George Kuo

Aloha No Na Kupuma

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An album from the extensive slack key masters series on Dancing Cat, Aloha No Na Kupuma features the solo slack key work of George Kuo, one of the lesser names in solo work but a mainstay on the Hawaiian ensemble scene. This album marks his first solo adventure, in fact. Kuo plays in an older style of slack key, informed a bit by the revival of the '70s but based in the methods of playing that were popular in the '30s and '40s. There's less emphasis on virtuosity than the majority of contemporary slack key players and more of a focus on the simple easygoing nature of old times. The songs themselves are seen as more important than the astounding runs on the scales, and the feelings behind the songs are seen as more important than the songs in turn. Since he's dealing in the old style, the playing is all done with ease, quietly strolling through the numbers one by one. Most of the songs are compositions from other slack key players that Kuo has worked with, though a couple are from Queen Liliuokalani. Kuo's focus in playing isn't so thoroughly on his own abilities and ideas as it is a reminder of and nod to the players that have come before him. There are a pair of original compositions here, one a slack key lullaby and the other an exploration of the Mauna Loa tuning (from a concert in 1986). Both are functional works of slack key, with a nice sound to them, despite being somewhat standard in sound. Overall, it's a nice look at the songs of slack key's history, though it would be recommended to pick up albums from the various players that he references throughout for a fuller look at the genre.

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