CD Review: Jake Shimabukuro - 'Live'

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Kindred Sprits: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen

Show: Tuesday at the Birchmere. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500.

Picture Eddie Van Halen playing a George Harrison tune on a ukulele -- and receiving a standing ovation from a rock-and-roll-loving audience.

If you think that's crazy to suggest, you haven't heard ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro's renditions of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" or my new personal favorite: Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on his new live album, "Live."

Not only do Shimabukuro's versions match the intricacies of the originals, but he also deepens the musical textures.

Shimabukuro is Van Halen's kindred musical spirit; both have dazzlingly fast fingers that produce some of the most superb string music next to Eric Clapton.

That comparison may be unfair -- to the uke player. After all, Clapton and his contemporaries have the luxury of playing guitars, which are crafted to produce an array of rich sounds.

Shimabukuro produces music that is arguably as lush on the ukulele, which is, of course, the tin-sounding instrument Tiny Tim tip-toed through the tulips with.

The 20-track CD includes uncluttered versions of Shimabukuro playing original songs and five covers including the classical Two-Part Invention No. 4 in D Minor, which has won raves from Bach aficionados. No mindless banter, no backup band, no singing: The music is Shimabukuro and his uke.

-- Nancy Dunham

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