All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews


Jake Shimabukuro Live: Ukulele Jazz

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count
Jake Shimabukuro
The Coach House
San Juan Capistrano, CA
February 2, 2007

One of the longest operating jazz venues in the neighborhood just south of Los Angeles, and Orange County's premier supper club, The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano continues to bring in some of the best musical artists. Their decision to bring in ukulele jazzman Jake Shimabukuro for a repeat performance this year meant another sold out event. For a club that holds nearly 500 patrons, that came as no surprise when you consider that Shimabukuro appeals to a wide cross-section of music lovers.

Although Shimabukuro is from Hawaii, his music doesn't contain the traditional ukulele themes that we associate with tropical gardens and lazy afternoons just a few steps from fresh, wind-swept beaches where the temperatures never go to the extreme. He plays progressive jazz: the kind that appeals to all generations and all tastes.

A virtuoso on the instrument, Shimabukuro's program of thirteen pieces, mostly from his album Gently Weeps, contained elements from Spanish classical guitar, popular modern song, Django Reinhardt, and featured sensual ballads along with some poignant originals.

Appearing in T-shirt and jeans, the highly personable young man communicated with the audience in a manner that clearly indicated his natural inclination for sharing, verbally as well as musically. His melodies floated like clouds when he brought a tune down to a soft purr, or low whisper, then gradually built it back up into a blaze as palpable as it was astonishing. Upon catching fire, his right hand was a blur. Between numbers, one audience member could be heard yelling out what many were feeling at the moment, "Jake, you're a god!

Here's a young man, playing on what many regard as an "island" or novelty instrument, who's launched his bandwagon in favor of creative jazz. His wide-ranging influences include friend and mentor Makoto Ozone, movie hero Bruce Lee, and the Beatles. We're all a product of our environment, but some have the talent that few can match. Jake Shimabukuro is such a phenomenon.

The Coach House brought in two musical groups to open for Shimabukuro. First up that Friday evening was an acoustic duo, The Brothers Lekas, who played guitar and mandolin. Their performance maintained a folk-ballad approach with a little rock intensity added to several numbers. Mandolinist Mark Lekas sang a moving piece that walked the fence between rock music and folk balladry, while his guitarist partner handled the vocals for the rest of the program. His singing was frankly terrible, but no one seemed particularly offended, since it crossed all genres and was delivered with a slapdash attitude.

The Usual Suspects filled the gap admirably between the night's less-than-appealing opening act and the main event. Consisting of singer/guitarist Shaun Shelton, singer/keyboardist Bob Greco, electric bassist John Steele, drummer Steve Greco and rhythm guitarist Andy Allison, the band gave us eight engaging and varied numbers that scored with the crowd: both lead singers brought pleasing voices along with thoughtful interpretations; the band's physical movement served as a wake-up call for the headliner; and the closer, a lovely Beatles remembrance, "Dear Prudence, proved equally effective as an opener. Since Shimabukuro's first number would be "While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the Usual Suspects, intentionally or not, left us with a bridge to the unusual, providing an appropriate segue for the high point of the evening.


comments powered by Disqus

Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles


Black Label Records

My Life

My Life

Hitchhike Records

Gently Weeps

Gently Weeps

Hitchhike Records


Peace, Love & Ukulele

Black Label Records



Black Label Records



Black Label Records


Related Articles

Read Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince, 2018 Live Reviews
Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince, 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 16, 2018
Read Derek Bailey // Three Presences at Cafe Oto Live Reviews
Derek Bailey // Three Presences at Cafe Oto
by John Eyles
Published: March 8, 2018
Read Live From The Jazz Corner in Hilton Head Island - Roundup Live Reviews
Live From The Jazz Corner in Hilton Head Island - Roundup
by Martin McFie
Published: March 5, 2018
Read George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at the Paramount Live Reviews
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at the Paramount
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: March 4, 2018
Read Kraftwerk's performance at Macedonia’s Boris Trajkovski Hall Live Reviews
Kraftwerk's performance at Macedonia’s Boris...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 3, 2018
Read Anat Fort Quartet at Cornelia Street Café Live Reviews
Anat Fort Quartet at Cornelia Street Café
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 1, 2018
Read "The Seth Yacovone Blues Trio At Red Square" Live Reviews The Seth Yacovone Blues Trio At Red Square
by Doug Collette
Published: July 23, 2017
Read "Mat Maneri and Lucian Ban at Barbès" Live Reviews Mat Maneri and Lucian Ban at Barbès
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 7, 2017
Read "Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall" Live Reviews Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 20, 2017
Read "NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon" Live Reviews NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "2017 Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland" Live Reviews 2017 Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: July 3, 2017
Read "Ann Hampton Callaway at Birdland" Live Reviews Ann Hampton Callaway at Birdland
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 5, 2017