Jake Shimabukuro’s “Friends”
Article by MARY L. HOLDEN
Right on time for holiday chaos, Jake Shimaburkuro and his friends are offering music that can bring everyone the gifts of tranquility and joy. Well-known in the past two decades for his magic partnership with the ukulele, Shimaburkuro once called this tiny member of the lute family “the instrument of peace.”
In November 2021, he released a new album titled “Friends.” Jake’s friends are all superstars and legends of tune. In this case, it is necessary to drop some names: Willie Nelson. Jimmy Buffet. Bette Midler. Ziggy Marley. Jesse Colin Young. Vince Gill and Amy Grant. Kenny Loggins. Jack Johnson and Paula Fuga. Sonny Landreth. Warren Haynes. Billy Strings. Jon Anderson. Lukas Nelson. Michael McDonald. Ray Benson and the band Asleep at the Wheel. Moon Taxi.
Everyone needs friends like these. Thanks to Jake for giving them an invitation to the best music party on a CD.
“The ‘Jake & Friends’ album is my first collaborative project,” he says. “Every moment was special and meaningful. Being present in the studio with each artist was a dream come true.”
What does his realized dream sound like?
The bluegrass roots of “Smokin’ Strings” explode into fields upon fields from the fingers of Jake and Billy Strings together.
Vince Gill and Amy Grant sing “Something” in a way that both James Taylor (author of the lyrics for “Something in the Way She Moves”) and George Harrison are likely giving four thumbs up from the beyond.
Listen to how being “On the Road to Freedom” rises up to meet your ears with Warren Haynes in the driver’s seat and Jake playing shotgun.
When was the last time you heard Bette Midler sing “The Rose?” It’s been too long. The ukulele provides it all new petals…and if you pay close attention…gives it a sweet fragrance, too. Pour yourself a beverage to sip while Willie Nelson sings “Stardust” and time travel to the song’s origins in 1927. The ukulele, not the beverage, is your ticket!
For fun, go “Find Yourself” with Jake and Lukas Nelson. It’s got a tint of psychology in the lyrics and the ukulele keeps it positive and honest. We all need a little positive honesty right now.
In addition to his prowess and versatility as a musician, Jake Shimaburkuro has a long history of philanthropy. Recently, he’s been working with several non-profit organizations, especially Music For Life Foundation (www.musicforlifefound.org). “We’ve been working on a project to donate ukuleles to every library in the state of Hawai’i to launch a lending program. Anyone with a library card can borrow an ukulele, just like a book. Out of 51 libraries state-wide, we’ve already launched the program in 44 of them, including in the neighboring islands.”
The verb “exchange” means ‘to give and receive’ in reciprocal ways. Jake wants readers to know that “there is a Japanese word, ichigo ichie. It means ‘once in a lifetime’ and there’s a much deeper meaning behind it. Ichigo ichie is about people sharing an experience and recognizing that this exact experience will never happen again with the same group of people. An exchange of gratitude is felt, and you are reminded to not take it for granted.”
Ichigo ichie was his experience with “Jake & Friends. The ukulele is the common thread—or the string—that holds it all together.
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