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Album Review: Trio
Jake Shimabukuro
Cover image of the album Trio by Jake Shimabukuro
Jake Shimabukuro
2020 / Music Theories Recordings
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Trio is a very exciting album by Jake Shimabukuro and his trio, a group comprised of himself (Kamaka ukulele), Nolan Verner (bass, piano and percussion) and Dave Preston (guitars, lap steel and percussion); Rachel James provides vocals on one track. Known as “the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele," Shimabukuro’s cover of the George Harrison classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” went viral about fifteen years ago and propelled Jake to a level of success unlikely for a ukulele artist. Since that time, he has released close to twenty albums under his own name and established himself as a virtuoso of the instrument. Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, Trio expresses the joyous musical freedom of a jam session and covers a vast amount of musical territory in its thirteen tracks, nine of which are original pieces composed by the trio; one track has vocals. From dynamic rockers to sweet and gentle instrumentals, the album is more than engaging and a lot of fun as well.

Trio begins with the driving “When the Masks Come Down.” Propelled by Nolan Verner’s bass this song will have your toes tapping (all ten of them!) in no time at all. I dare you to try to sit still while listening to this one! The powerful rhythms in “Twelve” nudge it into the rock category, but it’s not really a rock instrumental. Or is it? “Resistance” reminds me of some of my favorite pop instrumentals from a few decades ago, but is still firmly rooted in the present. Some passages have a swirling energy and others are quieter and more reflective. The beautiful “Lament” takes us to a completely different place. Gentle rhythms and a seductive melody draw you in and soothe your soul. “Red Crystal” has a vibrant Latin flavor that intoxicates. “Morning Blue” falls somewhere between smooth jazz and ambient with an easy vibe and no edges anywhere - gorgeous! “Summer Rain” expresses a similar feeling - sweet and refreshing. “Wish You Were Here” is a fascinating instrumental cover of Pink Floyd’s 1975 classic. “Fireflies” by Coleman Bear Saunders has a funky country/blues attitude that is hard to resist - so I don’t! Love it! The traditional Hawaiian song, “Wai’alae” is a tribute to the musicians and bands that inspired Jake in his youth. Elegant yet lighthearted, it’s a happy update! “Strong in Broken Places” is very much an instrumental pop ballad that needs no words to tell its story. The Fleetwood Mac classic, “Landslide,” is the “lucky 13th” track on the album. Instead of Stevie Nicks’ distinctive husky voice, we’re treated to Rachel James’ beautiful husky voice - a lovely close to a great album!

Trio belongs in no specific genre and is all over the map style-wise, so it should appeal to a very wide audience. Personally, I love the variety! It is available from Amazon and iTunes as well as many streaming sites. Both thumbs up!
April 24, 2020
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