Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Aaron Aranita's Eastbound Review

Eastbound by Aaron Aranita – reviewed by Chris Mann

Elsewhere on this site you can read a biography of Hawaiian composer and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Aranita. You can also read my review of Aaron’s second album “One Day”.

We’re doing something a little unusual here and revisiting his first album, which was released in 1998. It came out on the MGC label and was never distributed nationally or, indeed, reviewed outside Hawaii until now.

Hide and Seek is a lovely upbeat opener. It has a real Dotsero-type sound (which is great for me as I love Dotsero). It has a strong melody and is catchy. I particularly enjoyed Aranita’s electric piano solo. Is it You showcases his bright tenor sax sound, which works well with the ‘80’s-style female backing vocals and brassy keyboard sounds.

Natalie is a nice smoky ballad where Aranita’s lovely tenor reminds me of Ronnie Laws. In my notes I wrote “grand and beautiful” – and a week after writing that, I still feel the same. There’s a very breezy feel on Sugartown. Soprano sax dances over Ricardo Pasillas lively percussion, and Peter Horvath’s Chick Corea-style keyboard solo is gorgeous. There is so much to enjoy in this classy tune.

The very romantic One Moment is the first of two vocal tracks on the CD and though the vocal is cleanly recorded, I find the sax sounds on this song more appealing. I’ll make the comparison again with my beloved Ronnie Laws on Far Eastern Standard Time. It has a lovely, lazy 5/4 beat and great chord changes. Superb!

Aranita’s award-winning Gregoria launches with Terry Miller’s lovely fretless bass and Don Pendergrass’ piano before settling into a bluesy ballad with tenor horn to die for – great phrasing, enough reverb and just a classic sound! The title track is a vibrant and upbeat, latin-tinged tune. If you couldn’t hear the similarity with Ronnie Laws’ sound before, just check the soprano sax on this! Think “Every Generation”.

There’s Rippingtons-style intro on the exotic Ka’ohe (Bamboo). I enjoyed Terry’s bass solo on here and the exquisite doubled horn lines throughout. My favourite song. Follow Me is the second vocal and again I’m more drawn to the string synth sounds and heavenly soprano sax than to the vocal itself.

This CD was a real surprise; it’s from a player little known outside his native Hawaii and released on a small label without a major distribution deal. The standard of composition, musicianship and production is very high. I consistently enjoy Aranita’s sax sound and look forward to his next release which will be available later in 2004 and which I hope to review. Aaron’s own website is the one to watch for news. “Eastbound” has been available recently online. If you have problems accessing either of these sites, please let me know and I will contact Aaron to get details of where you can get more information and buy his music.

MGC Records – MGC1019 – Produced by Kool Kat Productions, Inc.


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