Slack key master breaks new ground in latest CD
LAHAINA — Sunday (Nov. 15) at Lahaina Cannery Mall is not just about an international ice sculpting event.
Master slack key guitar artist George Kahumoku Jr. and friends will take the stage from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., and later move to Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club & Grill at 6 p.m. to celebrate the release of his latest CD, “Kani Wai: Sound of Water.”
The performance center stage at the mall is free and open to the public. The Lulu’s gig features a solo performance, three-course meal, wine and “Kani Wai” disc for just $30, plus tax and tip.
His friends include an entourage of musicians and students the Grammy-award winner has taken under his wing.
One of those students is Sterling Seaton, a Lahainaluna High School (LHS) graduate in the Class of 2006.
“I became acquainted with Uncle George when I was a junior in high school. I would always play my guitar outside of his ceramics classroom, and he invited me to his annual workshop (at the Mauian) that year.
“I play with him at the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Concert Series (at Napili Kai Beach Resort), which will begin again in January,” Seaton said.
“George has introduced me to all the great masters of Hawaiian slack key guitar and has instilled goals in me that I have never had before. I never thought I would be playing music professionally, much less Hawaiian music. I’m very thankful that George brought me into his world,” the LHS graduate added.
The master has equally inspired Trisha Pualani Cabral.
“I am a singer, and I play ukulele as well. Uncle George has helped me have the confidence to sing more. I have played together with Uncle George for different fund-raisers like the Boo Boo Zoo and Na Mele Kohola (The Whalesong Project), as well as the Rusty Harpoon in Kaanapali.
“Uncle George has a way of bringing out the best in you. He is very encouraging and supportive with everything. Whether playing music or working the ‘aina, Uncle George openly shares his great knowledge, is fun and full of aloha,” the young vocalist confided.
Ed Gazabat is not a student of Kahumoku but a fellow teacher.
The 53-year-old from North Carolina joined the staff at LHS over a year-and-a-half ago. The math teacher’s classroom neighbors Kahumoku’s art room on campus.
Gazabat will be sharing the stage with his peer at the mall on Sunday, playing the harmonica.
Kahumoku has been a catalyst in Gazabat’s life.
“I call myself a closet harmonicist. When I was 19, I used to play live performances. Since then, I have only played by myself,” the LHS teacher explained.
“We played once at his house in early December last year. In January, George got me to do a live performance with him, and, since then, I have played three to four times a month with him,” Gazabat added.
“Then he got me to record with him,” he continued, “and we recently released an album in Japan. Never in my wildest dreams — I am a math teacher; now I am a recording artist.”
Gazabat plans to attend the CD release party at Lulu’s on Sunday night, where Kahumoku will be playing selections from “Kani Wai.”
The CD is a collaboration between Kahumoku and award-winning bluesman and ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman, featuring traditional Hawaiian music (mostly from the 1920s and ’30s), plus a few Kahumoku originals.
Kahumoku’s wife, Nancy, critiqued the release in an interview with the Lahaina News.
“To date, this is my very favorite recording. The master has been finished for two years, and so it has been playing in my car for that long; and I still love it. It is a beautiful selection of songs with extended instrumentals to show off their improvisational abilities.”
The instrumentals highlight Brozman’s vintage acoustic style on the lap steel guitar and Kahumoku’s talent on the 12-string. On four cuts, the inclusion of the African Kora adds a world music dimension to the score.
Brozman is pleased with the collaboration.
“It breaks new ground in slack and steel duets and brings a little more world perspective to Hawaiian music, while retaining all of George’s soulful Hawaiian roots,” the international recording artist commented.
On tour in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, Brozman is unable to attend the celebration on Sunday night with Kahumoku, a two-time Grammy Award winner.
Limited to 50 guests, reservations for the party at Lulu’s are recommended. Call 661-0808.