Jake Shimabukuro

Photo courtesy Jake Shimabukuro<[/caption]Life for Jake Shimabukuro keeps strumming along, and it all sounds pretty sweet. The iconic ukulele master has just released his ninth solo CD, Grand Ukulele.

This album blends a variety of musical styles including classical, blues, flamenco, mandolin, rock and surf rock.

On the CD, Shimabukuro was thrilled to work with one of music’s legendary producers, Alan Parsons, who helped create The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon.

“The guy is just a genius. For the sound he captures and the way you watch him work in the studio, it is incredible. He just makes magic,” says Shimabukuro, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Sept. 30, 2005.

“Alan, as a producer, really pushed me in the studio, really wanted me to play beyond what I was accustomed to. He constantly kept challenging me. Sometimes, as an artist, you get focused on the technical work, so it is good to take a step back and look at the big picture the way Alan does.”

Grand Ukulele comes with no overdubbing, as all recordings are featured live, including accompaniment by a 29-piece orchestra.

Preparing for a 40-city tour is usually a highlight for Shimabukuro, and although he is excited to be covering the Mainland by bus over the next couple months, a special someone he is leaving behind makes this tour a little bittersweet.

Nine weeks ago, Shimabukuro’s wife Kelly gave birth to their first child, a baby boy they named Chase.

On his emotions about becoming a father, Shimabukuro says, “This is by far the most incredible experience ever. It is funny, because it really is so much different when it is your child. When it is your own, every little thing is the most precious in the world.”

Before taking off on tour, Shimabukuro showcased his first full-feature documentary. Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, produced by Center for Asian American Media, premiered at the Hawaii International Film Festival. The documentary reveals Shimabukuro’s emergence from small stage success in Hawaii to international recognition.

On gaining reception throughout the world, he says, “It has really been thrilling seeing the popularity of ukulele rise. People like Eddie Kamae back in the 1950s really helped its transition. More recently, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s Over The Rainbow helped people hear the instrument in the way we do in Hawaii. Ukulele is very spiritual and has a lot of depth.”

“Now you see artists like Eddie Vedder and Paul McCartney playing. People are starting to understand it is not just a toy anymore. It’s really great for the instrument, seeing musicians loving and embracing it in a whole new way.”