Though Hawaiian music has slowly wended its way into the continental consciousness over the last few decades, none have speeded its savor more than Jake Shimabukuro, the Al DiMeola of the instrument. He was included in the first volume of this anthology series, but many probably are unaware that he comes from a musical family and his brother Bruce is included on this new disc. Bruce, it turns out, is a gent not exactly a newcomer and quite a whizz himself. Covering the chestnut Miserlou, he demonstrates a prowess that need take no back seat anywhere. Nor is he the only jazz-inflected speed demon in the set.
Though Ukulele 2 rounds itself out with the traditional, the mellifluous, and the unique, it ushers in more than a couple of barnburners, and Daniel Baduria trots up a Django Rheinhardtish potpourri, Bye Medley, that's a heady blur of chops and standards tributes. Forget circus acts like Tiny Tim, cats like Baduria are drop-dead serious while having a ball taking the hits of yore (Les Paul's Bye-Bye Blues, etc.) out for a lightning spin. Andy Sexton follows with the swingy Papa's Jam, Jerry Byrd backgrounding him on a steel guitar crooning out moonbeams and lazy stardust.
Not a gent on this gatherum is less than a master and the fluencies displayed on the tiny four-stringed instrument are almost unsettling for range and delicacy amid very solid expertise and extremely catchy melodies. How can so much come from what has too often been treated as a toy for so damn long in Western culture? When Bryan Tolentino dives into Steve Howe-ish lines in Ka Ukulele Lele, one begins to understand that, like most any instrument, it's the heart and soul of the player that brings the axe to life, not the other way around…though I'm sure the sentiment and affection of the players for their instruments would assert otherwise.
It quickly becomes evident why rock maestros like Jerry Garcia, Graham Nash, Todd Rundgren, Ennio Moricone, and a host of others interested themselves in Hawaiian musics and the uke; there's just so much there. In Ukelele 2, the selections were wisely confined to solos, duets, trios, nothing larger than a quartet, where uncrowded atmospheres allow the tiny guitar's crystalline notes to sing in proper ambience. Whether toe-tappers like Brittni Paiva's Inspiration or the more romantic pace of Dino Guzman's take on Jobim's The Wave, the bird-on-a-wire refrains are simultaneously exotic and familiar.
Every recording here is flawless, the equal of an audiophile mastering and perfectly balanced. The musicians could not have asked for a better showcase, newcomers couldn't have wished for a more bracing introduction, and those long-steeped in the region and its arts will hardly have a more representative overview than Legends of the Ukulele 2, so take a summer break in the middle of winter and bask in the delights to be found floating in the sunbeams and twnkling stars streaming from your speakers.
Oh, and if Round and Round's Nainoa doesn't become a standard, then there's no justice even in paradise.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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