Photo Caption: Jake Shimabukuro. Photo credit: Merri Cyr.
Stand-out ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro will bring a unique mix of music to Seattle’s upcoming Earshot Jazz Festival on Oct. 24.
Shimabukuro started out playing traditional Hawaiian tunes on the ukulele at the age of four. As he got older, his musical interests expanded from rock to jazz to classical, which inspired him to push the musical boundaries of this traditional Hawaiian instrument of four strings and two octaves. A fifth-generation Japanese American, Shimabukuro initially gained attention in Hawaii in 1998 as a member of Pure Heart, a trio with Lopaka Colon (percussion), and Jon Yamasato (guitar). Shimabukuro was working at a music store in Honolulu when the group released its first album. His fame quickly escalated after a video was posted on YouTube of him performing the song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by George Harrison, at Central Park’s Strawberry Fields in New York.
He has since performed with Jimmy Buffett and Bette Midler, among others. He has also appeared on Conan and Jimmy Kimmel Live, in addition to performing in front of the Queen of England. He was declared a musical “hero” by Rolling Stone and was praised by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who said, “Jake is taking [the ukulele] to a place that I can’t see anyone else catching up with him.” Shimabukuro’s musical journey is chronicled in the documentary, “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings,” which recently showed at the Center for Asian American Media in San Francisco and the Hawaii International Film Festival.
His new album, “Grand Ukulele,” is a follow up to his 2011 album, “Peace, Love, Ukulele,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard World Charts. The new album finds him collaborating with legendary producer/engineer Alan Parsons, best known for Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” Parsons helped Shimabukuro expand his sound by bringing in a 29-piece orchestra and such artists as drummer Simon Phillips (The Who, Toto), bassist Randy Tico, and musician Kip Winger (Winger, Alice Cooper). Everything was recorded live with no overdubs. The songs on the album range from a cover of pop artist Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” to some of his own original tunes such as, “Missing Three,” that uses only three strings on the ukulele.
In addition to performing, Shimabukuro is also the key spokesman for the “Music is Good Medicine” organization, a non-profit that uses community outreach programs—and visits to schools, senior centers, and hospitals—to emphasize the importance of a healthy life and mind as well as promoting music and the arts.
Jake Shimabukuro will be performing in the Earshot Jazz Festival on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Benaroya Hall’s S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, located at 200 University St. in Seattle. Tickets start at $30. For more on Shimabukuro, visit: www.jakeshimabukuro.com.