As we swing into the third week of this series, the sun is out in our corner of Wisconsin. It feels good on your face as you step out of the car. Hey, it’s a relatively balmy 25 degrees.
But that’s nothing compared to Christmas in Hawai’i, where we’re finding today’s three under the palm trees.
We served up a cut from Arthur Lyman’s “With A Christmas Vibe” the other day. From the liner notes to that 1959 album:
“The 50th state lends its own distinctive twists to the season, warmly spicing the festivities with a tropical clime and an exotic flair. Santa surfs past Diamond Head; hostesses wrap red and green leis around your neck; mai-tais are swizzled with sticks of Rudolph and kin; palm trees sway, festooned with ornaments, and Arthur Lyman and the boys send out holiday vibes way after the last rays of the Christmas sun have ruffled the horizon.”
We’ll start with Lyman, a native Hawai’ian who from the ’50s to the ’70s cranked out a form of jazz that came to be known as exotica, then lounge.
“We Three Kings,” Arthur Lyman, from “With A Christmas Vibe,” 1959. The album originally was released as “Mele Kalikimaka.”
This odd version, heavy on percussion, suggests the three kings in transit. There’s just a small slice of the familiar tune.
We’ll finish up with some more authentic Hawai’ian music.
“Ho’onani I Ka Hale (Deck the Halls)” and “Dear St. Nick,” Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai’i, from “Christmas Time with Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai’i,” 1978.
I don’t know much about Hawai’ian music. However, I received this CD some years ago from my friend Conan, who lives in Hawai’i and either ran a record store or worked at one. Conan has excellent taste.
Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawai’i are cultural legends in their home state. Kamae, a ukelele player, got together with slack-key guitarist Gabby Pahinui, steel guitarist David “Feet” Rogers and bassist Joe Marshall in 1960 to play traditional Hawai’ian folk music. The Sons went through a variety of lneups until Kamae retired in 1992 to become a filmmaker, focusing on Hawai’ian culture.
Rogers has the slack-key steel solo on “Ho’onani I Ka Hale (Deck The Halls),” which blends traditional Hawai’ian music with the tune you know.
“Dear St. Nick” is a pleasant little original written — and I think sung — by Dennis Kamakahi, who wrote many of the Sons’ songs from the late ’70s on.