It’s been two decades since John Kolivas, the celebrated jazz bassist, established the Honolulu Jazz Quartet. It was formed a few months prior of the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the combo’s milestone 20th anniversary arrives in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
Not to worry. In-between two global distractions to everyday life, the HJQ has survived with its soothing, improvisational vibe and a consistent repertoire that provides a persistent and perpetual forward thrust.
So to mark its 20th birthday, HJQ takes the spotlight at 7 p.m. Sunday (May 22) at Blue Note Hawaii to continue its jazz roller coaster ride and launch a melodic anniversary CD, dubbed “Straight Ahead,” which will be available for purchase at the Blue Note gift shop in the lobby of the Outrigger Waikiki resort.
Besides Kolivas, the trusty foursome includes saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama, pianist Dan Del Negro, and drummer Noel Okimoto on the CD as well as in live gigs like the Blue Note one.
The disc is a breath of fresh air and perhaps a few notable pegs of influence from the membership. The result: contemporary melodics of some pop treasures that retain the group’s jazz roots and foundation, but opening the welcome mat a bit wider to embrace the ears and hearts of a newer, younger generation of fans. After all, all members have their own brand of musicianship, with audiences familiar with their work as desirable instrumentalists for known vocalists in live gigs in the past two decades. These stellar vets are also notable bandsmen in club and concert appearances with a retinue of hall of famers, including Jimmy Borges, Betty Loo Taylor, Gabe Baltazar, Shari Lynn, and Loretta Ables Sayre.
Surely, Kolivas and crew will share some of the newly recorded tunes on “Straight Ahead” in current and future concerts. The musical journey includes a lilting update of “Scarborough Fair,” the tune associated with Simon and Garfunkel, with Kolivas’ jazz influence defining a bouncy three-quarter-waltz trait that is intoxicating and soothing.
Del Negro, with roots in the south side of the Windy City Chicago, engages a coaxing Jawaiian aura on “Wes’ Side, Brah,” an homage not to “West Side Story” but to Oahu’s westside.
Okimoto pumps up a jazzified “In My Room,” giving the early Beach Boys chart hit, that blues undercoat without sacrificing the familiar melody, reidentifying a pop hit to lure in a modern audience.
Okimoto is A-OK, too, giving the countrified “Wichita Lineman” ballad, composed by Jimmy Webb and popularized by Glenn Campbell, an airy, improvisational posture. And what’s jazz, without improv?
And while the Great American Songbook legacy generally refers to vocalists who adopt and reinterpret tunes with lasting appeal, Kolivas embraces a few titles to make him eligible to the GAS club. Two George and Ira Gershwin favorites, “Fascinating Rhythm” (arranged by Del Negro) and “Bess You Is My Woman Now” (arrangedby Tsukiyama) are straight ahead winners for loyal older fans.
Kolivas’ composition, “They Grow Up Too Fast,” refers to the blurring passage of time (though specifically, to how quickly his kids have grown up while he’s been creating jazz jive), but that’s the essence of life and music. The process can age you, yet define you, whatever the speed, but in the end, it’s all about the fun. Think a swirl of funk, blues and soul amid the riveting roots of traditional jazz — resulting in a pot luck of comforting, reflective musical nourishment.
And that equates to joy and pleasure, unexpected or anticipated, on “Straight Ahead;” whatever your age and your speed limit, the road leads to fun…
Here, there, everywhere
Comedian Augie T (for Tulba), a City Council member who’s a graduate of Farrington High School, is staging a benefit concert at 8 p.m. May 20 (Friday) at the Farrington High School auditorium. Mike Tulba also will be featured. It’s a benefit for Student Activities at Farrington — part of Augie’s give-back-to-Farrington posture. Tickets: $10, available at the door. Details: www.augiet.net …
Robert Cazimero performs at 7 p.m. May 21 (Saturday) at Kahilu Theatre, on the Big Island. It’s a longstanding tradition for him to reconnect, following the pandemic shutdowns, with his Waimea fans. Tickets: www.kahilutheatre.org …
John Cruz, on a 25th anniversary tour, also has two playdates at Kahilu Theatre, at 3 and 7 p.m. May 28. Tickets: www.kahilutheatre.org …
And that’s Show Biz. …