Island Mele: ‘From Paradise,’ ‘Best of The Slack Key Show’ – BY JOHN BERGER

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‘From Paradise’

Norton Buffalo and George Kahumoku Jr. (Moon Valley Music)

An eight-minute rendition of “Amazing Grace,” sung in Hawaiian and English, is one of the musical gems in this amazing collaboration by slack key master George Kahumoku Jr., and harmonica wizard Norton Buffalo. Slack key guitar and country/blues harmonica, English lyrics and Hawaiian, are blended beautifully through a random selection of Hawaiian classics, hapa-haole standards and songs of more recent vintage. The two friends’ voices mix and match nicely as well.

Buffalo’s harmonica adds a pleasent retro feel to “Waikiki Hula.” Slack key guitarist Jeff Peterson joins in on a imaginative arrangement of “Waipahe‘e” that redefines the song as acoustic blues. Herb Ohta Jr., Dennis Kamakahi and Keoki Kahumoku sit in on others.

Buffalo died in 2009. This beautifully produced album is an excellent retrospective on one facet of his work.

‘The Best of The Slack Key Show Volume 1′

George Kahumoku Jr., Da Ukulele Boys and Sterling Seaton

George Kahumoku’s long-running series weekly slack key concerts on Maui — they’re currently known as “The Slack Key Show – Masters of Hawaiian Music” — have showcased many of Hawaii’s slack key guitar masters and their peers in other genres of traditional Hawaiian music. The shows have also been a platform for his young protégés — slack key guitarist Sterling Seaton, and Garrett Probst and Peter deAquino who perform as Da Ukulele Boys. All three earn their place in this DVD anthology of recent performances.

Kahumoku is the narrator as well as one of the featured performers. He opens the DVD with a brief history of the concert series and introduces each of the performance clips with information about the songs. The “boys” talk about their experiences as his students and as performers.

The camera work is simple but effective. The interaction between deAquino and guest artist Herb Ohta Jr., on “Body Surfing,” an instrumental written by his father, Herb “Ohta-san Ohta, makes the number one of the highlight performances. The three “boys” talk several times about the experience of playing with master musicians but “Body Surfing” shows it happening as Ohta and deAquino trade off on lead and respond to each other.

“The Best of The Slack Key Show Volume 1” is available at www.kahumoku.com.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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