Hui Aloha might be called a Hawaiian “supergroup”: It includes two of the Islands’ finest contemporary slack-key guitarists/singers-George Kuo and Dennis Kamakahi-and singer/bassist Martin Pahinui (son of the legendary Gabby Pahinui) and Kamakahi’s ukulele-playing son, David. It’s a stirring blend of voices and instruments, and their debut album mixes traditional Hawaiian folk tunes from different eras with a scattering of new compositions by the prolific Dennis Kamakahi-“Steal Away” and the instrumental “Monterey Sunrise” are lovely departures. The CD doesn’t show off the group’s incredible instrumental chops the way their live show does (where David Kamakahi really shines), but there’s still plenty of fine picking, and the singing-particularly by Pahinui, who sounds quite a bit like his father-often has an otherworldly beauty.
Honolulu to Hollywood is a compilation of 24 songs spanning the years 1927-1935, when Hawaiian 78s were among the most popular “ethnic” music sold in the U.S. The emphasis on this collection is tunes that show the intermingling of Hawaiian music ideas with the prevailing song forms of the day-pop, jazz, blues and novelty songs. Some of the big names of early Hawaiian steel guitar are represented here-Benny Nawahi, Sol Hoopii, Sol Bright-and their fast and mellifluous slide work amazes to this day. Allan Dodge (of the Cheap Suit Serenaders) contributed a fascinating essay illuminating the history behind the tracks (mostly recorded in L.A.), which sound wonderful despite their vintage.
Hui Aloha: Producers: Howard Johnston, Dennis Kamakahi, Martin Pahinui, George Kuo and George Winston. Engineer: Howard Johnston (additional engineering by Justin Lieberman and Porter Miller). Mastering: Bernie Grundman/BGM (L.A.).
Honolulu to Hollywood: Digital restoration by George Morrow.