Baby ukulele produces ‘grand’ sound

Andrew Fernandez, Staff Writer

When one thinks of the ukulele, they may think of a toy instrument to be taken lightly or maybe the child famous on Youtube for covering Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” Jake Shimabukuro is one ukulele player who redefines the perceptions of the ukulele and sets new limits on what this small instrument is capable of.

Playing the ukulele for over 30 years, Hawaiian native Shimabukuro is a true ukulele virtuoso in every sense of the word. Similar to other talented instrumentalists such as Kaki King or Ewan Dobson, Jake showcases incredible talent on just a single instrument. His latest studio album, “Grand Ukulele,” combines a mixture of instrumental ukulele and orchestral playing to give a contemporary classical and light-hearted feel.

“Grand Ukulele” starts off with two covers, presenting material the average listener could recognize. Right back to his roots, Shimabukuro starts off with his own rendition of the theme song to “Hawaii Five-O”. A collaboration effort with drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Randy Tico, “Ukulele Five-O” is a soothing instrumental track with pleasant rhythms. It is followed by another cover but with pure ukulele instrumentation in with Adele’s hit single “Rolling in the Deep.”

Alternating between instrumentation in one song and orchestra implementation in others, Jake switches atmospheres between technical prowess and collaboration. Jake’s strongest feats of the album are the instrumental ones, showing his masterful dexterity with delicate touches. Being able to convey powerful moods with only a single instrument–this is where Jake really shines.

“Island Fever Blues” is one of the album’s strongest tracks, showcasing masterful playing with a slightly different feel. Jake follows the rest of the track with a catchy lead melody and break towards the latter half of the track. “Gone Finishing” is another light-hearted track that almost sounds straight from a commercial, expressing a joyful and carefree mood.

Shimabukuro’s group songs implement more collaborative than orchestral compositions, and still allow Jake’s instrumentation to lead. The collaborative pieces seem to fall flat at times, refusing anything other than having a ukulele lead almost as a lead singer of a band, with occasional moments of backup vocals.

Jake Shimabukuro produces big sound in his latest album, “Grand Ukulele.” With such a small instrument, Jake leads each track with masterful playing and sets a new precedent for the ukulele. With a relaxing and nonchalant mood, “Grand Ukulele” is a solid instrumental album showcasing collaborative and solo works.

Rating: 3.5/5