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‘Ukulele Breeze – Herb Ohta Jr.

‘Ukulele Breeze is part of my “essential ‘ukulele albums” list. This is one of the first ‘ukulele albums I ever heard and I’m glad it was. It really blew me away and I’m not sure others would have jumped out at me as Breeze did. In this album Herb Ohta Jr. defines what I think of as the contemporary ‘ukulele sound. Armed with a low G tuned Koaloha tenor and a bright clean sound, Herb takes it home with a won’t-skip-a-song album.

Tropical Delight is an upbeat track that sets up the rest of the album perfectly. The melody line in the chorus is so sweet. From there Ocean of Dreams slows things down and is the first place the low G string is evident. At the time of recording Uncle Herb was still using a wound low G (he now uses an unwound Worth clear) and you can hear how much brighter it is along with slide squeaks in some places. A cover of Santana and Dave Matthew’s Love of my Life has a great groove and is a blast to play along with. One of the album’s highlights is Ohta’s take on Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke. The bass/’ukulele interplay is a gas to listen to and his interpretation of the horn break is genius. Expressions is probably the fastest track and makes me smile every time I hear it remembering when I learned it from Uncle Herb. He was probably the first guy to start the Europa fad and Ohta’s version still stands as the best in my opinion (though Aldrine and Ryan came close). Beachwalk is another of my favorites and you can really hear how clean Herb plays because of minimal backup. For a big change of pace, along comes Mo-Hawai’i with a big bass beat and kind of a dance intro. The rest of the song lays back a bit into a nice melody and a key change. The so-called “bonus tracks” are all part of the deal for me. They are an excuse for Uncle Herb to sing, which he does quite well for being so shy about it. Pua Hone is better than Spend It With You in my opinion probably just because of it being the more upbeat of the two. Hopefully in the future Ohta sings more!

Herb Ohta Jr. is the man. Bottom line. Breeze is a great album and will go around in your CD player quite a few times before you feel like changing it.

5 stars.

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