Ka 'Upu Aloha, Aaron J. Sala, Hula Records
If you're a Hawaiian music fan, you've probably already heard Aaron J. Sala ... in the background, at least. He's lent his piano chops to albums by Na Palapalai and Raiatea Helm.
On Ka 'Upu Aloha, Sala steps into the spotlight with a collection of covers that capably runs the gamut from a new composition by Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole to an old chestnut by Rogers and Hart.
The album starts on a high note. "Hale a Kala," composed by Randie Kamuela Fong, features a gorgeous, bright melody, and Sala gives the track vigor and complexity.
Much of the rest of Ka 'Upu Aloha is quieter, piano-centered music. Your enjoyment of the album will depend on your tolerance for Sala's adult contemporary tendencies. He transforms the usually peppy "He 'Ono," for example, into a loungy stroll, but it's worth hanging around to hear Sala reinstate the song's original second chorus, which adds new depth and meaning. Turns out it's not really about tasty food.
The album's not all downtempo–Sala's take on Johnny Almeida's classic "'A 'Oia!" is a sparky romp, and the ipu heke percussion on "Ehuehu Mai Nei 'o Manoa" offers a perfect counterpoint to the song's strong chorus of male voices.
An impressive and varied debut–Sala deserves his new position front and center.