On the last day of this summer’s family Kauai trek, at the base of the road leading up to Waimea Canyon, stopped with my crew at a shave ice joint on the South Shore called Jo Jo’s, and sat on the side porch in the hot sun, enjoying our last licks. A few days later, after returning home with my new prize Kamaka pineapple ukulele, sat down to try and learn some of the licks from the masters at ukuleleunderground.com, starting with Seals and Croft’s not-quite-forgotten gem, Summer Breeze.
Jaw hit the floor when I realized that instructor Aldrine Guerrero was teaching the lesson from the very same bench at Jo Jo’s where we had just been sitting a few days ago. Of all the bazillion lat/long coords on earth, how could these two come into perfect alignment? Kismet, baby. My rendition of Summer Breeze didn’t turn out anything like Aldrine’s of course, but I did make pretty quick progress on the track. But the more I learned about Guerrero, the more I realized this was someone I definitely wanted to watch. Such a laid-back guy, totally living the Aloha thing, who seems to want little more than to help others learn great ukulele technique.
So I jumped at the chance to go see Guerrero play at Da Silva Ukulele in Berkeley on a recent summer night in Berkeley (sans breeze). Da Silva has an excellent uke building woodshop, hosts a buch of different lessons, and features a regular roster of evening performers. Was not disappointed – Aldrine started his set big by absolutely blowing the lid off off Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
Watch Aldrine’s right hand about halfway through the video – his speed and accuracy are just blinding. And oh yeah – Guerrero’s got soul coming out his ears. If you think of the ukulele as an instrument meant for simple, playful strumming and not much else, time to get your ears expanded:
(Apologies for shooting this in portrait mode, and for hitting record part-way through the track – this was the fist time I ever became “that dork recording tracks on a phone from a live performance”).
Guerrero continued to blow our doors as the night went on, both with his originals, and with covers of George Benson’s “Breezin'” (OK, a bit cheesy but a great show piece), Carlos Santana’s “Europa,” and Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing:”
A couple more Guerrero videos are available in my YouTube channel.
If you want to get your uke on, and don’t have time (or the money) to take proper lessons, check the lessons at ukuleleunderground.com – they offer both free videos and a more structured learning course through Ukulele Underground University.