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Music Review

Jake Shimabukuro - Dragon


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In the liner notes of his new album, Dragon, 'ukulele phenom Jake Shimabukuro writes that he used an analog tape-recording setup for this project, instead of a digital one. He all but apologizes for a few mistakes in his playing because of this, but adds, "I now believe that perfection is boring! It's all of the 'imperfections' that make something beautiful."

But Dragon hardly sounds any different from Shimabukuro's previous albums. It is immaculately produced, with a string section on three tracks and a jazz flute chirping though three others, all masking any beautiful imperfections.

Shimabukuro has been called the Jimi Hendrix of the 'ukulele, but, on tape at least, he's more like the Joe Satriani of the 'uke-fast fingers but not enough grit. This is a shame, because he's one of Hawai'i's most exciting live performers. Somehow, in the studio, Shimabukuro's infectious live energy all too often seems to slip under the waters of smooth jazz.

An appearance by world-class turntablist DJ Qbert promises something edgy, but unfortunately Qbert's contribution here is a plain backing beat, and not the scratch wizardry for which he's famous.

Bottom line:
Fans of Shimabukuro's earlier albums will find a lot to love here. Those pining for the electricity of his live show, cross your fingers for the next one.

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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