Jake Shimabukuro: Grand Ukulele
For those unfamiliar with Jake Shimabukuro, here is a quick note: Shimabukuro is the greatest ukulele player who ever lived, is considered a virtuoso at his instrument, appeared on Ted Talks, and in general blows people away with his talent. Get that tidbit out of the way and if there is still skepticism, listen to his instrumental version of “Rolling in the Deep,” a successful rendition without the aid of vocals or any instrument aside from the tenor ukulele.
Grand Ukulele is a simple project with grand results: create an instrumental album using primarily the tenor ukulele. There are three crowd-pleasers included on the album. First is Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” which is successfully executed. Next is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which is a ukulele standard that Shimabukuro reinterprets in a more complicated arrangement with backing woodwind and string sections to give an orchestral feel. It is the heart of the album as the ukulele feels simple and light, mixing slow strums with slow finger picking. “Akaka Falls,” out of nowhere really, is a cover of the Family Guy theme song.
“Missing Box” and “Ukulele Five-O” are jaunts that are lifted from the jazz/swing era, with a hint of southern rockabilly. They build through straightforward strumming to a rapid interlude. Shimabukuro continues to showcase the rapidity of his playing, allowing the ukulele to become a melodic and aggressive instrument.
Grand Ukulele is instrumental music that lifts spirits and subtly suggests a fishing trip. It’s relaxed and filled with a long day of sun, but there’s also the thrill of chasing down a fish who has gotten caught on the hook and is racing for its life. It has the quiet moments of expectation and the hesitant shouts of eager anticipation.