Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Gail Mack

Gail Mack has been a fixture in the Hawaii music scene. For so many years I had heard of her and her band George Street. Her smooth and beautiful voice can be heard with her band George Street, on CDs by Peter Moon and Aaron Aranita. I met Gail thru Aaron Aranita and she was very gracious to sing on my first CD Revelations. It was such a blessing to finally meet Gail and to have her be a part of my first recording project. My wife compared Gail's voice to that of the one and only Karen Carpenter, now that is a great compliment. Gail is one of those who has the gift of a great ear and can sing pretty much anything you put in front of her. Here's a review of her solo CD that was released a couple of years back.

Island Mele

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Friday, March 20, 1998

Pacific Snowbird: Gail Mack (MGC)

GAIL Mack has been best known for the past 15 years as a member of George Street, but she has occasionally recorded with other artists.

Mack has a beautiful voice for ballads, and sings folk, Hawaiian, Spanish and Top 40 oldies with consistent appeal.

Two new songs are notable showcase numbers. "Hamakua" was previewed on the 1997 "Homegrown" album. "Snowbird" is an original song co-written with George Street's Gordon Kim.

George Street's Steve Min is also among Mack's platoon of studio musicians and guest artists. Peter Moon stars on guitar and 'ukulele; Ernie Cruz Jr. shines in several duets. Kimo Cornwell (organ) adds religious overtones to a beautiful arrangement of "The River Is Wide."

Mack's voice makes her romantic remake of David Gates' "Make It With You" a winner. Remakes of two Bobby Darin classics are problematic despite her voice; Darin and his arrangements are hard to surpass.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Seawind Reunion

It seems as though everyone and every other mothers' son and daughter, cousin or nephew who played in a band at one time or another has or is doing the reunion thing. The Ides of March, Jamestown Massacre, Herman's Hermits, the Buckinghams on the national scene, Power Point, Rock Candy, and Greenwood on the Hawaii scene. The reunion thing ain't no fluke, people just seem to enjoy seeing groups they grew up with back in action again.

One of the most legendary jazz groups with roots in Hawaii was the band Seawind, formerly known as Ox. I was blessed to see Bob Wilson, major songwriter and drummer of Seawind a couple years back in a workshop he and Christian worship leader Tommy Walker held at my former church. This cat looks a bit older, but man could he still play them skins. Wow!!!!! Recently this year all the members of the band Seawind came together to do the reunion thing. Now that my friend is a real reunion. The musicians and singer Pauline Wilson were always cool to the max. All the cliches fit these cool cats and feline. Awesome, right on, bad, mindboggling, if it means cool that was Seawind. This is something from Seawind's official website. Hooooo hoooo! Wish I was there. Maybe next time.

The Seawind Reunion Was a Major Success!!

Thanks to all of you Seawind fans who were able to attend!


Two incredible, sold-out nights of miraculous music at the beautiful Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts! Seawind performed many of their hits with updated new arrangements and surprised many of their fans with lots of stirring, brand new music! Some real healing took place on stage and in the audience! Deep emotions ran from tears to laughter and after 23 years of silence, it was pure joy to see Seawind back together once again! The concerts were musical history! A "moving" experience that will always be remembered! Yes, .....Seawind is back..... much older,....... much wiser,..... musically tighter,....and more mature than ever! Stay tuned Seawind fans, for a sizzling, brand new Seawind CD, coming later this year! Wait until you hear the new songs!

photograph by our long-time friend: PF Bentley

Thanks to everyone who attended the concerts! Thanks also to the fans, from around the world, who sent us their well-wishes, congratulations and prayers! There were many fans and family members who were there in spirit and many who traveled from Japan, Europe, Hawaii and from states abroad, to be a part of this long-awaited reunion! Seawind songs performed included "Devil Is A Liar", "Free", "Angel Of Mercy", "Pearl", "Sun Shadow", "Wayne", "Window Of A Child", "Everything Needs Love", "Invitation", "Liquid Spies", Inner Urge", "Rio De Janeiro Blue", "Good Morning Heartache", "Love Lost", "You're My Everything", "He Loves You", "Follow Your Road" and "Kept By Your Power". Augmenting the Seawind horn section were trumpeter, Gary Grant and trombone player, Bill Reichenbach! It was a wonderful reunion in many more ways than one!


Friday, June 24, 2005

Kirk Thompson - Musical Genius

A few years back there was this group that totally blew the Hawaii music scene away. The group Kalapana, which is still very active today both recording and performing, started with four very unique & special individuals who came out with a sound that was cool to the max. One of the four original members of Kalapana was Kirk Thompson, presently the owner of Spectrum Recording & Sound Studios in Honolulu, Hawaii. After leaving Kalapana, Kirk put together perhaps one of the mega superbands Hawaii ever had the pleasure to experience, Lemuria. The band was a who's who's of music superstars on the Hawaii scene at the time. One singer who sang with Lemuria who comes to mind was Staci Johnson (I believe that was her name). While playing the Waikiki night club circuit in the 70s we had the pleasure of having Staci come up on stage with our band Greenwood. She sang a song with us, we had transposed the song down for our male vocalist to sing, and even though it was too low for her Staci belted the song out. Her voice can be heard on the Lemuria album and her voice is outstandingly cool.

I had the pleasure to meet Kirk recently thru my good friend Aaron Aranita. Kirk gave pointers on my CD project at his recording studio (a studio that is soooo cool to see, equipment, instruments, pictures & other good cool stuff). Aaron mentioned that Kirk plays a mean classical guitar and that his CD of original jazz instrumentals is close to being complete. Talking story with Kirk and Aaron we tossed out the possibility of doing a joint CD release party in the near future on the roof deck of the 1221 Kapiolani Boulevard building and even a combined free concert at my church New Hope Leeward on November 20, 2005. Still tossing the idea around but I think it would be pretty cool. More about that latter.

Stay tuned, will keep news of Kirk Thompson's CD project posted.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Valery Ponomarev

Here's a story done by John Berger on cool cat trumpeter Valery Ponomarev who appears on two songs on Aaron Aranita's new CD release. Pretty cool this cat.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Jazz message
got to Russian

By John Berger

What would it take to get you to give up everything and follow your muse to the ends of the earth?

For Russian-born jazz trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, it was hearing the music of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

"The first (player) who inspired me was Clifford Brown. When I heard that, I realized that that was the music I wanted to play, (and) there was nothing else I wanted to do in my life. Then when I heard Blakey and his band, that was it," Ponomarev explained this week by phone from New York City to help promote this year's Great Hawaii Jazz Blowout, which takes place this weekend on the grounds of Kapiolani Community College at the foot of Diamond Head.

Ponomarev (who says that Brown, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard were his biggest influences in developing his own style) is scheduled to play tomorrow night at 8:45 and again at 1 p.m. on Sunday. He's also been booked for a special one-nighter at the Honolulu Club Bar 7 Lounge on Monday.

Honolulu is long way away from Moscow, where Ponomarev was born during World War II, when communist dictator Josef Stalin was at the height of his power as the all-powerful ruler of a savage totalitarian state. Ponomarev grew to adulthood in the years when Stalin's successors were officially repudiating the purges that killed far more people than the Nazi death camps. The network of communist concentration camps known as the Gulag Archipelago still held millions of prisoners, however, and expressing an interest in Western culture was dangerous.

"(Jazz) was considered purely capitalistic -- almost a propaganda device -- until the so-called Spring Thaw ... when the rulers of the Soviet Union wanted to show that we have freedom here (under communism). They even allowed jazz music, but (Russians) who practiced it were still looked upon as potential enemies of the state. That was the nature of Soviet policy and the whole regime," Ponomarev explained.

"Now, of course, there are jazz schools. But then, there was nothing like that. You had to learn everything yourself. But the nature of music is so strong that it comes through no matter what political systems or cultural background."

AFTER HEARING Blakey's band, Ponomarev decided that he was going play for the master drummer, no matter what. He spent a year studying English, mastering 20 words a day until he was reasonably fluent, and then took the risk of escaping from the Soviet Union in 1973 to pursue his dream.

"I had a feeling that, sooner or later, I would be there (in the West) with my relatives in music, so to speak. Of course it wasn't easy at all. It was dangerous. I could have ended up in jail or who knows what, but as the saying goes, 'Nothing is impossible for a willing heart.' I really needed to go, I wanted to go, and it worked out ... when you want to do something, you do it."

Several years would pass before Ponomarev would eventually meet his inspiration, and he said Blakey "was totally shocked that, from Russia, comes a young man playing in the exact style of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers."

The fit was so perfect that Ponomarev was invited to join the group, and made his reputation during the four years he was a Messenger.

Ponomarev's solo debut album, "Means of Identification," marked him as a stellar artist in his own right in 1985.

He also made his debut as an author last year with the publication of his autobiography "On the Flip Side of Sound," which he wrote in English and did a Russian translation for publication back in his home country.

He's hoping for find an American publisher for his original manuscript but, in the meantime, he has been contacted by a publisher in Istanbul who is translating it into Turkish. French and German editions are also in the planning stages.

PONOMAREV'S artistry has been documented in "Frozen In Amber," a film about the role of Russian defectors play in the performing arts in the United States, plus "Messenger from Russia," a biography that aired on the National Geographic cable TV channel.

Ponomarev feels Americans should be proud that jazz was created in this country and has now become "a cultural treasure of the whole world."

He returned to Moscow for the first time in 1990 for the city's First International Jazz Festival and has been back several times since. He says that he loves to travel -- he's already toured Turkey and Western Europe this year, and will return to Russia later in May, go to Israel and Scotland in July and August, and expects to return to Turkey before the end of the year to support the publication of the Turkish language version of his book.

Ponomarev finds great players wherever he goes.

"Wherever I come, I don't even have to look for anybody. If I'm in France, I have my French band, if I'm in Germany, I have my German band ... or if you go to one of the former East Bloc countries, there are so many great musicians there. Now the same thing in Russia. When I go to Russia, my band will be all Muscovites and all brilliant players. I wish I would have a chance to bring them to the West, so the West could see these guys."

Unlike under the days of communist rule, the problem nowadays is more financial and not political. If Ponomarev can get the financial backing for just such a tour, his fellow Russian players will be free to tour.

"A couple of years ago -- which was well after the collapse of the Soviet Union -- foreign countries were not giving visas that easily to Russian musicians, but the Russian government said, 'You want to go, go!' I was shocked the first time I heard of it. Things change. (It seemed a) hopeless situation with the Soviet regime. Nobody thought it would ever end, but it did. Now it's already 14 years ago."

© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://starbulletin.com

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Don't Stop the Feeling with special guest Valery Ponomarev

It's finally here, Aaron Aranita's new CD release on Sugartown Records. This CD encompasses the period 1987 to 2005 and is a collection of original music by Aaron Aranita from the album "Eastbound" to previously unreleased tracks of the Monterey Eastbound Band and all new tracks with special guest Valery Ponomarev on trumpet. Fourteen songs, hoooo hoooo!!!! Had the pleasure of listening to the master before the CD came out and there is just one word to describe this project........COOL!!!!!!! Available in stores and CD Baby soon.

Liz Damon with Flashback

Put this date on your calender: Friday, August 12, 2005 at the Renaissance Ilikai Hotel. Here's something from Wayne Harada's "That's Showbiz" column.

Liz Damon, who had a chart hit called "1900 Yesterday" back in the 1970s, will be making a special appearance here this summer. Damon, who fronted Liz Damon's Orient Express, will sing her signature tune in "'70s Salute to Our Troops," at 8 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Renaissance Ilikai Hotel. "I always look forward to going home and to perform in front of fans who remember the old days," said Damon, now a Las Vegas resident. The evening is a stroll down memory lane, with oldies groups such as the King Pins, Flashback and Greenwood taking the stage. Proceeds will support a homecoming celebration for Hawai'i Army National Guard members in the 29th Support Battalion. Tickets: $30 ($20 tax deductible), available through the Ilikai.
Call 944-6372. ...

And that's Show Biz. ...

Show Biz is published Tuesdays and Thursdays. Reach Wayne Harada at 525-8067, wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com or fax 525-8055.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Greenwood Family - Other Projects

The band Greenwood formerly disbanded in the early '80s but members went on to various other projects. Steven Lee went on to form a contempory Hawaiian band "Waipio" that produced an LP in the early 80 while other members did other venues. Here's one of them. Original Greenwood drummer Brad Choi, lead vocalist Curtis Takahama, guitarist/vocalist Owen Kajiwara & keyboardist/vocalist Dwayne Higa formed the nucleus of the contemporary Hawaiian band Ke'Ope Ono. Here's a few reviews of the CD that was released by the group, "Lunchwagon Man".

Saturday, January 6, 2001

Posted on: Saturday, January 6, 2001
Island Sounds
Reviews of CD by Ke 'Ope Ono

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

"LUNCHWAGON MAN" by Ke ‘Ope Ono, Island Groove IGPD 2010.

Ke ‘Ope Ono, which means the Six Pack, is a sextet comprised of Curt Takahama, Larry Lopez, Owen Kajiwara, Ryan Hashiro, Dwayne Higa and Brad Choi.

The group was a winner in Mt. Kalihi Productions’ "Battle of the Bands" contest at the annual Makaha Bash.

This debut CD shows promise and potential, though the group’s sound is more imitative than innovative for now. Still, these guys know how to celebrate, Island style, and the title song - what act hasn’t sung about local foodstuffs? - radiates with Takahama’s joy in food.

Several in the group write music, including Choi’s "I No Wanna Boy" which is all sweetness and innocence, with ‘ukulele accompaniment, about things we don’t want to do as kids. Go bed. Get up. Go school.

Covers of "Flying," "How Can I Be Sure," "If" and "Hualalai" also serve as friendly pathways into the hearts of these musicians.

Island Mele

Friday, December 29, 2000
By John Berger
Lunchwagon Man:
By Ke 'Ope Ono (Island Groove Productions IGPD2010)

This sextet has a repertoire that defies easy labeling. Ke 'Ope Ono introduces itself with six originals performed in styles ranging from calypso-lite to acoustic pop; several are earnest odes to various family members and of interest mostly to the families. The title song is a calypso-vibe salute to the meals on wheels industry and includes a trite bit of dialect humor. A straight and crisp treatment of "Hualalai" adds a welcome Hawaiian sense of place to the collection.

Three pop chart remakes are done as basic cover band material but reflect the fact that Ke 'Ope Ono is a band that plays parties "both corporate and personal." This album is not likely to get much local radio play despite "Hualalai" but is certainly a fine advertising vehicle for the band's professional services.


MP3 Audio Clips:
Lunchwagon Man
I No Wanna Boy
Let Me Be
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info

[ Discography | Official Website | Booking ]

In 1994, fellow musician friends from various careers and musical backgrounds decided to form a band to play on a casual basis. Today, Ke ‘Ope Ono (The Six Pack) announces the release of their first album entitled “Lunch Wagon Man”, produced by Ke ‘Ope Ono and Pierre Grill.

Ke 'Ope Ono enjoys performing the wide variety of regional musical styles which have come to be known as "Contemporary Hawaiian" music. The band members come from various musical backgrounds - going as far back as "Greenwood", a popular nightclub band in the Seventies. Ke 'Ope Ono now blends their music backgrounds, creating a fresh new sound.

Ke 'Ope Ono has been very busy trying to balance many performance engagements between themselves and as backup for the group "IMUA." The high point for them this year was being one of the winners at Mt. Kalihi Productions' "Battle for the Bash" which earned them a spot to play at the Makaha Bash 2000.

The "Lunch Wagon Man" album consists of 6 originals and 4 cover songs. "Lunch Wagon Man" is a tribute to the many hardworking lunch wagon operators throughout Hawaii. "Island Reggae", "I No Wanna Boy", "Let Me Be", and "Years Gone By" were written by Ke 'Ope Ono. These songs reflect life experiences by the members of the band. "How Can I Be Sure", "If", "Hualalai", and "Flying" are remakes of Ke 'Ope Ono favorites composed and/or performed by The Young Rascals, David Gates, The Makaha Sons, and Peter Moon respectively.

Over the years, audiences have asked about the possibility of Ke 'Ope Ono recording an album so that they can listen to "The Six Pack" at home, work, or in a car……well here it is!……Enjoy!


Friday, June 03, 2005

That '70s Thing........'70s Nightclub Reunion

The '70s were a most interesting time for the young musician. Growing up in this era there were nightclubs practically everywhere and this gave many a musician a chance to hone their skills. On any given night you could visit The Point After and listen to Aura, Power Point, Transition and Greenwood, the Hula Hut where you would find the New Experience and Natural High, the Tiki either the Dimensions or White Light, at Duke's at the International Market Place Glass Candle was the band, the C'est Si Bon, and you would find the Kasuals, the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel and you would find Asian Blend, the Sting where would find Phase VII.

So interesting how this reunion came about with Robin Kimura, the leader of the full
time Waikiki off night band, and Candy Au, Director of Catering at the Ilikai Hotel, who had gone thru the '70s and experienced first hand the club scene. From small chit chat it become a reality, and man it was real cool. To see band mates and other bands back together, not for the shear might $$$$, but for the chance to get back together and recapture old friendships, it was real cool.

Be prepared, next February 4, 2006, the '70s Nightclub Reunion II. Hoooo hoooo!!!!


The four-piece brass section is back as members of Greenwood reunite for the "70s Nightclub Reunion" Saturday. Band members remembered their positions from the photo on page D1. Clockwise from top left are Michael Chock, Brad Choi who replaces Byron Farm, Mark Silva, Randy Hoo, Robin Kimura, Dwayne Higa, Curt Takahama, Owen Kajiwara and Miles Ichida. Steve Lee will be out of town when the reunion takes place.

Robin Kimura's musical reunion
show vows to reunite local bands with
as many original members as possible

By John Berger

Play it again
"70s Nightclub Reunion" featuring Asian Blend, Rock Candy, Power Point, New Experience and Greenwood:
Where: Pacific Ballroom, Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki Hotel

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $30

Call: 944-6372

Robin Kimura was fed up. After catching a few local "oldies reunion" and "the way it was" shows in which top bands of old were represented by "reunited" groups consisting of maybe one original member, another guy who'd joined later and a bunch of ringers who'd never been members, he decided it was time to take local "oldies shows" to a higher, more ethical level.

"If you advertise that you're going to have this band or that, and the guys who were there when the group was hot are still alive and able to play, you shouldn't just throw together whoever will work for cheap or owes you a favor," Kimura said in explaining why this weekend's "70s Nightclub Reunion" is going to different from some of the bait-and-switch local oldies shows that have disappointed longtime fans in recent years. Instead of coming up with a list of popular club bands of the era and hiring musicians to impersonate them, Kimura sought out groups whose original members were available and willing to play.

He started with his own band from the mid-'70s, Greenwood, and got nine of out of 10 of his former bandmates to commit. Several are still part-time musicians, but their rehearsals mark the first time in about 20 years that Greenwood members have played together.

"The rehearsals have been going really well," Kimura says. "It was really great to have the full four-man horn section. A lot of the local oldies acts these days fake it with keyboards or sequencing, but we're going to have the real thing on Saturday."


Greenwood, circa 1970s, featured, clockwise from top left, Michael Chock, Byron Farm, Mark Silva, Randy Hoo, Robin Kimura, Dwayne Higa, Curt Takahama, Owen Kajiwara, Miles Ichida and Steve Lee. All but Farm and Lee will be at the reunion.

Power Point did almost as well. Five of seven guys who were in the band when it played the Point After will be there. So will three of four members of Rock Candy -- winners of the "Super Battle of the Bands" talent contest in 1972. Asian Blend went through too many personnel changes to count after leaving the Foxy Lady Too in the mid-1970s, but Mitch Hazama and Jay Molina, the core of the group back then, will fly over from Maui with David Choy on sax to represent the band.

Kimura, honest when it comes to truth in advertising, acknowledges that one group will be there mostly in name only. Edwin Ramones, leader of New Experience in the mid-'70s but known since 1977 as the leader of the (Fabulous) Krush, will be performing as the leader of a group being billed as New Experience but actually comprising the current members of Krush.

The original New Experience was one of the funkiest bands in local Top 40 music -- some on the local club circuit found their covers of Stevie Wonder and early Commodores hits "too funky to dance to" -- but if Ramones can get his young guys into that groove, fans might well forgive the absence of Wade Kuroiwa, Rachel Gonzales and others who made New Experience musical pioneers, albeit commercially unsuccessful ones, in the mid-'70s.

ONE OF THE big draws certainly will be Rock Candy, whose talent contest triumph positioned them as the top "all-girl" local Top 40 band of the early '70s and may also have sparked a pivotal moment in local music history.

Mike Kennedy, from left, Pam Petersen, Mitch Hazama, DaveToma and Jay Molina formed Asian Blend of the '70s.

Rock Candy, representing Kaimuki, was last of 22 bands to perform at the time (almost always an advantage in talent contests) and took top honors over Johnny's Rock Society and Warning. At the end a disgruntled male musician told Rock Candy's keyboard player that her group won only because the women were wearing hot pants, but within a few short years the two competitors were working together as members of Golden Throat, and in 1977 keyboardist/arranger Dennis Graue reinvented his one-time nemesis as local disco diva Nohelani Cypriano.

Cypriano outgrew disco as it faded, became a two-time Hoku award-winner as Female Vocalist of the Year and continues to be an active performer. She will not be joining Mary Ann Changg, Kuulei Fukumoto Park and Janet Cooke Fischer onstage this weekend. (Fukumoto is flying in from Japan for the reunion; she enlisted a small army of friends and helpful strangers to locate Cooke, who now lives in California. Efforts by Kimura and Changg to contact Cypriano have been unsuccessful.)

"I think it's just wonderful that such a reunion is happening," Fukumoto e-mailed from Japan. "I have been able to rekindle my friendships with Mary Ann and Janet, and I can see how true, sincere friends can come together again, no matter how time or distance can separate them."

Members of Power Point. Clockwise from bottom left are Clayton Isobe, Wayne DeSilva, Brian Aoyagi, Robert Woosley, Freddy Perez, Alec Wong, and in the center, Jack Balauro.

As for the theme of the show, Kimura explains it this way:

"With the exception of Rock Candy, all of the bands are representing nightclubs where they played as the house band during that time. Greenwood picked C'est Si Bon because that's where we got our big break as the only full-time off-night band in Waikiki. We had to set up and tear down our equipment every night (and move to another club). It was so much work but we had a great time."

"One of the guys (in another band) asked if we were going to be doing 'Play That Funky Music' because they wanted to play it, and at some of the other so-called reunion shows, the promoter tells each band what songs they can play. I told him it's OK with me if we all play it. We all played the same songs back then, but each in our own style. Why not now?"

Nohelani Cypriano, third from left, got her start as a member of the hot-pants wearing foursome Rock Candy. Her bandmates were, from left, Janet Cooke Fischer, Kuulei Fukumoto Park and Mary Ann Changg, who found greater renown as a photographer.

© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://starbulletin.com

A Passion for Jazz! History of Jazz music origins, styles and musicians featuring photo gallery, timeline, festivals, webcasts, piano & guitar chords, scales and online lessons. Hit Counter
Web Site Counter