Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro has taken the four-string, two-octave instrument to places no one could have imagined back in the golden years of Don Ho, ranging freely across the music spectrum from jazz, blues, and funk to bluegrass, classical, and folk with the ease of a musician fully in command of the possibilities of his chosen instrument.
Born November 3, 1976 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Shimabukuro was given his first ukulele lesson by his mother when he was only four years old. Fascinated by the uke, he eventually began playing regularly at a local Honolulu café. He was a founding member of Pure Heart, and played on the trio’s first two albums before leaving to form Colon. In 2001 Shimabukuro began his solo career, releasing Elaine Maru (In Memory Of) on Surfside Records that same year. He signed with Epic in 2002 and released Sunday Morning on the label a year later, following it with Skyline in 2003. In 2005 he found an international distributor for his own label, Hitchhike Records, and began issuing his own music, including Crosscurrent, Dragon, My Life, and the much lauded Gently Weeps, which included a haunting version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
By that time, Shimabukuro had completely rewritten the book on the possibilities of the ukulele, and his skill on the instrument attracted the ear and attention of Béla Fleck, who has used Shimabukuro as both an opening act and as a sit-in guest with the Flecktones. Shimabukuro’s 2011 release, Peace, Love, Ukulele, topped Billboard’s World Albums chart, and he followed it with Grand Ukulele, produced by Alan Parsons with orchestrations by Kip Winger (and recorded live with no overdubs), in the fall of 2012. Three years later in October 2015, Shimabukuro returned with Travels, a collection less ambitious in scope than its predecessor but still quite varied. His next project, 2016’s Nashville Sessions, was the product of only six days’ worth of recordings, reflecting original compositions written on the spot and played with a new trio Shimabukuro assembled for the set. ~ Steve Leggett