Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sweet Hollywaiians: Tropical sounds in a chilly Belsele

Sweet Hollywaiians: Tropische klanken in grijs en mistig Belsele (Nederlands) Sweet Hollywaiians: Tropical sounds in a chilly Belsele (English).

Japanse band warms the audience of 't Ey at its first European tour.
Hans Koert

Last week the Japanese Sweet Hollywaiians visited Europe for a short trip along four venues in France, The Netherlands and Belgium. On the 23rd of January, 2010 the band played at a jam packed 't Ey in Belsele, a village near Sint-Niklaas in the northwestern part of Belgium between Antwerp and Ghent.
Tomotaka Matsui ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The members of the Sweet Hollywaiians, founded and based in Osaka, Japan, were originally street musicians who share a common passion for the 1930s string band tradition in collecting the music of long forgotten legends like Roy Smeck, Sol Hoopii, Eddie Lang and King Nawasi ( and that kind of related musicians). They founded the Sweet Hollywaiians - a string quartet containing a dozen of string instruments like a Hawaiian steel guitar ( a lap steel guitar), banjos, tipples, ukuleles, mandolins, a bass and of course, guitars.
Takashi Nakayama (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The four members, Tomotaka Matsui, Nobumasa Takada, Takashi Nakayama and Kochichi Tsutsumishita developed into a group with an almost perfect interpretation of this seldom hearded music and became sought after artists, not in their own country, Japan, but at festivals at the west coast of the US: Time for a visit to Europe - I wrote a few months ago in a review about its latest album, Ticklin' The Strings and last weekend, we finally could hear this fabulous group alive and well at the 't Ey in Belsele.
The Sweet Hollywaiians ( f.l.t.r.: Kohichi Tsutsumishita - Tomotaka Matsui - Nobumasa Takada - Takashi Nakayama) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
During the first set a lot of well known tunes were presented, like On The Beach of Waikiki; the Honolulu Stomp; Ten Tiny Toes - One Baby Nose, originally recorded by Sol Hoopii and the tune Singin' In The Bathtub, made known by R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders, originally recorded in a 1930 Looney Tunes cartoon "Sinking In The Bathtub" (sic) featuring the film debut of Bosko the "Talk-Ink Kid". Tomotaka, who performed the lap steel guitar, a Hawaiian guitar played on its knees, introduced us to his own interpretation of the tune (My Wife Is Always ) Singin' The Blues; Nobumasa paid, playing Happy Birthday, homage to Django Reinhardt, who would have been 100 years that day. During this set they performed some well known standards too, like the St. Louis Blues, Milenberg Joys and Rum and Coca Cola which resulted in a spontaneous kind of community singing by the audience.
Kohichi Tsutsumishita and Tomotaka Matsui ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
It was remarkable to learn that most of the members were multi-instrumentalist, who seemed to change instruments in an easy way, like Nobumasa, King Mario for friends, who played the tenor banjo, the ukulele, the guitar and the mandolin.
Nobumasa "King Mario" Takada ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
In its second set the Sweet Hollywaiians showed to feel at home in the cozy club and opened with the title tune of its latest recording Ticklin' The Strings, followed by tunes like Sweet Sue; My Girl from the South Sea Islands ( originally composed and recorded by the Hawaiian Beach Combers); Many Happy Returns of the Day and a great interpretation of the 1928 Eddie Lang - Joe Venuti composition Doin' Things, one of the high lights of the evening - played by King Mario as a reborn Eddie Lang on the guitar and Takashi on the mandolin; why don't we hear this kind music more often played live on stage?

Nobumasa Takada and Takashi Nakayama ( [photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The second set learned that they enjoyed being here, playing before an audience which likes this kind of music, for people that came specially to listen to this unique group from far and near. During the second set, which was less static, more visible elements and gimmicks were build in; and the audience liked it! They finished the concert with the Hula Girl, the title song of one of its first recordings, which is still one of my favorites.
Takashi Nakayama and Nobumasa Takada ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The band surprised in its encore changing places and instruments and Tomotaka and Takashi played the ukulele in a kind of ukulele-battle faster and faster, like I remembered to have heard before as a gimmick of the popular Japanese ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro. The music of the 1930s, as played by legends like Roy Smeck, Sol Hoopii and King Nawahi was lived again in the Sweet Hollywaiians, who warmed a chilly Belsele with its hot sounds. Thank Mario, Tomotaka, Takashi and Kohichi - hope to see you back soon, not next week, as Mario promised, but maybe next year !!
Hans Koert

If you were anxious to hear these Sweet Hollywaiians alive in concert like me, than you seem to fit into the profile of the regular Keep Swinging blog visitors .... fascinated by jazz and jazz-related music from 1910 up to 2010. If you don't want to miss any contribution, let me know and we'll keep in touch.

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