Henry Kapono’s “Artist 2 Artist” series, wherein he invites a notable peer from the Waikiki mainstream to partner with him in chit-chat and vocalizing, scored an unexpected bullseye with Jerry Santos.
Kapono, onetime collaborator with Cecilio Rodriguez (Cecilio and Kapono, remember?), and Santos, leader of the beloved Olomana group, shared a measure of personal reflection and astounding artistry, in an unforgettable 2:15 concert last night (March 31) at Blue Note Hawaii.
The nightclub, at the Waikiki Outrigger resort, has been attracting sellout houses as the pandemic protocols are diminishing. For a Thursday night, the gathering was an emphatic indicator that islanders and visitors are weary from mask-wearing and nestling at home. When a marquee show anticipating a roster of signature tunes from both acts is the lure, a sellout was inevitable.
But this outing was somewhat of a new adventure for both Kapono and Jerry. While each have signature tunes in their respective credits, the evening was a reaffirming evidence that this pair of seasoned singers-composers, who helped shaped the Hawaiian Renaissance of island music from the 60s to the 80s, needn’t have to rely on the best-of-the-best to earn applause. Risky perhaps, but this was an informative exploration of hidden gems in both C&K’s and Olomana’s history.
Further, Kapono has been test-driving this format of sharing tales and tunes for many months now, and has hit paydirt as he seems a lot more confident, assured, relaxed and conversational with his guests. There’s no script, only camaraderie to set the mood and manner, beginning with an exchange of alma matter digs, Kapono being of Punahou upbringing, Jerry of Kamehameha stock. (On an unrelated comparison, Kapono donned shoes, Jerry was barefooted, for this event For what it’s worth).
The agenda began with Kapono, clad in informal black top and grey jeans with a backward-worn baseball cap, making the first pitch – a new tune, “Sweetheart of Mine,” with a pop/country-western demeanor. He segued into a hip new arrangement of “Home in the Islands” (always fund to tweak an oldie and give it new sass) and revealed that he composed the tune late one night while in San Francisco back in the day.
He assumed the role of a troubadour, with one of his staples, “Friends,” telling one and all, “always keep your friends,” and yes, the audience knew this classic musical hand-shaking of sorts. Sing, and they sing-along, too.
Soon thereafter, the evening’s format focused on guest Jerry’s growing up days, and there was a consensus on who inspired them in composing music; an ensuing duet on Kui Lee’s “Days of My Youth” was part of the trek down memory lane. Turned out that both gents adored and admired the prolific Lee, whose compositions put Don Ho on the map.
We also learned that Kapono once played at the New Frontier and Toppe Ada Shoppe
in Waikiki, Jerry at Gauguin and Black Angus in Waikiki , when they were not yet part of the glittery galaxy of island stars.
Jerry was asked how he came to create his best-known tune, “E Ku’u Home O Kahaluu,” and it also turned out that he wrote this one in San Francisco while he was homesick for his island home.
The song then was performed, with audience members invited to chime in, with trusty support for Jerry from Kamuela Kimokeo, his longtime partner in gigs outside of the Olomana umbrella. Not only has he learned all of the Olomana repertoire, he is a master of ki ho alu, Hawaiian slack key guitar.
Jerry and Kamuela provided the bulk of the evening’s riches, showcasing titles not commonly dusted off from the Olomana lifespan of the late Robert Beaumont, which included recollections of that song about rainy Hilo and how the sound of rain made it into the recording, along with a bountiful medley of Olomana treasures including “Seabird” and “E Ku‘u Sweet Lei Poina Ole,” the composition by Emma DeFries, which was a must-perform title during Beaumont’s tenure with Olomana, and for many years after his passing – 40 years ago. Clearly, this also was an homage to the late entertainer.
Indeed, because Jerry has not been so visible during the pandemic, these oldies dusted off for this gig, provided stirring memories from the group’s discography. Jerry seemed to get misty-eyed, too, reviving Henry Mitchell’s anthem for Kahoolawe, when Hawaiian activists were pushing for the island to be returned to the populace here after years of being a military target practice island.
To break up the solemnity of Kahoolawe, Jerry and Kamuela ventured into the double-entendre song “Tewe Tewe, about fishing, with also implications of a sexual nature, depending on how much you understand about this Hawaiian classic.
As the show neared its end, Kapono returned to the stage to render “Teach Your Children Well,” as well as a new composition, “Sailors of Fortune,” a lovely entry advocating the validity of dreams to make things happen, with Jerry doing counterpoint backup vocals.
What the world needs is not only dreamers, but lovers, so “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” was a handy sing-along, too.
And because the audience hollered “hana hou,” Kapono came back to share one more for the road, one of his C&K classics, “Sailing,” written for his dad who was not a sailor.
So, yes, there were little nuggets of information throughout the serenades right down to the final blackout.
Kapono has another Artist 2 Artist show featuring the Makaha Sons, set for April 28. …
And that’s Show Biz. …