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Robert Cazimero brings sing-along to Blue Note Hawaii

May 10th, 2016




Robert Cazimero: Terrific and textured in his Blue Note debut.

Robert Cazimero: Terrific and textured in his Blue Note debut.



Robert Cazimero demonstrated trusty new layers of artistry in his terrific and textured Blue Note Hawaii debut last Friday (May 6).

Sing-alongs! Nostalgia! Crib notes!

He seemed a tad queasy initially, about working what truly is a nightclub/showroom venue, at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel. You know the space — the shoe-box site formerly known as the Main Showroom.

Cazimero pranced through 90 minutes of pure fun, occasionally becoming a piano bar trouper (he played keyboards, instead of his stand-up bass) but also an upfront soloist to test his pipes.

He was a genuine chameleon. With two young sidemen — Halehaku Seabury on guitar and Nicholas Lum on bass — he essentially appeared as singer fronting a trio.

From his keyboards, he occasionally led piano-bar type sing-alongs. Folks didn’t need much prompting to join the serenades

He hauled up two of his trusty hula halau dudes, Keola Makaiau and Alaka‘i Lastimado, to bring motion and mobility during a medley Hawaiian swing tunes, including “Hawaiian War Chant” as traditionally rendered. After all, it wouldn’t have been a Cazimero fest and feast if there wasn’t hula!

He talked story frequently with a charming tidbit involving beloved actress Betty White, who apparently frequents his Whittier College (California) shows where she sends requests/notes “to play ‘Misty’ for me,” referring to the ol’ Johnny Mathis classic that ripples through all kinds of musical genres, including jazz, which is a perfect fit for the club.

For “Misty,” however, dancer Sky Perkins was tapped from the audience to render a sit-down hula, the way White adores his“Misty.”

It was a revelation. And a realization of how precise and expert Cazimero can be when it matters.

With somewhat of a planned script, duly noted on slips of paper he consulted periodically (an iPad could work, too!) Cazimero played it loose with impromptu plan switches along the way. The uncertainty worked, as viewer anticipation mounted.

An award-winning singer, composer, musician, kumu hula and legend in the annals of Hawaiian music, Cazimero also is a huge fan of Broadway music and American standards. And this expedition included these resources that punctuated his artistry.

This Blue Moon outing was a new experience for him — and his fans.

It began with a zip, or should I say “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” behind the keyboards, which was a sprightly starting point. Cazimero then glided into a verse or two of “On a Wonderful Day Like Today,” formulating and expressing his joy of the moment. “Our Love Is Here to Stay” was also uncorked, and then a reprise of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” (from Disney’s “Song of the South” film) with that memorable line, “Wonderful feeling, wonderful day.” More wonderfulness followed with “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” as if he were shaping his own review, with bountiful wonderful feeling and loverly thoughts.

He relied on his notes — well, a rundown list of songs — as well as lyrics to some rarely-performed tunes. Thus, he hopscotched a skosh,  rustling through papers and sighed: “My ass is on the line.” Laughter abounded.

It was a lament he wouldn’t commonly utter, but reflected the tension; knew the importance of making good, not making A.

He turned the somewhat show space into his personal living room, as if he were the focus of a casual jam in his apartment.

“I hated playing piano,” he said about his grade school era, when he took lessons. In retrospect, he said, it paid off because of some his later-in-life-mentors, like Mahi Beamer and Loyal Garner, both pianists.

Cazimero certainly is an ace communicating with an audience, which he said he learned from Jimmy Borges, who embraces lyrics to forward a story. “Jimmy could read the telephone book and it would be amazing,” he said in homage to the jazz great.

Then he cruised into “Tenderly,” with a nod to one of his fave singers, Rosemary Clooney.

In retrospect, the show alternately had the intimacy of a cozy piano bar, the pulse of a main showroom, and the informality of a free-wheeling karaoke bar.

“When I was growing up, I thought Chubby Checker was the bomb,” he exclaimed. I expected a morsel of “The Twist,” but this was Cazimero goin’ round and round with chime-alongs, inviting his audience to channel Paul Anka’s “Diana” and Lenny Welch’s “Since I Feel for You” hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The preacher had the churchgoers wailing!

The spotlight momentarily focused on bassist Lum on “On the Street Where You Live” (he had a charming presence and an equally appealing manner and voice), prefaced with a footnote from the kumu that Lum didn’t know (because of his youth) the ditty from “My Fair Lady.” Lum also sang lead on “The Nearness of You,” with Cazimero in the harmony slot. Lots to learn, if you're young and working with a vet.

Before exiting the stage, Cazimero further referred to his notes for the not-commonly-rendered introduction to “Over the Rainbow.” Then he followed with that timeless classic, his sweet voice working its magic, radiating imaginary hues from "The Wizard of Oz."

Since his first gig, The Blue Note has offered Cazimero playdates at least once a month, through December, but he has yet to finalize his calendar. So there’s hope the club will get this blues bird chirping again.

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Willie K does it all; lands monthly slots at Blue Note

May 1st, 2016

Willie K is Mr. Everythig at the Blue Note

Willie K is Mr. Everythig at the Blue Note


Willie K does just about everything — a little jazz, a bit of blues, a serving of Hawaiian, a dash of country, and even drops names — at the Blue Note Hawaii, Outrigger Waikiki Hotel.

He is the lone island headliner, who made his first appearance April 19, who has been signed once a month through the end of this year (see schedule).

Yet Uncle Willie laments, “I hate Waikiki.” The comment comes off as a gag, but he prefers his comfy and modest, Mulligan’s on the Blue, at Wailea Blue Course on Maui, even though he fits into the hip-and-now ambiance of what used to be the Main Showroom of the Outrigger, the decades-long base of the Society of Seven.

The Hawaiian showman is a society of one, backed by two haole musicians — Jerry Buyers on bass and Chris Thomas on drums — and he packs a solid sound and delivers a sizzling show, despite the disliking tone.

He takes on an introductory role, just in case. “First time you see a real Hawaiian,” he chortles, armed with his trusty ukulele. “You thought only a young slim Asian guy would be playing the uke?” he says, alluding of course to Jake Shimabukuro.

His conversational patter is raw, spontaneous, very local, but he works at warming up the house, mentioning that his musician dad “played ukulele on the Ed Sullivan Show.”

Initially, he’s deliberately the Hawaiian Willie, jazzercising a slow-tempoed “Beyond the Reef,” with ukulele riffs signaling the proper logistics of time and place. It's probably a smart choice — a composition by a Canadian, Jack Pitman, which doesn't ever mention Hawaii but has become one of the signatures of the hapa-haole genre — because the tune is a classic among locals and visitors alike I digress, but Napua Stevens was the first to record the tune in 1949, with Bing Crosby covering it in 1950, spreading the aloha internationally for his generation of fans. In 1966, Elvis Presley recorded it, too — proof of its cross-generational appeal.

Then the  Traditional Willie dusts off “Red Sails in the Sunset,” evoking a warm summertime afterglow, making it an unexpected medley with a refrain from “Over the Rainbow.” Then, a quip: “Not all of us sing ‘Over the Rainbow,’” which, of course, is a reference to the global sensation of the late Israel Kamakawiwoole the past two decades, with its repetitive oooh-ooohing. This is a mashup of Hawaiian Willie and Traditional Willie, like enjoying fish with poi.

How about the Spanish Willie? There’s a framework of the fiery and flirtatious … along with what might be dubbed his “flamenco uke.”

More morsels follow. A Yiddish Willie stance, a la Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof,”  with body language. Then a non-musical Korean Willie, with a bit of raspy, throaty sounds that Mainlanders might not understand.

The Italian Willie pumps up “O Solo Mio,” with all the histrionics and flavors that demonstrate how well-oiled his pipes are.

And then a turn-around, for the Maui (and Wowie) Willie, with a frisky and fun “For You and I,” begging for a bit of hula (but there’s none) and then a salute to Bill Dana (“My name Jose Jiminez”), who used to be a Maui resident, with that inevitable and durable (but sometimes forgotten) novelty, “I’m Going to Maui Tomorrow, to Marry Tamara Malone.”

There’s a brief hana hou of sorts, with another stab at “Over the Rainbow,” the Judy Garland version, complete with a whistling bird and a mention of Aunt Em.

By now, it’s time for the Jazz Willie, with a measure of funky blues for good measure, via “Too Bad,” a signature from Willie whenever he  assembles his Blues Band. The phraseology, the arrangement, the soul-shaking  measures suit that husky Willie voice.

Old Willie, aka Hawaiian-Style Willie, takes centerstage via signatures  like “You Kuuipo” and “Katchi Katchi Makawao” and “My Molokai Woman,”  from the initial time frame of Willie's shining and ascending and shimmering his bright light  in the Hawaiian constellation. Oh, yes, there’s also chatter about Harley Davidsons.

The standing ovation and elation from the audience are indicative of his power and prowess, of his passion and performance, and his venerability and his versatility.

So herewith is the Compleat Willie, the One-and-Only-Willie, and he’s often called Uncle Willie, who ultimately is Mr. Everything. Support and rally around him  at an upcoming Tuesday at the Blue Note and be among the first to applaud this Waikiki treasure. Even if he doesn’t particularly like Waikiki.



When: 6:30 and 9 p.m. May 3, repeating June 21, July 5, Aug. 2, Sept. 6, Oct. 4, Nov. 8, Dec. 13

Where: Blue Note Hawaii, Outrigger Waikiki Hotel

Reservations: 518-6240







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Shari Lynn does it all at the Blue Note

April 28th, 2016

Shari Lynn hits all the right notes at the Blue Note.

Shari Lynn hits all the right notes at the Blue Note.


Shari Lynn is an entertainment hyphenate —a singer, an actress, an educator, a writer of theatrical tributes to iconic composers, and a producer.

Her first Blue Note Hawaii performance this month surely won’t be her last. She tapped her multi-pronged roots — scoping the All American songbook, her background as a club singer and a theater performer— to produce a well-rounded package of everything she is.

Oldies, movie tunes, stage tidbits, personal favorites — her vision and versatility are bountiful and broad. And Shari hits all the right notes, figuratively and literally; with her insights derived from her meticulous research, she mines songs that tell a story or hit a personal emotion. And she had all throttles rolling, with rich and robust rewards.

With pianist Jim Howard, bassist Bruce Hamada and drummer Darryl Pelligrini,  Shari becomes an instrument of communication, opening her heart and her songbook, with a jazz thrust to suit the Blue Note environs.

It all works. She does, too.

She opened her set with “It’s Today,” from “Mame,” and quickly put her imprint on it. And when she delivered this line, “I know that this very minute has history in it, we’re here,” it’s seemed that her hidden secret of gigging at the Blue Note was an unforgettable personal milestone.

Thus, the rollout of such familiar titles — “The Best Is Yet to come,” “Control Yourself,” “I’ve Got Rhythm”— seemed to be a personal shout-out of her imminent future, her style, and her soul.

When she was not chirping, she was declaring her posture as an active figure in music and stage: “My mission is to keep them (the old standards) alive.

She routinely mentioned names like Johnny Mercer and George and Ira Gershwin, crediting the sources of “Something’s Gotta Give” and “An American Paris,” delivering fresh renderings of these classics. And when she shared “Little Jazz Bird,” a George Gershwin novelty, she did a bit of scat singing to create the sounds of a chirping bird.

Shari had fun with snippets from “The Wizard of Oz,” singing a segment of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead,” which included a warm and earnest surprise: bassist Hamada vocalized on “If I Only Had a Brain,” earning roaring applause from the audience.

One of her sensuous signatures, Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music,” enabled her to subtly and delicately showcase her vocal control and delivery, with stellar keyboard support from Howard. But she preceded the vocal by honestly recalling a little bright memory; early on, she innocently mispronounced the composer’s surname. Score points here for her transparency.

Clearly, Shari’s show was somewhat of a textbook primer — entertaining, educational, enlightening, endearing. As a daytime classroom teacher, she doesn’t preach; in her role as a club singer, she engages and takes her listeners along on her musical journey.

There was an instance of sentiment and tears, when she dedicated her performance to her very-often singing partner, Jimmy Borges; she said “the universe had other plans” for him at the moment (he’s battling lung cancer), with a footnote that he should rightfully been tapped to launch the Blue Note.

Teary-eyed, she sang one of his favorite tunes, Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary's “Here’s to Life,” which spoke volumes with these take-away words:

“Here's to life, here's to love, here's to you.
“May all your storms be weathered
“And all that's good get better
“Here's to life, here's to love, here's to you.” 

That said it all.





Robert Cazimero: Three dates in Waikiki

April 27th, 2016

Robert Cazimero: Three showcase gigs in Waikiki

Robert Cazimero: Three showcase gigs in Waikiki

Robert Cazimero is on a roll, with three showcase appearances coming up in Waikiki this week and next.

Cazimero, award-winning kumu hula of Halau Na Kamalei O Lillilehua and a member of The Brothers Cazimero, will serenade guests and fans in two venues a stone’s throw apart along Kalakaua Avenue. He’s also part of an awardsfest.

Here’s when and where:

>> Mele at the Moana, performing two 45-minute sets, between 7 and 9 p.m. Friday (April 29), at the open-air stage of the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel. Preferred seating may be reserved by calling Mason Waugh at 923-2811 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or by email at Diners at the hotel’s Beachhouse or patrons of the wine bar Vintage 1901 may take in the performance from nearby tables.

>> Blue Note Hawaii, at 6:30 and 9 p.m. May 6, at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel. Doors open at 5 and 8:30 p.m. He will front a trio also featuring Halehaku Seabury on guitar and Nich Lum on bass. Reservations: 518-6240.

>> Na Hoku Hanohano Awards Lifetime Achievement luncheon, from 10 a.m. Saturday (April 30), at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Hibiscus Ballroom. Cazimero will serenade, along with Hawaiian music and dance by Kimo Alama Keaulana and Lei Hulu; vocalists Aaron J. Sala and Les Ceballos; ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro, with new talent Nick Acosta, vocalist Elaine Ako Spencer, and steel guitar master Hiram Olsen. Tickets: $75. Visit









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A jazzy Melveen Leed is red hot at Blue Note

March 23rd, 2016



Melveen Leed often has proclaimed that jazz has been a passion in her career.

Last Monday night (March 21), she demonstrated this passion with a powerful first-time showing at the Blue Note Hawaii club at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel.

For someone who has been teetering over the decades, between a Hawaiian Tita and a Local Diva, Leed finally proved she also can be a chanteuse, given the opportunity. Surely, her first Blue Note appearance won’t be her last.

With an all-star combo of four backing her up, Leed put all doubts aside that she is, when she wants to be, a a jazz singer. And lord, she really wanted this one.

While she had teetered from a Hawaii soulstress to a patron of paniolo country over the decades, the jazz thing had been overshadowed by what otherwise perhaps came too easily. Sure, her fans love her comedics, her tita-isms that suited her impromptu performances that often lacked discipline, but jazz requires focus and form and and dedication and delivery.

She scored on all fronts. She was red hot, with all her vocal cylinders shining and chiming. She was confident; she had style; she delivered.

Dedicating her first of two sets to two ailing performers, jazz singer Jimmy Borges and Hawaiian icon Cyril Pahinui, Leed opened her gig with an easy-going “The More I See You.” Her excursion included some standards that were stamped with jazz phraseology and intonation, such as “One Note Samba,” “The Nearness of You,” “Just in Time,” even “My Funny Valentine.” In the jazz realm, delivery is the thing, with tempo and mood defining the genre. It's not what you sing, but how you sing it.

She was playful and interactive with her band, comprised of keyboarder Dan Del Negro, drummer Peter Factora, bassist Byron Yasui, and ukulele strummer Benny Chong; while piano and drums and stand-up bass are common jazz instruments, a jazz ukulele is surely rare, and Chong, the former member of The Aliis, Don Ho’s sidekicks, added a measure of unique plucking  akin to a special language during the evening.

With her intense desire to please, Leed at one point sighed out loudly: “I never work this hard for a long time,” meaning that the commitment to sit in the jazz saddle was no easy trot. “But I love it.”

Much to the delight of her diehard fans, Leed did leave the jazz trail for a couple of her idiosyncratic hits, like “E Kuu Morning Dew,” which she delivered with fond and gentle departure of her familiar Hawaiian version, though she tossed in a one-hand-hula moment or two to indicate her roots.

There were two other Hawaiian gems: “O Kalena Kai,” which showed off her upper registers beautifully, and “Hi’ilawe,” the Gabby Pahinui signature, which she began while tickling the ivories (because Del Negro didn't know the song) then proceeded to render it with island-style respect and resourcefulness. You can get off the jazz trail, after all, and for a few brief moments, the Blue Note observed its first Aloha Monday (vs. Friday) celebration.

“I’ve always wanted to play the Blue Note in New York,” Leed said after her performance. Perhaps with this maiden voyage in Honolulu, she’ll get her ticket to the Big Apple in the months ahead. Or, if nothing else, a hana hou at the Hawaii destination.














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