Hawaiian slack key guitar virtuoso Keola Beamer will perform music from his superb new CD "Malama Ko Aloha (Keep Your Love)," based on the nationally televised PBS Hawaii special on Saturday evening in the Castle Theater. For this special concert, Keola will be joined by acclaimed Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai and jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer.
This Hawaiian music legend has made so many amazing albums over the years and now he has delivered one of his most accomplished works to date. It's just sublime, each track an exquisite work of art. Taken as a whole it defines a masterful artist with no equal in Hawaii.
And maybe that's why in the publicity material for the album, another legend, country great Willie Nelson states: "Keola Beamer is the best slack key guitar player on the planet."
Keola Beamer will be joined by his wife Moanalani Beamer when he performs in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater on Saturday. Native American flutist, R. Carlos Nakai and jazz pianist, Geoffrey Keezer, are also on the bill.
photo courtesy MACC
"I do believe this is some of my best work," says Keola. "In general, art and music is a reflection of the artist's moment in time. With my earlier work, when I was a young man I spoke in the voice of a young man, and now I'm more mature and I have different interests and a different life. This is a time in my life when I'm really trying to get it right and I feel a great responsibility to try to do work of quality. And despite the changing fortunes in the music industry I never went for the trendy stuff, I just followed my heart and tried to do what was real to me."
Accompanied on the album by acclaimed musicians like flutist R. Carlos Nakai, pianist Geoffrey Keezer and singer Raiatea Helm, Keola offers an overview of his recent work including his poignant tribute to his mother, Aunty Nona Beamer ("Our Time for Letting Go"), his extraordinary Hawaiian language interpretation of John Lennon's "Imagine," and the divine "Ho'okupu Makou Ia Manono" blending Hawaiian and Native American flutes and chant.
An award-winning flutist, Nakai is probably the best-known Native American musician. Worldwide he has sold more than three million records. His albums, "Canyon Trilogy" and "Earth Spirit" have been certified gold, and he's been nominated three times for a Grammy. Some of the most moving pieces on "Malama Ko Aloha," like his mom's classic "Pupu Hinuhinu," feature duets between the guitarist and pianist.
"It's a special thing, he brings a beautiful starlight to the picture," says Keola. "The guitar is more earthy and so it's like this beautiful duet of earth and starlight."
The two musicians previously collaborated on Keezer's lovely album, "Falling Up."
Jazz Times noted: " 'Falling Up' explores a cornucopia of genres, but the album's emotional core is the three Hawaiian songs that Keezer explores with Keola Beamer, a master of the Hawaiian slack-key guitar. The two men play these beautiful melodies with eloquent simplicity, intertwining their instrumental lines with an intimacy that shows the depth of their partnership."
After touring the world with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at the age of 18, the Bay Area-based pianist went on to record albums such as "Turn Up the Quiet," with Diana Krall and Joshua Redman, and "Sublime" featuring duets with the likes of Chick Corea and Kenny Barron.
Particularly on the songs with Keezer, Keola adopts an elegant, almost classical chamber approach to Hawaiian music.
"It's kind of what it is for me," he says. "From when I first began to explore Hawaiian slack key guitar I always felt it belonged on the concert stage. I played my share of baby luaus and parties, but I had an innate understanding that if we gave it a chance as an art form it could really mean something. In order for people to hear it, it had to get to a concert stage.
"In the early '90s I was touring with Raymond Kane and we were on the East Coast and I was back stage listening to Ray play and all of a sudden he stopped, there was silence. He was crying. It was the first time in his life that people were really listening. He had played for so many years at bars and parties and here he was on a gorgeous concert stage."
Titling the album "Malama Ko Aloha-Keep Your Love," inspired by the ancient battle cry of Princess Manono, one of his royal ancestors, Keola hopes his new recording will touch hearts and help spread the true meaning of aloha.
"When you listen to music and feel warmth in your heart, something touches you, that's the presence of aloha. If you can take that feeling and share it with somebody else, it really contributes to making the world a better place. So we're just trying with this concert to raise awareness about the gift of aloha. It truly is Hawaii's greatest gift to the world."
The MACC concert on Saturday will benefit PBS Hawaii. "I'm really trying to say aloha and mahalo to PBS Hawaii for their generous support," he says. "And hopefully Big Bird will still be around," he adds, laughing. "I worked with Big Bird years ago on Sesame Street. I'm really grateful to PBS because they're really the only ones who try to support the culture."
For the future Keola is looking forward to a tour next year with his wife Moanalani Beamer and guitarist Jeff Peterson to South America sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
"We're going to Brazil and Venezuela and maybe Chile," he reports. "It's going to be a fun trip. I guess they want people to know there are other cultures in the States like Hawaiian. The State Department auditioned 280 bands and picked 18, and we're one of those."
* Keola Beamer performs music from "Malama Ko Aloha" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Castle Theater. He will be joined by Moanalani Beamer, R. Carlos Nakai and Geoffrey Keezer. Tickets are $12, $28, $37 and $85 for VIP (plus applicable fees).
The hip, Los Angeles-based group, On Ensemble performs tonight at 7:30 in the Castle Theater. They are acclaimed for adapting the ancient instruments of taiko into new realms, infusing the powerful rhythms of Japanese drumming with elements of hip-hop, rock, overtone singing and electronica.
On Ensemble's four members, Masato Baba, Kristofer Bergstrom, Shoji Kameda and Kelvin Underwood, are individually recognized as leading artists in their field and sought after as teachers, composers and performers.
Tickets are $12, $28 and $35.
Taking its title from a line in "Jumping Jack Flash," the Stones new documentary "Crossfire Hurricane" offers fans a meaty overview of the "world's greatest rock band."
Screening on Sunday at the MACC, it had its world premiere at the London Film Festival in October.
Blending fascinating behind the scenes archival footage with fresh audio interviews with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood, and former members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, "Crossfire Hurricane" was praised by Variety: "like a good concert, it ably balances major hits, back-catalogue oddities and plenty of showmanship."
Pivotal points in their extraordinary career are mapped from the unbelievable mayhem at their early gigs ("We'd take bets on how long a show would last, maybe 10 minutes," Keith notes. "You couldn't hear anything," adds Mick), to the Altamont debacle (where Charlie Watts wryly notes, having the Hell's Angels for security was, "like asking the Nazi party to sort out the front of the auditorium.") and post Ron Wood's joining.
A U.K. Daily Telegraph review concluded, "if you are a Stones fan, this film is going to blow you away."
It screens as part of the Maui Film Festival's FirstLight Academy series. Tickets for a single screenings are $12, or a FirstPass four admissions for $40.
Randall Rospond presents a CD release party for his new album, "The Legendary Unknown," at the Steppingstone Playhouse at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center on Saturday evening.
Originally designed as a solo troubadour recording and later expanded to include the Haiku Hillbillys, Randall says, "the title is derived from a lose creative theme illuminating the many contradictions in all our lives. The vibe of these songs shifts from back porch pickin' and grinnin' to romantic soul, introspective sensitive folk and even funked up bluesy gospel."
Guests on the album include Kelly Covington, Fulton Tashombe, Tom Conway and the late Anthony Natividad on nose flute.
Show will feature the Hillbillys. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission of $10 includes the CD.