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Jake Shimabukuro

Live

(Hitchhike Records; US: 14 Apr 2009)

In theory, a ukulele virtuoso pounding out Angus Young-style solo versions of classical, pop, and jazz tunes seems a bit silly. In practice, however, well, it’s still a bit silly, but that’s part of Jake Shimabukuro’s charm. And aside from silly, there are many other adjectives to describe the tremendous range—from drum-mimicking strumming to tender harp-like argeggios—and musical acrobatics that result from Shimabukuro wailing on a tiny four-stringed box that’s barely the size of his forearm.


The only way to fully absorb the things that the Hawaiian-born Shimabukuro can do with his Hawaiian instrument is to hear him in person. But, if you can’t do that, obtaining Live, which features 20 tracks culled from Shimabukuro’s 2008 tour, is your best bet.


Largely recorded during a series of dates in Japan, the album, Shimabukuro’s first live collection, features just a guy and a ukulele giving some truly riveting acoustic performances that will make a believer out of even the most ardent ukulele skeptic. Shimabukuro is a marvelously-skilled and imaginative musician who, given his instrument of choice, never takes himself too seriously. It may be ukulele music, but it’s music nonetheless—and damn fine music at that.


Highlights include “Me & Shirley T.”, an original song about Shimabukuro’s childhood love of a certain non-alcoholic beverage, and a cover of the George Harrison classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Rating:

Michael Kabran's work has appeared in Washington City Paper, JazzTimes, Harp, The Gazette of Politics and Business, and NPR's Next Generation Radio. As a musician, he has performed with numerous jazz, classical, and pop groups, including the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic.


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Shimabukuro's latest is his first solo ukulele effort, and his compositions are slightly weakened in this stripped-down affair.
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