Jake Shimabukuro performs March 19 at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater.
CLEARWATER – Dubbed “the ukulele wizard,” Jake Shimabukuro has redefined a heretofore under-the-radar instrument and, simultaneously, become its undisputed, unrivaled master.
Shimabukuro will bring his Grand Ukulele Tour to the Tampa Bay area Tuesday, March 19, 7:30 p.m., performing at Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St.
Tickets start at $39. For information about or to purchase tickets for upcoming performances, call 791-7400 or visit www.atthecap.com.
Shimabukuro has been compared to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. This virtuoso astounds with his lightning-fast playing and phenomenal dexterity and conjures sounds from his ukulele one would never expect from this humble, four-string instrument. Blending jazz, rock, classical, traditional Hawaiian and folk, Shimabukuro creates his own unique sound.
Born in 1976 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Shimabukuro’s mother gave him his first ukulele lesson when he was 4 years old, according to the artist’s Facebook page.
“When I played my first chord I was hooked," says Shimabukuro. "I fell in love with the instrument."
His love evolved into a passion. Shimabukuro began experimenting with various techniques, creating new sounds on the tiny four-string, two-octave instrument.
At the same time, Shimabukuro was developing into a true showman. His performance captivates audiences with intricate strumming and plucking, electrifying high-energy grooves and smooth, melodic ballads.
It hasn’t been all that long since Shimabukuro was performing at a local Honolulu café.
Things changed, however, when a YouTube video of Shimabukuro covering George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral.
From his modest beginnings, Shimabukuro found himself playing renowned and popular venues and festivals across North America, Japan and Australia.
He has toured with Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band and he has appeared on television shows such as “The Late Show with Conan O'Brien,” “The Today Show” and “Last Call With Carson Daly.” He also has been featured on NPR's “Morning Edition” and “World Café,” Public Radio International's “The World” and “The Bob Edwards Show” on XM satellite radio.
Now, Shimabukuro is touring in support of his new CD, “Grand Ukulele.”
“Grand Ukulele” boasts a number of wonderful reinterpretations, including Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
An ambitious follow-up to 2011’s “Peace, Love, Ukulele,” the Hawaiian musician’s new record finds him collaborating with legendary producer/engineer Alan Parsons, best known for his work on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and his own highly successful solo project.
“It was very organic how it happened,” said Shimabukuro in a press release from Shore Fire Media. “He attended a couple of my shows near where he lives in Santa Barbara and the concert promoter put us in touch. I was stunned … we ended up having dinner before the show and he casually mentioned the idea of possibly working together on a project. It was a priceless opportunity I didn’t want to pass up – he’s a genius.”
Parsons ended up helping Shimabukuro expand his sound, bringing in a 29-piece orchestra and a big-name rhythm section, including drummer Simon Phillips, session superstar bassist Randy Tico and Kip Winger, who helped with the orchestration.
“The best thing was that, even with all those people, we recorded everything live with no overdubs,” said Shimabukuro. “It was great, tracking live with an orchestra and a rhythm section. We picked up on each other’s subtle emotional cues – you could feel everyone breathing together. It was like the old days of recording – when everyone tracked together – there’s a certain magic that happens.”
In addition to its obvious value as entertainment, Shimabukuro believes music is good medicine.
"Ever since my mother first put a ukulele in my hands at the age of 4, this magical instrument has been a positive force in my life – helping to steer me away from drugs, violence and other negative influences,” he said in a press release from Shore Fire Media. “It fueled my passion for music, which has helped me to develop in mind, body and spirit."
He points to the therapeutic, stress-reducing benefits of playing music and says the ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to learn, as well as one of the most affordable.
"This tiny, four-string instrument is a universe of joy and healing, with a childlike quality about it that returns us to our youth and energizes us,” he said. "If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place."