This was a tipping point for me as I had written the tune in pure expression, unafraid and unadulterated of how the world might judge it.

My Cherie Amour
It's hard not to love this song as it is a great example of the genius of Stevie Wonder. We wanted to stick to the tune and let Stevie's songwriting do the talking. As a favorite of my mothers, it was one of those songs that always floated around the house as I was growing up. I picture sitting in my parents kitchen in Kula, Maui with sky on fire with the sunset. Breathing it all in with My Cherie Amour in the background . . . these are how clich├ęs are made.

Fly Me to the Moon
It was the first jazz standard that I learned how to play and it holds a special place in my heart because of it. I remember listening to it as a kid off of the Neon Genesis Evangelion soundtrack and being completely intoxicated and mystified by the recording. At the time jazz was still very foreign to me so the mixture of the instrumentation and arrangement was all new and exciting. It led me down the path of searching for more versions and the beginning of my love for the genre. So in tradition I wanted to contribute my rendition of the tune.

I am excited for what sits on the horizon and what this year will bring. With any luck it will be filled with music and more 'ukulele playing for me.

A big mahalo to all the hard working hands who made this possible. Nathan Alef, Mason Kline, Merlin Showalter, Milo Fultz, and Pacific Winds Music! It wouldn't have been possible without you and words cant express my gratitude. Thank you.

1 comment: