japanese

Jake Shimabukuro's "Go For Broke" pays tribute to soldiers' legacy

On 'Peace Love Ukulele' (out January 4th from Hitchhike Records), Jake Shimabukuro displays his customary "brilliance and brio" (NPR) on the ukulele with "Go For Broke," a Shimabukuro original that pays heartfelt tribute to the courageous American soldiers of Japanese ancestry who fought and sacrificed their lives in World War II.

The motto of the second-generation (Nisei) Japanese-American soldiers from Shimabukuro's native Hawaii, the most highly decorated U.S. unit in military history, was "Go For Broke," meaning "to risk everything on one great effort to win big." That's also a good description of the way Shimabukuro plays, with "stunning chops" and "a deep and sensitive musicality" (Guitar Player).

The Nisei veterans' determination has been a source of inspiration for Shimabukuro, himself of Japanese ancestry, since he was a young boy.  “Whenever I am faced with a problem, I always ask myself, 'How can I handle this situation in a way that would make a Nisei veteran proud?'" he says of the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion, the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), who fought for the U.S. against their ancestral land at a time when those of Japanese heritage were often viewed with suspicion. “I think anyone who hears their story will be inspired to be a better person.”

Shimabukuro knows a peaceful way to express that inspiration. "If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place," he says.

Listen to Jake Shimabukuro's "Go For Broke"

TAEKO June 16 at the Kitano | NYC

TAEKO's latest CD, Voice, is a tasteful collection of songs from some very different sources that she treats with the same skillful execution.  Taeko Fukao, a native of Japan, has acquired the command of her instrument, her voice, and applied it to the genre of jazz in a way that is both technically significant and entertaining.  Her handling of the intricacies of the jazz genre has a clear sense of remarkable talent honed by a recognizable work ethic.

Under the coaching of Juanita Fleming, Taeko has evolved in her jazz voice and has taken on some interesting projects on Voice, including a lyric written by Fleming for Herbie Hancock's familiar tune, "Cantaloupe Island."  Taeko has a soulful, wistful voice with an ever so faint hint of her Asian ancestry, that sneaks into the tunes in the most appropriate way, especially during her expressive phrasing.  Taeko puts together a set list that includes the works of Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues," Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," and Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar." Then mixes it up a bit with titles such as "Spring Nocturne," an original by the singer, and "Biwako," a traditional Japanese folk song that was a hit in Japan in the 1940's.

Taeko's approach to each of these songs is different, but consistent in each of them is the attention to execution, the precision and skilled management of her instrument is coupled with a playful and emotional coloring that conveys a shear joy with the work.   Taeko's voice is a pleasure to listen to.  Even when in its deepest range it is still lite and gentle, while remaining full.  Her scat capability is remarkable in and of itself and presents itself in a lively rendition of Sly Stone's "Stand!"

Overall, Taeko is brilliant in both her native language and her acquired language.  She demonstrates the skills built on a native talent that has been honed by a significant effort to convey the art of jazz vocals with all the musical elements in place and the heart and soul of a true jazz singer.

I found the entire CD to be a delightful departure from the run of the mill standards singers I have been hearing lately.  A refreshing new twist on some old favorites and an introduction into some new music from a Japanese influence, Taeko bridges both worlds exceptionally well.   If you haven't heard of TAEKO, or listened to her Voice, then you must check it out!