Amoeblog

Hula Time

Posted by Sherwin Dunner, December 15, 2011 03:40pm | Post a Comment
Sometimes you never know where the next batch of 78s will be coming from and it's often from unexpected places. Recently, we were contacted by San Francisco's Market Street Railway, an advocate for San Francisco's historic streetcars which run on the Market Street Line. One of their members bequeathed his books on trolley history to them, and included in the donation were the 78s bought by his Hawaiian wife back in the 1920s. Having no use for the records, they contacted us, and we were delighted to find a strong run of records by one of the great early Hawaiian bands that recorded in the late 1920s – Kalama's Quartet. Many other obscure Hawaiian 78s were part of the collection, but by far her favorite group was Kalama's Quartet, and for good reason. Along with steel guitars, ukelele, harp guitar and bass, they featured deeply moving four part harmony singing – raw and forceful, but delicate and beautiful at the same time.

Kalama's QuartetThe collectors of early Hawaiian 78s are mostly drawn to the steel guitar giants Sol Hoopii, King Benny Nawahi, and the rare as hen's teeth discs by Madame Riviera's Hawaiians featuring Tau Moe. In addtion to the traditional vocals, Kalama's Quartet features twin steel guitars, playing lead and harmony – more bang for your steel guitar buck, plus the exquisite Hawaiian falsetto singing of Mike Hanapi. Along with Hanapi (front) singing tenor and falsetto, their core personnel included the deep resonant bass voice of Bob Nawahini (left), the baritone of Dave Munson or Dan Pokipala (right) and the lead voice of Bill Kalama (behind Hanapi). They didn't bother to change their name to Quintet when somewhere along the way Bob Matsu was added as a second steel guitar.

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Happy Birthday Arthur Tatum Jr., October 13th, 1909

Posted by Whitmore, October 13, 2009 12:25pm | Post a Comment
 
Art Tatum is acknowledged by anyone who knows anything as one of the greatest and most influential jazz pianists of all time. A child prodigy born with perfect pitch, Tatum was picking up church hymns and tunes off the radio by ear at the age of three. As a teenager, the nearly blind Tatum started at the Columbus School for the Blind where he studied music and learned Braille. His first musical heroes were his contemporaries like the stride pianists James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Earl Hines. Within a few years he was playing in New York settling at the Onyx Club where he recorded his first sides for Brunswick. Tatum developed an incredibly fast improvisational style, and though he rarely ventured far from the original melodic lines of a song, his technique and ideas are a direct line to the bebop revolution of the late 1940’s. One of Tatum’s great quotes was “There is no such thing as a wrong note.”
 
Though I’m often dubious of many opinions laid out by jazz critic Leonard Feather, I have to more or less agree with him when he called Tatum "the greatest soloist in jazz history, regardless of instrument." Legendary French writer and artist Jean Cocteau called Tatum "a crazed Chopin." Count Basie called him the eighth wonder of the world. Classical composer Sergei Rachmaninoff once said, "he has better technique than any other living pianist, and may be the greatest ever." Dizzy Gillespie said, "First you speak of Art Tatum, then take a long deep breath, and you speak of the other pianists." Charlie Parker, who briefly worked as a dishwasher at Jimmie's Chicken Shack in Manhattan, where Tatum regularly performed, once said, “I wish I could play like Tatum’s right hand!” One of the most famous quotes about Art Tatum was by Fats Waller, whose introduction one night announced, "I only play the piano, but tonight God is in the house." Waller also once said, "When that man turns on the powerhouse, don't no one play him down. He sounds like a brass band."
 
Art Tatum died in Los Angeles on March 12, 1955 at Queen of Angels Medical Center from the complications of kidney failure. He was originally interred at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, but in 1991 he was moved to the Great Mausoleum of Glendale's Forest Lawn Cemetery.