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Brittni Paiva: Four Strings: The Fire Within

Album Notes

The ukulele has gained a new respectability in recent years thanks to the efforts of masters like Jake Shimabukuro and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Hawaiian Brittni Paiva, 21 when she recorded this album and already a ten-year veteran on the instrument, could very well become the instrument's next star. Much as Béla Fleck has done with the banjo, and mandolinists David Grisman and Sam Bush have with the mandolin, Paiva aims to take the four-stringed mini-guitar out of its comfort zone and recast it within new settings, taking it to previously unexplored places. Part of her plan becomes evident in covers of Santana's "Europa" and Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning," the latter given a swinging lilt here. Her "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" acquires a melancholy mood in its tender austerity: it's only uke and upright bass. But Paiva saves most of her innovation and technique for her original compositions. The two-part "Fusion West" and "Fusion East," which close the album, are grand-scale dramas, modern music in every way -- percussion, keyboards, etc. -- and devoid of the novelty aspect so often attributed to her chosen instrument. Songs such as "Cruisin' on 7" and "Made for Me" could be staples on contemporary jazz and world music radio. Listeners might be so smitten with the addictive melodies and quality of the musicianship that they might not even realize they've been listening to an instrument that has long been castigated as a toy. In Paiva's hands, it becomes anything but. ~ Jeff Tamarkin


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