2. Jungle Rain
3. Sands of Waikiki
4. Spring Spends the Winter in Hawaii
5. Wailea
6. Ka Makani Kaili Aloha
7. Flying
8. Waikiki
9. Waikoloa
10. Hawaii Calls
11. Pua Maeole
12. An Island Special to Me
Ohta-san (Ukulele), Bob Albanese (Piano), Bruce Hamada (Bass),
Lyle Ritz (Bass),Danny Otholt (Guitar),Jimmy Funai (Guitar),Morgan Grant (Drums),Noel Okimoto (Drums)

A new album of jazz Hawaiian music
Text by Masami Kobayashi (Nihon Ukulele Association)

This album presents listeners with a high point in Ohta-san's Hawaiian music career, his combo performances in which a jazz or bossa nova atmosphere can be heard. As the title "Hawaiian Suite" indicates, all the songs in this album are jazz-based Hawaiian music with backup provided primarily by Ohta-san's concert tour members, pianist Bob Albanese and bassist Bruce Hamada.

[Numbers in ( ) are the tracks in which the player plays.]

Ohta-san : Ukulele (All tunes)
The world's No.1 ukulele soloist has a large repertoire, approximately 6000 tunes. Born in Honolulu on Oct. 21, 1934, Ohta-san's actual name is Herbert Ichiro Ohta. During his youth, when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show or while on U.S. Marine Corps' duty in Japan, he used the name, "Herbert Ohta." Following his return to Hawaii from Japan in 1964, at the time of his record debut with the tunes "Sushi" and "Bonsai," he was given the stage name "Ohta-san" by his producer, Don McDiarmid, Sr.

As a child, Ohta-san became interested in playing the ukulele and absorbed the techniques of many ukulele old-timers. He went on to establish his own "Herb Ohta style." Among the musicians who exerted a major influence on his musical career were Perry Botkin Sr. and Eddie Kamae. Ohta-san acquired various techniques in the process of taking private lessons from Eddie Kamae. A well-known story has it that the budding ukulele virtuoso learned so fast that in no time he became a master player himself. Ohta-san also studied musical theory under Barbara Smith at the University of Hawaii - Manoa.

Bob Albanese : Piano (1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12)
Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1957, Albanese started playing the piano at the age of 8 and received first prize in the All New Jersey Piano Competition at age 13. Between 1975 and 1979 he studied at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston where, under the guidance of many instructors, he mastered classical piano, composition, and jazz improvisation. Albanese's music has gained him a wide following and he has played with many groups.

It was a great moment for both himself and his fans when Albanese was selected to be pianist for Buddy Rich Big Band's 1981 US and Canada tour. In his early days, Albanese played the Hammond organ at a Harlem club for some time, and then in the latter half of 1980s he moved to Puerto Rico to play piano in a Latin band. Mauricio Smith, the band's flutist, is an old friend of Ohta-san. Smith has participated in Ohta-san's recordings as both a player and an arranger. Smith created an opportunity for Albanese to meet Ohta-san (as explained later in these notes). From 1990 through 1994, while Albanese performed as house pianist at the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center in New York, Smith took part playing synthesizer in recordings of Broadway hit tunes and also in some live performances of Rita Moreno and Carol Channing. He was also involved in recording or touring with Ray Mantilla's Latin band.

Albanese first met Ohta-san in 1994. After Mauricio Smith informed Ohta-san that a good pianist named Bob Albanese was in Honolulu to perform at a jazz event, Ohta-san went to hear him play. Ohta-san happened to be in the middle of making a recording with Anita O'Day.

Anita had quarreled with her band's pianist and had to make do without the pianist. Ohta-san was impressed by Albanese's performance and asked him to join in the Anita O'Day recording. The CD was born without a hitch. Ever since, Albanese has flown from New York to Hawaii whenever requested to perform for Ohta-san's jazz albums.

Bruce Hamada : Bass
(1, 5, 9, 12 )
Hamada was born in Honolulu in 1957. Influenced by his drummer father, Bruce Hamada, Sr., Hamada became interested in music as a child. After completing a Musical Education major at the University of Hawaii, Hamada studied bass, keyboard, composition, arrangement and music production at the Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles. Although Hawaii-born jazz musicians tend to relocate to the mainland U.S. if they become successful, Hamada has remained in Hawaii even after gaining recognition in the homeland of jazz. He has played with many local and visiting musicians.

At present, Hamada plays at the Halekulani Hotel's "Lewers Lounge" with pianist Jim Howard. He also enjoys playing with a fusion group at the "Black Orchid" restaurant.

Lyle Ritz : Bass
(2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11)
As demonstrated in Ritz's ukulele duo performances with Ohta-san in Ohta-san's previous album, "Ukulele Duo" (JVC VICG-60452), the relationship of these two musicians is quite strong. Most of the time, however, Ritz generally works as backup bassist for Ohta-san during his recordings and concert tours. Lyle Ritz is a top-notch studio bassist who has backed up first-rate musicians such as the Beach Boys; he is also a big-time musician who has explored a new field, jazz ukulele.

Danny Otholt : Guitar (2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 )
Danny Otholt, who amused fans with his beautiful guitar solo and vocal in several of Ohta-san's CDs, passed away after this recording was made. Therefore, this is the last album in which listeners can hear Otholt playing.

Jimmy Funai : Guitar (3)
Although Funai plays in only one tune on this album, he and Nando Suan occasionally play their unique ad-lib in Ohta-san's recordings and concert tours.

Morgan Grant : Drums
(2, 4, 7, 10 )
Grant, who was playing with Danny Otholt's pianist brother, was also asked to play when Danny Otholt joined in one of Ohta-san's recordings. Although Grant's playing can be powerful, as you will notice in this recording, he does the backup on a subdued note. Since Grant also has experienced war, he sometimes talks on about the past with Ohta-san.

Noel Okimoto : Drums
Like Bruce Hamada, Okimoto is a drummer who makes Hawaii his base in spite of the recognition accorded him by mainland musicians. Okimoto plays in his own jazz combo, the Out Takes, at a jazz festival held in Honolulu every summer. Moreover, he plays at an ukulele festival held there during the same season. Okimoto, who plays keyboard too, is a versatile artist who backs a great number of Hawaii musicians in their recordings.


1. Hawaii
Although "Hawaii," or "I Am Hawaii," (a song composed by Elmer Bernstein as the theme for "Hawaii", a movie based on the James Mitchener novel) is better known, the song here is Ohta-san's original tune with the same title.

Jamie Hope writes most of the lyrics for Ohta-san's original tunes. While Hope has written the lyrics for three songs other than "Hawaii" on this album, "Hawaii" has lyrics written by Ohta-san himself, in which he manifests his affection for his homeland, Hawaii. Ohta-san used to play "Song for Anna" composed by Andre Popp as his theme song; lately he has been replacing "Song for Anna" with "Hawaii."

It is reported that the late, popular Japanese actor and singer Yujiro Ishihara, with whom Ohta-san was on friendly terms, liked "Hawaii" and that he was thinking of using it as the theme tune for his next movie. Ishihara regrettably passed away before this plan could be realized. Ohta-san dedicated a song to his memory entitled "To You"("You" also suggesting the actor's name "Yu").

2. Jungle Rain
The music and lyrics of this song were written by David M. Kupele in 1959 and were supplemented by Robert Alex Anderson in 1971. The lyrics read as follows, "I found my love and in my heart, I'm bidding farewell to jungle rain." This song was a hit in the 1970s when one version was performed by the Hawaiian Surfers and another by "Al and Clay," two members of that group.

Although the title seems appropriate for the exotic sounding music that was popular at the time, in light of the lyrics' contents it is actually a love song.Ohta-san is on good terms with Anderson and has asked Anderson to write lyrics for some of Ohta-san's songs. Probably due to this relationship, Ohta-san has added many of Anderson's tunes to his repertoire. In this number, Ohta-san first plays the melody as it was originally composed and is backed up by the accompaniment of Danny Otholt on guitar, the bass of Lyle Ritz and the drums of Morgan Grant, and then Otholt takes a turn at ad-libbing.

3. Sands of Waikiki
In 1960, Jack Pitman, who wrote the popular "Beyond the Reef," also wrote this love song. It was a favorite song of singers like Kalani Kinimaka who was one of stars of "Hawaii Calls", Emma Veary and Don Ho. The lyrics read, "For ev'ry grain of sand at Waikiki, a love affair becomes a memory. My lonely heart is crying, "Here am I." Take me, make me yours alone, and let the future be among the golden sands of Waikiki." Previously, a recording was released of this song sung by Gary Aiko with backup provided by all the members playing here. It was considered as nothing but "vocal accompaniment" for them.

Rumor has it that the abovementioned musicians were bewitched by the beautiful melody and recorded another take and that the recording has been finally seen the light of day after being carefully tucked away. The tune starts with Bob Albanese's vigorous introduction followed by Ohta-san's ukulele. Ohta-san and Albanese ad-lib in turn following a modulation. In the last segment, after yet another modulation, the ukulele and the piano intertwine with each other making the song sound like a repeatedly blossoming flower.

4. Spring Spends the Winter in Hawaii
This is a happy song with a hula beat co-written by Don McDiarmid Sr. and Robert Alex Anderson in 1964. Here it is played in bossa nova. The title of the song, which has rarely been recorded, was by mistake listed as "Spring Spends the Summer..." in an Ohta-san CD, "Chotto Matte Kudasai".

Some people might consider this a Hawaiian PR song to lure people from the US mainland to Hawaii. Its lyrics go, "When the winds of winter blow and the weather's ten below, that's the perfect time to go to Hawaii. Remember spring spends the winter in Hawaii." The tune starts with Morgan Grant's drumming, then Lyle Ritz's playing melody on bass and followed by Danny Otholt's ad-libbing on guitar. Ohta-san finally appears in the latter half and Lyle and Otholt play rhythm at the song's end. The musicians play lightheartedly in this stylish arrangement.

5. Wailea
A slow tune with lyrics written by Jamie Hope and music composed by Ohta-san. Wailea is a resort area located on the south coast of Maui where there are big hotels. The lyrics go, "Set the sails, ride the wind, Wailea's waiting for you just across the sea, You'll visualize, then realize, It's paradise before your eyes." Different from other tunes, the introduction played by Ohta-san and the melody which follows played on the ukeand the piano create images of a yacht sailing across a vast stretch of water or of waves rolling onto on a beach. Ohta-san's technique, which can stir the imagination even with mere single-note picking, is simply "wonderful."

6. Ka Makani Kaili Aloha
A love song written by Matthew H. Kane in 1916. It relates the story of a man who wants his wife who deserted him to come back and consult a kahuna (priest). When the man pours the potion given him by the kahuna into the water of the beach on Maui where he and his wife used to visit, the potion takes effect and the wife comes back to him. The title is translated as "The wind Snatches Love" with "Ka" being a definite article, "makani" wind, "kaili" to snatch or to take by force, and "aloha" love.

Though this song is usually sung in a clear, resonant voice, here it is played lightly in a samba rhythm. The arrangement is quite simple: Ohta-san and Danny Otholt play the melody first, and then Bob plays ad-lib and again Ohta-san plays the melody.

7. Flying
This is a song about a pair of lovers going their separate ways. It was composed by Patrick Downes in 1982 and became a hit with Peter Moon's vocal and ukulele playing. It has sad lyrics which read, "Flower leis, woven like the many days and countless ways we hold our hands. Flying, soon you'll be flying, and like a teardrop drying leaving just a memory."

In this number, the tune is played in a light swing tempo without making listeners experience sadness at all. This kind of tune lends itself to improvisation. The melody is played first on the uke; ad-libbing is done on the uke and the guitar, and then the melody is played again on the uke. One of the song's highlights is that it is played primarily in the key of C major and ends in A major.

8. Waikiki
This song was composed by Andy Cummings in 1938. At that time Cummings was on a concert tour around the US as music director with the famous Hawaiian music group, the Huapala Music Troupe. During the time that Cummings was touring, especially in cold states such as Illinois and Michigan, he composed this song because he was experiencing a nostalgic pull from Hawaii.

It has lyrics which sound like a man speaking to his sweetheart. The lingering lyrics go as follows: "Waikiki, my thoughts are always returning out there to you across the sea. My whole life is empty without you." This number as performed here includes the original verse while, in general, verses are often omitted. Ohta-san, too, starts the generally missing verse though he plays only half of it. The arrangement primarily features Ohta-san soloing -- single-note playing and single-string tremolos mingled -- to highlight the beautiful melody.

This tune is often mistaken with a tune entitled "Waikaloa" which is a hula song. The music was written by Ohta-san with lyrics by Jamie Hope. Composed in 1988, its intention is to encourage admiration for a hotel in Waikoloa.

It has beautiful lyrics which go, "There lives a fantasy just waiting for you, an island paradise where dreams come true, from mountains to sea such beauty surrounds, that special harmony is here to be found. Waikoloa, where winds are whispering your name to say aloha, where the world seems to stop and the magic begins for you." Since the chord progression is jazz-like, it lends itself to improvisation. Bob Albanese ad-libs magnificently and Bruce Hamada follows with his bass solo and Ohta-san closes the song with his melody playing.

10. Hawaii Calls
"Hawaii Calls" was a radio program started in 1935 by producer Webley Edwards that went on to last a record-setting 40 consecutive years. To support Edwards, who was not particularly familiar with Hawaiian music, a role dubbed "music director" was worked out. Harry Owens filled the role for the first 2 years, followed by Al Kealoha Perry who worked in that capacity until 1967 when Benny Kalama took the baton on a run for the program's last eight years.

During Owens' period as director, he also was in charge of the music for "Waikiki Wedding", a movie produced by Bing Crosby, which received the Oscar for Best Song with its theme song, "Sweet Leilani." A movie entitled "Hawaii Calls" was planned to take advantage of the popularity of the radio program. Here you hear the song, "Hawaii Calls," that Owens wrote as the theme of the movie in 1937. Naturally, the song was also used in the radio program. Here the song is played lightly in a swing tempo with Ohta-san's melody picking and Danny Otholt's ad-libbing.

11. Pua Maeole
Harry Owens expressed his love for his daughter when he wrote the Oscar-for-Best Song-winning "Sweet Leilani," which starts with "Sweet Leilani, heavenly flower." In 1949, John "Squeeze" Kamana expressed the love he felt for his daughter, Leone Kananipuamaeole Kamana, when he composed this song. Her middle name is translated as "The beautiful flower which will not wither" with "Ka" being a definite article, "nani"beautiful, "pua" flower, "mae" to wither, "ole" not. By using her name in the title, Kamana hoped that his child would be beautiful forever. The melody, like the title, is beautiful. The development toward the middle part done with a temporary modulation and the route back to the main key enrich the atmosphere. Here Ohta-san starts by soloing. In turn, Danny Otholt and Bob Albanese ad-lib followed by Ohta-san soloing. This arrangement helps the song demonstrate its full effect.

12. An Island Special To Me
The last song on this album is once again a song with lyrics written by Jamie Hope and music composed by Ohta-san. The Lyrics go, "Come with me and I'll take you to see an island special to me, where mountains soar, the sky and ocean roar, you will see why it's special to me. Flowers bloom from July through June, fragrance fills the air, Pohaku o Kaanapali's the reason why it's special to me." Also in this final track, listeners can fully enjoy the lively ad-libbing of Bob Albanese and Bruce Hamada and the magnificent picking of Ohta-san.

(Translated by Kenji Kawai; English translation rewritten by Laurence Wiig)

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