Homegrown music star Abe Lagrimas’s career may have taken him everywhere from Malaysia to the Czech Republic, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots—his new album is called Rhythm & Uke, and he celebrates its release at the museum on Wednesday, Oct. 15, with a concert with his musical mentors.
Born in Guam, raised in Hawai‘i, and now based in Los Angeles, the one-time Don Tiki drummer (and vibes man) is busy—he has attended prestigious music programs in New York City, Boston, and Washington D.C.; had an eight-year run as a member of one of South Korea’s top jazz groups, Prelude; and held music clinics in Los Angeles, New Jersey, and the Philippines. Hawai‘i peeps may know him as one-third of the trio Akamai Brain Collective, with his brother Eric Lagrimas and Randy Wong (now executive director of the Hawaii Youth Symphony, head of the Waitiki 7, and cocktail connoisseur).
Joining Lagrimas on stage at the Doris Duke Theatre are top dogs from the Hawai‘i music firmament—‘ukulele player Benny Chong, bass and ‘ukulele player (and UH professor emeritus of composition and theory) Byron Yasui, and vibraphonist and drummer Noel Okimoto. Lagrimas describes each of them as “master musicians,” and he was kind enough to share his thoughts via e-mail while he was in Johannesburg for the Joy of Jazz Festival.
Where did you record the new album?
Rhythm & Uke was recorded in Los Angeles, at a friend’s home studio.
Of the powerhouses playing with you on the CD and in the concert, are any of them mentors to you? And if yes, what’s it like playing with them now?
The new album actually only features two musicians: Los Angeles-based Hamilton Price on bass and myself on the drums and ‘ukulele. I wanted to record an album that featured my music as a solo ‘ukulele player as well as in a trio format of the ‘ukulele, bass, and drums. For this concert, Benny, Byron, and Noel will be joining me and they all have been musical mentors to me pretty much ever since I started playing music.
How do you know these performers, and what does it mean to bring everybody together on stage?
I’ve known Noel the longest and we’ve played together on many different occasions as well as many various instrument combinations. We’re both multi-instrumentalists so we’ve made music together using the drums, vibraphone, ‘ukulele, percussion, and piano. With Benny and Byron, I’ve played with them a few times, usually just sitting in on some of their gigs. That was about 10 years ago, around the time when I first started playing the ‘ukulele. They have this really amazing chemistry whenever they play and Benny is just a beast on the ‘ukulele. I think I’ve improved a bit since then so I’m really looking forward to playing with them now. In addition to Byron being a great bassist, he also plays the ‘ukulele so I’d like the three of us to do something together. I saw Benny earlier this year and he mentioned about wanting to do something with this lineup. I absolutely loved the idea so it’s been on my mind since. With the new album out, I figure I could kill two birds with one stone by doing a CD release concert but feature these amazing musicians.
How often do you get a chance to perform with them?
I’ve played with Noel many times and done some gigs on the drums with Byron on bass. I haven’t done an actual gig with Benny and Byron together so this will be a first!
For this concert, will musicians play solo or as a group?
I will probably do a couple of solo ‘ukulele pieces, and a tune with the three of us on the ‘ukulele. The majority of the show will have us all playing together. I have this stellar lineup of master musicians so I might as well make the most of it!
Want to see the show? Get concert information and tickets here.