Jake Shimabukuro, "Nashville Sessions" (JS Records)
Jake Shimabukuro draws sounds both traditional and innovative from his ukulele on "Nashville Sessions," an adventurous, dazzling album.
Using the instrument from his native Hawaii to explore a variety of styles in the company of drummer Evan Hutchings and bassist Nolan Verner, Shimabukuro broadens his sonic palette on 11 original compositions stretching from jazz fusion to rock and beyond.
The 39-year-old virtuoso sticks to the instrument's natural voice on "Galloping Seahorses" but flies across the fretboard as Hutchings extracts intensity from all over his kit, the tune reminiscent of violinist Jean-Luc Ponty's 1970s prime. "Motown" has some trademark Santana tones, but it's really Shimabukuro driving his uke to conquer soundscapes it rarely explores.
"Celtic Tune" is adorned with a string section which could even be ukuleles in disguise while "Blue Haiku" sees the member of the lute family sounding like a kalimba in the hands of Larry Carlton. On other tracks, it's Steve Vai and Jeff Beck who come to mind.
Closer "Kilauea," named after the Hawaiian volcano adorning the album cover, flows and erupts in an extended gush of scorching distortion. It fades into an uneasy quiet, but with a sense that it may soon burst out again.
Recorded in a jazz-like six days with no preconceptions or plans, Shimabukuro's mastery of the instrument, the abilities of his bandmates and the variety of the tunes on "Nashville Sessions" add up to a very enjoyable effort.