My friend Doug had been telling me for quite some time about Jake Shimabukuro and how good he was, he even gave me his latest CD, but as far as I was concerned, no ukulele player would ever stir up my interest - that is, until one day I chanced upon a YouTube video of Guitar God Tommy Emmanuel jamming with Jake ... wow ... it was time for me to start paying attention and when Jake's US tour brought him to Southern California, I bought four tickets, two for me, two for Doug. We went with our wives and had a nice dinner before the show.
It is hard to believe that a single musician, equipped with only four strings and zero special effects, can grab and keep the attention of a large crowd for an entire evening. But he did it. Jake's set included a few self-penned numbers as well as a handful of cover songs taken from different genres. The first half of the show was good, but not great. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" sounded great. Things picked up considerably in the second half, when Jake threw in his numbers of high virtuosity, among them Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", the last song on Earth you would ever expect to hear on a uke. Spurred by the crowd's yells of "Faster!", Jake played "Crazy G" at ever-increasing speeds - that was the highlight of the evening. He also played "Sakura, Sakura", a traditional Japanese song and "Third Stream", an uptempo song he wrote himself.
Jake came across as a very likable, humble and hard-working young man. The crowd rewarded him with a richly-deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.
Here's "Crazy G", performed live just the way I saw it in November 2009:
|My friend Doug, who first introduced me to Jake Shimabukuro's music|
|The Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga|