It was nearly 15 years ago that the world first caught notice of the stunning musical artistry of Jake Shimabukuro. The young ukulele player’s gorgeous rendition of George Harrison’s classic rock ballad “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” became one of the most-watched clips on the then newly launched YouTube platform. A lavish, exhilarating feast of a performance, it signaled the emergence of a prodigiously gifted virtuoso who was redefining how the ukulele was played and heard. Few artists arrive so clearly – and singularly – talented as Jake did. Guitar Player magazine called him “the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele.” And no less than Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, himself a four-string enthusiast, weighed in with this glowing assessment: “Jake is taking the instrument to a place that I can’t see anybody else catching up with him.” That’s because the Hawaii native was burning up the ground behind him. Since the release of his 2006 album, Gently Weeps, Jake has been riding a wave of breakthroughs and triumphs rare for any musician, let alone one who plays a ukulele. A tireless live performer, he’s floored audiences across the globe, appearing at music festivals as varied as Bonnaroo and the Fuji Rock Festival. He’s played with world-renowned orchestras at prestigious venues from the Hollywood Bowl to the Sydney Opera House. He even performed for that rarest of audiences: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. And all the while, he’s issued a string of chart-topping and award-winning albums that have challenged all notions of what is possible with a ukulele. Music fans will no doubt hail his latest effort, Trio as an highwater mark for Jake, and he regards it as a personal best. “Beyond playing the ukulele, I’ve really tried to grow as a writer,” he says. “Spending time in Nashville and being around great songwriters has inspired and influenced me, and of course, working with Nolan and Dave has brought me to musical places I never thought possible…”
Another year and another chance to catch up with what Jake is up to. We get into the creation of the new Trio album, including the artists that appear on it, the versions of a couple of classic rock covers and a very meaningful (and beautiful) traditional favorite. We talk about releasing this one on Mascot Label Group. Our conversation weaves us into deeper territory with some words on how music takes shape and changes depending on when you’re listening to it, and how maintaining balance is a key reminder. Trio is in fact, one of those albums where I can sense the growth as a person, an artist and an interpreter of sound that keeps some of then and branches off into the now while leaving room for the then. Aloha.