Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom

Check out this storyboard frame from Disney Animator Ward Kimball's Oscar-winning 1953 film, Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom. (It could very well a Ukulelia group portrait from our wild college days: Mark Frauenfelder driving, me in the beanie riding shotgun, and Craig Robertson in the pork pie (natch) in the back seat.) Link

Lyle Ritz on NPR

The Sunday, July 29th broadcast of Weekend Edition featured jazz-uke legend Lyle Ritz. Listen in as Lyle talks about using Garage Band to record his latest CD No Frills (a bit of irony, given Lyle's legendary stature as a session bassist with the Wrecking Crew).
"I'm a firm believer and exponent of the art of noodling," Ritz says. "You don't necessarily have to have a goal in mind, you don't have to have a specific phrase or song that you're working on, but you just fool with it and things happen. And I call the result the fruit of the noodle."

We call it genius. Link (Thanks, Janette!)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

San Francisco Exhibition Starts This Week

We'll have much more to say about this shortly, but here's a link to event information for "Evolution of the 'Ukulele: The Story of Hawaii's Jumping Flea." Curated by Stephen Becker via the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in SF and runs from August 2 through October 21, 2007:
"Providing an in-depth look at an eclectic musical tool, Evolution of the 'Ukulele presents the history, development, fine craft, and contemporary fanaticism of this popular instrument. Some of the finest 'ukuleles ever crafted will be on display, drawn from local and national private collections. The exhibition is a centerpiece for a 'ukulele music festival on September 7 and 8 featuring a benefit concert by 'ukulele superstar Jake Shimabukuro, known for his lightning-fast fingers."

Be there, and be sure to wear some flowers in your hair... Link

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Another Night in Gotham

A Ukulele Noir at MoPikins with the fabulous Bliss Blood, Sweet Soubrette, Kelli Rae Powell and Jamie Scandal...Where are you going to be on August 7th???


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Dan

Yeah, so what are YOU doing? Dan Scanlan is doing this:

"If one wants a peaceful joyful world one needs to embody peace and joy. That’s why Dan offers a brilliant example to all of us. He tirelessly devotes himself to peace, keeps connections alive and a joke in his heart. Always willing to share his spirit with everyone he touches, love sustains him. Music, laughter and dance surround him.
Dan’s music mirrors his jovial personality. The lightness and ephemeral touch of the uke lifts our spirits to dance. His vocals energize us to go out and have fun making peace. Dan acts from his wonderfully generous heart. He produces music and shares. He doesn’t hold back."

Make a joyful noise.

check this out

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ian Whitcomb: The Mother Lode

Ukulelia recently caught up with Ian Whitcomb, Don of the Ukulelia College of Musicology. (Maybe he's a Superdon...) Sez he,
"Have you told your audience about how they can watch me strumming Ukie on the Tonight show and other shows from the 60s by visiting YouTube and putting in my name? Over 60 videos."

"PS: my new Mel Bay songbook is published at the end of this month: "The Ian Whitcomb Songbook" --25 of my own songs all uke friendly. You can get details by calling 1-800-- 8-- MELBAY."

Well, the book is not out as of this posting, but check back here around July 31. In the meantime, if you don't have all of Ian's other books, get them now. All of Ian's books include CD recordings of the songs contained therein, and are really useful references for the old chestnuts that Ian arranges, as well as for Ian's own original compositions. Plus the song arrangements include full verses in addition to the choruses, which is something that few uke books do.

And now, if you still need more Ian, you must make a pilgrimage to the Oregon Festival of American Music in Eugene, OR, August 1-11, 2007. Each year the Festival has a unique theme. This year it's a tribute to Richard Rogers. Ian is a regular on the playbill at the OFAM. Here's a page with a listing of the various appearances that he'll be making this year. Lots of Ian this year, including:

Note: If you attend all of Ian's performances and submit a 500 page essay on the theme "Why Broadway Should Stage an All-Ukulele Revival of South Pacific," you will receive 7 credits toward your BU (Bachelor of Uke) Degree from the Ukulelia College of Musicology, Kaka'ako Campus.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rock That Uke Rocks Sacto

Tonight, Friday July 13, 2007, the world's premier Ukumentary, Rock That Uke, will be rocking Sacramento. Sez filmmaker Bill Robertson:
"Movies on a Big Screen, a production of Shiny Object Digital Video, Inc., will present a special Sacramento screening my quirky, award-winning documentary about the modern ukulele scene, "Rock That Uke."

The screening is Friday, July 13 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $5. Real movie popcorn and bottled water are $1 each! The screening venue is The Fools Foundation Art Gallery, located in Midtown Sacramento, 1025 19th Street @ 19th & K, down in the basement off the alley.

I'll be on hand for a Q&A after the screening. The doc will be preceded by "Cinema du Ukulélé," a collection of ukulele shorts that includes Ryan McFaul's cinema classic "Gay Boyfriend," starring The Hazzards (formerly The Ukes of Hazzard)!

Ukuleles! Popcorn and water for a buck each! What more could you possibly want on a Friday night? Well, you know--I mean in Sacramento."
And if that ain't cheap enough for you, check this out, Robert Armstrong, the Cheap Suit Serenader, Mickey Rat creator, RTU featured artist--and Ukulelia's Official-Fine-Artiste-in-Residumps--will perform a set of uke music after the screening and Q&A. Across from the Old Spaghetti Factory dumpster. For real.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Thing in the Alley

It was a cool summer night in Ukuleletown. I had a gig at Louie’s and was walking home late. It had just rained and the streets were slick. The reflections from the streetlights were stark and dramatic.

No one was out. My footsteps did that cliched echo thing. As I passed an alley, I heard a strange sound from a dumpster sitting behind one of the burger joints there. You know I had to stop.

Proceeding cautiously down the wet litter strewn alley, I stopped in front of the offending dumpster. Clang! Thump! The huge metal container rocked. What the…? I grabbed the metal lid and flipped it up.

I was greeted with the horrifying sight of a huge, bloated creature rooting pig-like in the fetid restaurant remains, gorging itself on the garbage there. It was immense, though still vaguely human. The tiny red eyes barely registered any signs of intelligence as they focused on the scraps of discarded food it clutched in its tiny claw-like hands.

The wrinkled and stained linen sportcoat and Gucci loafers gave it away: it was a Record Company Executive! I relaxed. There were many of these in Ukuleletown and, for the most part, they were harmless if kept away from Musicians.

Disgusted, I slammed the lid back down, plunging the creature back into its own darkness. I found a grubby, stained towel on a stair railing a few feet away and wiped my hands clean; leaving the alley and continuing on my way.

The big record companies are Corporations. Their bottom line, like all Corporations, is profit. What makes the Music Industry different is that the product it promotes, markets and sells is Unique. It’s not a widget, or a skill that anyone can learn. It’s something only a few individuals can do. This doesn’t necessarily make them wonderful or god-like…it just makes them unique. It CERTAINLY does not make them rich!

My young daughter and I play an old game sometime. She will ask me if I would rather be the “fly or the windshield”…and I answer based on how I feel. Then we think of new comparative examples: the Butterfly or the Net, the Dog or the Leash, the Stopsign or the Truck, the Wind or the Willow. They are not always black or white.

Sometimes I think that musicians have to think about where they are, what they want to be. Would you rather be the Playing Card or the Poker Chip?

Hell. I’m in. Hit me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Vincent Cortese: Smackin' it Like Smeck!

[updated and corrected] A few weeks back I attended Vincent Cortese's workshop at Mike DaSilva's studio. Vincent is terrific; catch him whenever you can. The two biggest things I learned during the lesson was one, how to do an authentic Smeckian roll stroke (three fingers: pinkie, index, and thumb only), and two, that about the only thing that Roy didn't do to abuse a uke was to smash it on the floor. The cosmetic condition of Vince's vintage Martin (Vincent sez not one of Roy's --ed.) would bring tears to the eyes of any collector.

Vince wrote in the comments (and I'm bringing it to the main page for all readers):

"Hi, good people.. the uke is a long scale soprano made by a company out of Chicago-Wurlitzer.. I was attending a show by the great and wonderful Tomas Kubinek and he called me up to play his uke.. never played this uke before this performance.. it is a gorgeous instrument.. the Martin I played at Mike's did not belong to Roy, but he did give me the Harmony I used at the workshop.. I have had the Martin only about 3 years.. hope everyone gets some measure of enjoyment out of the video.. best to all.."

Vince taught us that Roy's technique (and "uptight" D tuning) was built for showmanship and projection. This was a guy playing for huge theaters. My main point in all this is that you can't be dainty and get Smeck out of your uke. It's a really percussive style that requires aggressive strumming. I'm going to re-string my old beater Hohner mahogany uke so I can really get my Smeck on while I'm learning.

Do not attempt this on your mint condition 5K. Link

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lightnin' Wells: 12th Street Rag

This is what I'd love to learn next. Anyone have this arrangement as played by Lightnin' Wells? Link

About Those Archives

Can't get enough Ukulelia? Check out our archives by scrolling down to the bottom of the page and clicking on a month and year that interests you. Clunky, we know, but we'll get it fixed one of these days.

James Hill at DaSilva

Bay Area ukers: put this on your do not miss list. Next Sunday, July 15, James Hill will be conducting a workshop (3-5pm) and concert (7:30pm) at Mike DaSilva's studio.

Reservations for both events highly recommended!

Dang it, how am I ever going to save up enough cash to buy a uke from Mike when he keeps putting these not-to-be-missed musical programs together? My only hope is that since my wife will be going to the concert with me I can show her how wonderful Mike's instruments are...

James is doing a bunch of gigs in California this month, including heading to Santa Cruz for a workshop sponsored by the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz on July 19. More info on James's calendar, here.

I'll have to remember to ask James what he's heard from Barbara Bush lately...Link

Ukulelia Suggestions

We welcome suggestions on stories, links, and site improvements. If you have something you'd like us to know about, please use the "suggestions" link at the top of the page. It will auto-generate an email to me (Gary) with "Ukulelia Suggestion" as the subject line. Please leave that as the subject line, as we get a lot of spam, and this will help us separate the "My Dog Has Fleas" stuff from the "Your Dog Wants Viagra" stuff.

If you already have either Craig's or my email addresses in your book, please include "Ukulelia" somewhere in your subject line when you email us directly. We've miss many a timely suggestion simply because we didn't recognize the sender and the subject line said something suspicious like "great pix here."

If you're writing us from Japan, we often have trouble reading your email, and sadly, are now getting a lot of Japanese spam. Use the "suggestions" link and if you can, please use English fonts.

Tenting Tonight

The live and kicking British ukulele duo, The Re-entrants, Phil Doleman and Ian Emmerson had their first gig (together)….

” ..was last night, but it was a private party anyway, so you couldn't have come! We played a very well attended 'bring a 7" single' party last night, doing our thing in the garden under a gazebo, next to the delicious buffet (I think I still have a few sausage rolls in my case somewhere). The audience were really into it and we got a great reaction. We evn got paid and fed!
Now we really feel like we're a proper band.”

They have lots of great videos up on their website. Dig ‘em

the site

Saturday, July 07, 2007

IZ Tube

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and in celebration of his life, your cousins over at Mountain Apple Records are inviting you to create a video of yourself performing Iz's White Sandy Beach and post it to YouTube. Follow the instructions on this page and visitors to the commemorative site will be able to view your video by clicking on an interactive map.

If you'd like to learn the song, the Honolulu Advertiser has everything you need right here, with Jody Kamisato showing you da kine way play.

As an added incentive, each week Mountain Apple will be giving away a copy of the newly released Wonderful World CD to the submitter with the best video. The new CD is a combination of unreleased archival Iz recordings backed up by new orchestral arrangements. Here's an article about the production from the Star Bulletin.

The CD has sparked some debate within the uke community as to whether Mountain Apple's Jon de Mello has added positively to the Iz oeuvre or whether he's gone Phil Spector on Iz. We have not yet heard the CD, and will withhold judgment until then. But we suspect that as usual, interest in Iz's music will spark interest in the ukulele, which is always a good thing. Link

(Thanks, Patrick!)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Eddie Kamae chosen for National Heritage Fellowship

Ukulele legend Eddie Kamae was recently recognized by the NEA for his contributions to the folk and traditional arts. Much aloha to you, uncle! Link

Dark Side of the Uke

Over on Ukulelia's big sister blog, BoingBoing, David Pescovitz noted that the Tatamimats will be doing an encore all-ukulele performance of Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side of the Moon album on Friday, July 6 in San Francisco. Details and related links here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Uke Fun in '61

Dig that crazy beat. If my parents had been this cool I would never have run away with the circus. Link
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