Monday, January 27th, 2014
Funny how a song comes and goes through our lives. I don’t know when I first heard Grandfather’s Clock but it was a long time ago. I remember when I rediscovered the song, it came back on the Tone Poems CD with David Grisman and Tony Rice, a CD enjoyed for hours.
But the real jolt hit me when I found the song on Leonard Kwan’s Slack Key LP. Although that album was common in Hawai`i it was hard to find in California, and I remember losing out on a number of Ebay auctions before finally winning a scratched and worn copy of the record for over $30. Still I felt like I had gotten my money’s worth when I heard a slack key version of Grandfather’s Clock in Leonard’s unique style. After months of work I developed my own arrangement inspired by Uncle Leonard’s and I’ve played it ever since. (more…)
Friday, January 10th, 2014
Auntie Maiki Aiu (Lake) contributed so much through her teaching of hula and culture. She also composed a classic Hawaiian song, Aloha Kaua`i, a love song to an island. I’ve been carrying the tune around in my head for quite a while, probably from hearing Mike Kaawa at Honey’s in Kane`ohe. I even used the opening lines as an intro to my Hanalei Moon video. But as it turned cold here in Walnut Creek I found myself playing the song often, trying to draw a little warmth from the story of the mokihana, the maile, and the warm friendships found on the Garden Isle. (more…)
Friday, September 6th, 2013
I’ve gotten a lot of fun out of exploring the paths and trails in our neighborhood. I’m always on the lookout for interesting settings to use in my video shoots, like this magnificent live oak where Ledward Kaapana and I played Aloha Ia No O Maui. I recently headed in a new direction and found myself walking along a creek running through nearby Pleasant Hill. I was surprised to find a very old truck chassis lying in the bamboo and bushes growing on the creekside. One thought popped into my head instantly – what a perfect place to shoot a video of Holoholo Ka`a! (more…)
Saturday, August 24th, 2013
Kathy Wingert is one of the elite among custom luthiers, she builds exquisite instruments of the very finest materials and has a gift for unusual visual approaches. For this year’s Healdsburg Guitar Festival she built four remarkable instruments including a dramatic harp guitar, a dainty but ferocious little parlor guitar, and two that showed the influence of the steampunk design movement. Kathy stopped by on her way home from the guitar festival and I took advantage of the opportunity to play one of the steampunk guitars and shoot a little video. (more…)
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013
I’ve given slack key workshops at a number of local Aloha Festivals over the years. Several times I preceded or followed Hiram Bell and his always compelling `ukulele workshop. I was invited back this year, and coincidentally a friend expressed an interest in learning the lovely old North Kohala song, Paliokamoa. My friend had seen the version I did last year. I decided to create a tutorial on the song in the form of a video and tablature. (more…)
Sunday, July 28th, 2013
I’m happily surprised that there is such a thing as a vacation even for retired folks like us. Our trips to Kailua take us to a different world, different routines, different opportunities. I love walking around our neighborhood in Walnut Creek but in Kailua we’re walking with the Ko`olau filling half the horizon. I love the music we make and hear in Northern California, but on O`ahu we can never find the time to take in all the amazing talent playing all around the island. And of course the food, the shopping, the friends, it all piles up into a full time adventure.
I’m holding on to the good times as much as I can with a few videos from the trip. One features Lynn and her hula sisters, na wahine u`i, accompanied by my slack key. The others are a couple of clips from Honey’s at the Ko`olau Golf Course, where Mike Kaawa leads the Hawaiian Boy Crew on Sunday afternoon. (more…)
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
Finding Ozzie Kotani‘s book, Guitar Playing Hawaiian Style, in the old Kihei Disc record store was the key to my learning slack key. Ozzie is a remarkably adept teacher, and his book showed me the baby steps needed to begin my journey. Along with these fine grained details he included wonderful arrangements and compositions, charming pieces of music that entranced while they taught. His songs were so much fun they made me practice harder so I could get to the next piece. (more…)
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
I’m sure I’ve mentioned that my lovely wife Lynn took up hula when we retired a few years ago. It’s been a central part of our life since then, bringing us a whole new world of friends, interests, and experiences. Hula has added to our enjoyment of trips to Hawai`i and to my enjoyment of slack key guitar as well.
One of the high points of my week is the hula practice we host, when the house is filled with charming dancers, their hands flowing through the story they’re dancing. The other day I set out to shoot a video and when I realized it was hula practice day I decided to play R. Alex Anderson’s classic Lovely Hula Hands. Then happily I managed to capture a bit of the hula practice to add to my video. (more…)
Wednesday, February 20th, 2013
Since Lynn remodeled the backyard so beautifully I’ve been charmed by the waving reeds she planted. I’ve been looking for the right angle, right light, right song to do a video featuring the swaying of those stalks. It’s been a pretty chilly winter so outdoor video opportunities have been slim, but we had a few nice days while Ledward was staying with us and we set up to see if we could capture the dancing reeds along with the cute little Tacoma Papoose guitar. I brought out my Composite Acoustics OX that I keep tuned low and it matched up perfectly with the Bflat tuning Ledward chose for the Papoose. (more…)
Sunday, February 17th, 2013
The hillsides around us are dotted with magnificent trees we call “live oaks” because they maintain their foliage in the winter. One particularly impressive example sits in a meadow adjacent to Acalanes Ridge, the highest peak in our immediate neighborhood. The East Bay Regional Park District maintains a trail between the Briones Reservoir and Mt. Diablo that takes us up to the ridge and the majestic oak tree. Ledward and I have been hiking along the trail and scouting locations for a video, so when we reached the meadow and the live oak we knew we had found our spot. (more…)