Is Jake Shimabukuro a Household Name Yet? His 'Nashville Sessions' Rock! [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt on Oct 14, 2016 10:55 AM EDT

Jake Shimabukuru Hawaiian hero Jake Shimabukuru shines for his groundbreaking 'Nashville Sessions.' (Photo : Coleman Saunders)

No more do people think of Don Ho [1930-2007] or the movie Blue Hawaii [1961] when it comes to the music of the 50th state. It only takes four more syllables to go from Don Ho to Jake Shimabukuru. Ever since his solo ukulele version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was a youtube sensation in 2006, he's been hipper than hip. Seven albums later, his Nashville Sessions (JS Records) is here and it's a revelation.

No more is he cashing in on his cool credibility with quirky ukulele versions of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Harold Arlen's "Over The Rainbow" and Adele's "Rolling In The Deep." When Jake rolled into Tennessee and started jamming in the studio with bassist Nolan Verner and drummer Evan Hutchings to make up the world's first ukulele power trio, they didn't know what would emerge. With nothing prepared, and all three primed and ready for adventure to see where the music would take them, a glorious jazz-rock fusion emerged of 11 original jams chiseled like a fine sculpture into songs and co-produced by Jake.

Jake's fist-pumping ukulele complete with overdrive/distortion, tube preamps and a Leslie speaker cabinet must have made the walls of the room shake. Totally experimental, his 50-year old Kamaka baritone uke and his sweet heavenly soprano uke meshed well on such jams as "6/8" (time signature), "F Minor" (key), "Ballad" (tempo), "Motown" (muse), "Kilauea" (the volcano gracing the cover), "Hemiola Blues" and "Celtic Tune" (genres), "Galloping Seahorses" (their pets?) and the highlight: "Tritone" taken from the first movement of Byron Yasul's Ukulele Concerto "Campanella."

It's all very heady, complex and entertaining, with the type of complex instrumental muscle wherein the listener can literally watch the action emanate from the speakers (I did!). Crank this sucker up, brother!

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TagsJake Shimabukuru, JS Records, REVIEW, Don Ho

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