Monday, February 27, 2006

The master. Herb Ohta. Ohta-san.

He knows how to play music on the 'ukulele. And now he's set to be honored Saturday, March 4, by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts as one of five recipients of this year's HARA Lifetime Achievement Awards.

I think he's talking to a few notable young gunslinging 'ukulele players with the closing quote of the herein-linked Hawaii Star Bulletin feature. He's seeking a "sophisticated simplicity -- because you know a little more and you can feel the music. I've always told people that you have to feel the music or you can't play it. Just because you play 1,000 notes, it doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't say anything."

Little Brown Gal - Ohta-san

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Alfons Bauer
Upper body strength: Alfons Bauer

Alfons Bauer is the man when it comes to the alpine zither. His superior technique, his broad expressive control of the instrument, amaze even more when you find out how hard the player has to push on that fretboard to get a sound! Even before I blew out my elbows I could get a sound out the thing for maybe twenty seconds, tops. Alfons looks like he could have held up the end of an axle and walked your busted wagon back to the shop. Hearing this man play ALWAYS makes me want to pick up my 'ukulele!.

Beim Sch├╝tzenfest - Alfons Bauer

I hope Lee Hartsfeld likes this music!


PS~ Monday midday and I find Alfons Bauer's name in the credits for two tunes on Morcheeba's album Big Calm. "Bullet Proof" and "Diggin' A Watery Grave." I couldn't hear no zither on "Bullet Proof." Any ideas?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Here's a fretboard diagram chart I just finished for my 'ukulele arrangement of Duke Ellington's Mood Indigo. It's not much help if the tune isn't in your head already, there are no chord names whatsoever, and if you're using classic re-entrant tuning (high G) some parts of it will sound wrong. If you know how the tune goes and have a low G tuned 'ukulele, it might sound pretty good to you. I'd be interested to read your comments on it.

Mood Indigo chord solo.JPG

Monday, February 20, 2006

Am I into the 'ukulele? I've always assumed so, but I have to ask myself. Aside from playing string bass parts and bass guitar parts in groups with other people, the only music I have learned to make is music I arrange for solo 'ukulele and train myself to play.
My piano playing is sloppy AND choppy; my guitar playing sounds as though I have claws for hands. It hurts my ears and discourages dancing.
At fourteen, I began playing music for my own enjoyment. It was on my dad's dusty Harmony 'uke (with molded fretboard) that I first began to look for the music going through my head. There was a lot of humming and a lot of strumming, but I got in the habit of making music so I could hear with my ears the tunes I was thinking about.
I played string bass for a living, however moth-eaten, for a dozen years, before a catastrophic attack of tendinitis in the mid-nineties cut it short. For two months I played nothing, and then I began to play 'ukulele, just a little every day. From playing bass in other people's bands I'd committed to memory a few hundred tunes, and a couple dozen of them were just stinking up the waiting room. I had to learn to play them on 'ukulele just to help exorcise them from my thoughts, and before long I was playing 'ukulele all day.
I've gone from three crossword puzzles a day to three a year. I take the 'ukulele anywhere and everywhere, and I'm forever playing on it just as quietly as I can. I've found unexpected rewards in playing it quietly. The louder you play it, the faster the decay, i.e., the plunkier the tone. The thing sounds prettier and has a warm sustain when played quietly. It's kind of adddictive.
I've come to understand music more fully because of playing music on the 'ukulele. I love the sound of the thing, particularly my own instrument, strung and tuned away from standard but entirely to my taste. Your 'ukulele? I guess it would be polite to take an interest in everyone else's 'ukulele, but I have music to learn, and I'm not going to live forever.
I am wild about Jim Beloff's The Ukulele - A Visual History, and there are a couple of living 'ukulele players I enjoy listening to, but with a few exceptions, the great big 'ukulele community and I met, made eyes at each other, and then just sort of lost each other's numbers. As a 'uke nut I feel wholly inadequate. Am I trawling for 'ukuleles on eBay, collecting 'uke memorabilia and tiki mugs, getting a 'ukulele themed aloha shirt, going out to hear 'ukulele players? Not so much. It all takes money. I've been a musician most of my adult life. Apart from playing music, life is a scramble for gigs interspersed with chores at home and driving gear around. Am I trying to figure out a way to get Bobby Black in a recording studio with me again? More like that.
I apologize if the name of my web log aroused an appetite for 'ukulele-themed materials without doing anything to satisfy it. I'm doing my very best.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Viewing the video clip linked here is a lot like watching me play Gilbert and Sullivan on the 'ukulele, if you're sensitive to fluctuations in basic dignity. At least I experienced a profound sense of a dream shared. This Eurotainer's orange jump suit is embroidered with little squeeze-bulb bike horns. He gets the Beethoven, Vivaldi, even Strauss, but when he busts out "Popcorn" by Hot Butter, you got to hand it to him. Think he's French?