Royal Hawaiian Band

The Royal Hawaiian Band in Concert [10th Anniversary Release]

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This was apparently the first full-scale Royal Hawaiian Band release, appearing in 1985. The band had been in existence for nearly a century and a half before that; it was originally exactly what the name suggests, an ensemble founded by Hawaiian royalty and nurtured by visiting German bandmasters. (It is now a program of the city and county of Honolulu.) The result was a fascinating hybrid form that has been able to absorb, with complete mastery on the part of the musicians, traditions ranging from marches to Viennese waltzes to jazz to postwar popular song, putting an individual stamp on each, and at several junctures in history feeding the Hawaiian version back into the mainland mainstream with commercially potent results. The band's smooth-voiced MC, who appears on all their albums and gives a brief description of each tune (with, as necessary, an urbane translation of Hawaiian-language lyrics), calls the band "the pride of Hawaii's past musical heritage and the hope for its musical future" -- it offers something of an orchestral abstraction of the different phases of Hawaiian music. The band has released several other albums since this one appeared, and buyers in search of just one or two might try a different one instead -- perhaps the two-part Carnegie Hall concert recorded live by the band. This album tries to "recreate the experience of attending a live concert" by the band, which is something of an awkward comprmise; the actual live concerts recorded later on are livelier, and the differences between the Carnegie Hall discs and one recorded for domestic consumption in a Honolulu park are intriguing indeed. The band later evolved a tripartite concert presentation, with a section featuring the band's associated glee club singing Hawaiian songs of the jazz age and, perhaps, a steel guitarist, coming in between the full band portions of the program. That scheme is still evolving here. Those who already own a Royal Hawaiian Band disc will enjoy the fine run of older Hawaiian songs here, and the band's remarkable technical proficiency is fully in evidence.

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