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Published: 2013/05/14
by Stu Kelly

Jake Shimabukuro, 6th and I, Washington, D.C.- 4/23

Jake Shimabukuro graced an intimate audience at the historic 6th and I in downtown Washington, D.C. on April 23rd for his first performance in the city.

A true creative musician can make something out of nothing, one that can produce more than what he’s given with and Shimabukuro does more with four strings and 20 frets than most have ever seen. He effortlessly takes the ukulele well beyond any whatever expectations one may have for the instrument’s musical capability.

Shimabukuro has come along way since he gained mainstream recognition for his cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” on his ukulele, making him a YouTube sensation. Since then, he has continued to shed a light on a heretofore underappreciated instrument.

When the lights went down in that small intimate synagogue the patient crowd erupted in a frenzy of excitement as Shimabukuro walked down the aisle to the spotlight on stage. He opened up with “Island Fever Blues,” a beautiful joyous number that showcases Shimabukuro’s flawless finger picking and unique rhythm patterns. Shimabukuro’s ability to deliver layer upon layer of finger picking rhythm, building faster with a rising strumming tempo only to be broken off to a quiet finger picking breakdown is what separates him as a true master of his craft.

Shimabukuro is touring off the success of his most recent album Grand Ukulele, the follow up to his 2011 World Music hit album, Peace, Love Ukulele. Grand Ukulele, produced by legendary audio engineer Alan Parsons, was recorded completely live with no overdubs and Shimabukuro even worked with a full symphony on such tracks as “Akaka Falls.”

Another highlight of the evening was when Shimabukuro dropped a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” also from the new album. Shimabukuro really delivered this one with grace as his version stayed within the boundaries of the original, as one could sing the song word for word just by hearing this instrumental version.

Jake Shimabukuro then switched things up as his brother, Bruce Shimabukuro, joined him onstage for “Gentlemandolin.” Jake provided much of the lead, playing with a pick attached to his thumb and kept a steady rhythmic foundation for his younger brother to solo so intricately.

Jake went on to showcase his talent as he delivered “Dragon” followed by Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He then completed his set with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” but first he made a point to thank fans who may have shared the original video of him playing this song.

Every now and then a musician comes along and did what Jimi Hendrix did to the guitar, what Mile Davis did to the trumpet and what Bill Monroe did to the mandolin. Jake Shimabukuro is doing just that for the ukulele.

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