Jake Shimabukuro | 02.06 | Oregon

By: John Galloway

Jake Shimabukuro :: 02.06.08 :: Aladdin Theater :: Portland, OR

Shimabukuro by Nobuyuki Ito
It's impressive when a theater fills up on a windy, cold, rainy night. The true diehard will not be deterred from gobbling up every last bit of something they love. This night it was the unbelievable array of sounds whirling from a single unlikely instrument: the ukulele. Far from being relegated to just Hawaiian folk music, the ukulele comes madly and feverishly alive in the skilled hands of Jake Shimabukuro, the Honolulu-born sensation who began playing at the age of four.

He told us a story about entering a competition when he was seven-years-old with his younger brother Bruce, whom Shimabukuro jokingly claimed was named after his idol, Bruce Lee. He performed a Hawaiian folk song called "Crazy G," and undoubtedly blew away the audience back then. His brother dressed in cowboy attire and performed "Elvira," a Dallas Frazier song popularized by the Oak Ridge Boys. However, Shimabukuro said that Bruce won the competition.

Shimabukuro has won many competitions since, and his deft ability to cover multiple genres of music solo on an acoustic instrument as small and seemingly delicate as a ukulele is deserving of awe. Shimabukuro says he's taken voice classes, yet his concerts are purely instrumental. That's not to say he doesn't have verbal facility, as he's quite humorous onstage in the interludes between his jaw-dropping originals and inspired renditions of the great music of our time and especially times before us. Take for example his heart-stopping interpretation of Schubert's "Ave Maria," which has become as much a signature piece for Shimabukuro as his emotional cover of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." One could never bore hearing him play either of them, even if he played them in the same concert. They wouldn't possibly be identical.

One of the most touching musical stories of the evening was about Shimabukuro's encounters with Cyndi Lauper on the Big Island of Hawaii. He said a few years before he'd been in Japan at the same time as Lauper was on tour there. He'd joked to his friends that he was in the country "with Cindy." When Lauper came to Hawaii for a series of concerts, her manager somehow learned of Shimabukuro and contacted his booking agent. She invited him to open for her concert and then play a song with her. Of course, he was dumbfounded. How can you say no to Cyndi Lauper? So, when it came time for him to come onstage, Lauper took up a dulcimer and they played "Time After Time" as a duet. The story concluded with a solo ukulele rendition of that song you might call "brilliant" or "mellow" or "stirring," but that's like trying to describe how a scrumptious meal tastes - all words pale in comparison to the reality of the feast.

Shimabukuro steps into a realm beyond mere entertainment. Hypnotizing? Mesmerizing? Spellbinding? The raucous cheers from the audience indicated that we weren't just consumers of entertainment but participants in a musical adventure that took us around the world and through time. Stories of Singapore and touring with Jimmy Buffett followed childhood tales of Hawaii and appreciations of musical greats like Jimmy Page (with a great "Going To California" from the Zeppelin repertoire). Our capable guide was rewarded with resounding applause, ovations and the contemplative appreciation of each lingering note.

JamBase | Portland
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[Published on: 2/15/08]

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dannymo starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/15/2008 05:31PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This kid is fucking brilliant!!

moecheeseplease Fri 2/15/2008 07:05PM
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nice, but not really a show review. wish i could catch him this weekend but he's playing at a 21 and over crap hole.

theworldisonfire88 Fri 2/15/2008 07:13PM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
welting Fri 2/15/2008 08:01PM
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"how can you say no to Cyndi Lauper?"... I could think of a couple ways.. but seriously this guy is sick at ukelele, look him up on youtube playing while my guitar gently weeps, pretty crazy shit.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/18/2008 03:14AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

yep, brilliant. I do not care what jamband you like, he is brilliant. Think of Michael Hedges on ukulele. sickness!!!

phishr82 Mon 2/18/2008 09:05AM
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this is what i'm talking about here! i love learning about an artist that i haven't heard of yet. i'll definitely get my hands on some of his music, sounds pretty intriguing

dinophoto starstarstarstar Mon 2/18/2008 11:05AM
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He'll be in NYC tonight at the Highline Ballroom in case yer in town.

see ya there.......



Updated Daily

Shmo-Kaine starstarstarstar Mon 2/18/2008 01:09PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Just heard him on youtube. Pretty amazing stuff!!! I'll definatly keep my eyes out for a show.

blower Mon 2/18/2008 03:54PM
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Heard him play The Devil Went Down to Georgia solo at High Sierra a couple years back. True virtuoso. Played every note including the fiddle parts and the rocking devil jam. Really amazing musician.

theguykeator Tue 2/19/2008 07:01AM
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First time I heard Jake the uke master, was on an Etown recording in Boulder with Cheese. Mad Skillz

happydestiny starstarstarstarstar Tue 2/19/2008 11:20AM
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check him out on youtube!!! amazing!!!

C00lmike Tue 2/19/2008 10:34PM
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just saw him on Conan, absolutely amazing.

Conan said it was one of the best performances he's seen since he has been on the air.

breadloaf Wed 2/20/2008 08:18AM
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milesgone, thanks for the Michael Hedges shout- good to know folks still remember the man. I used to run into him all the time at a wide variety of shows in CA back in the day. He was a super cool dude and a hell of a player.

I want to see this kid, for sure.

NatureBoy! starstarstar Wed 2/20/2008 02:30PM
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Um, having seen him before and loved it, I would have appreciated a show review, not an artist bio.

He is truly amazing! saw him when I won tix on jambase! (people do really win) he played the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va.

It was nice that folks didn't really know him, but that's not the case anymore.

Good shout to Hedges is right! People forget that Keller Williams didn't invent that level of intracacy on a stringed instrument.

Go see Shimabukuro!

and to the poster, props for takin the time to post, but "remember your audience and your purpose" when writing.

It wasn't a review, it was more of a "I went and saw this guy and he was awesome, let me tell you more about him"

props just the same

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 2/21/2008 04:55AM
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I wanna see Thile and Shimabukuro do a tour together!!!! SICKNESS!!!!!!!!

BoboJeffie Sat 2/23/2008 12:11PM
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[[[[[[[[Its always irritating how so many people call out High Sierra Fest on a 'bunch of no names', and then like a year later, people are raving about the talent that that fest has helped bring to the light. Jake has been all over that joint, and its great to read about him on jambase.]]]]]]]]]] Didnt know he palled up with Cyndi Lauper. Thats awesome.