January 23, 2011


A Carefully Honed Image as a Master of the Ukulele (NATE CHINEN, 1/23/11, NY Times)

Mr. Shimabukuro, who hails from Hawaii — where his chosen instrument is neither a conversation piece nor a punch line — comes by his fame with buoyant musicianship and brisk proficiency. The innovation in his style stems from an embrace of restrictions: the ukulele has only four strings and a limited range. He compensates with an adaptable combination of rhythmic strumming, classical-style finger-picking and fretboard tapping.

For a while, he also experimented with pedal distortion, the better to emulate a shredding guitarist. That’s over now, mercifully. But he still sometimes works with electric bass, drums and keyboards, which aren’t the right canvas for him. His new album, “Peace Love Ukulele,” released on the Hitchhike label this month, often feels slicker than it should, with a smooth-jazz production style that flattens the dimensions of his sound.

Far better to hear him as he appeared at Brooklyn Bowl, alone and more or less acoustic. (He was amplified through the house sound system, which gave him a tinny sheen but otherwise worked fine.) Accustomed to this format, Mr. Shimabukuro has developed a casually convivial stage presence, so that even his more heroic fits of musical exhibitionism come tempered with humility. (Did I mention he’s big in Japan?)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2011 9:04 AM
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