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Noel Okimoto: Ohana

The Honolulu-based Noel Okimoto is a forceful swinger and creative player as well as a prolific composer and multi-instrumentalist (vibes, marimbas, piano and timbales). On ‘Ohana (Roy Sakuma Productions) he emulates Roy Haynes’ intuitive, swinging approach to the kit while also tapping into ’70s-style jazz-rock fusion, smooth jazz, salsa and R&B material with remarkable authenticity.

Trouble is, some may not want to wade through the mush of the smooth ballad “Liane” or the happy-jazz offering “Ehukai” to get to aggressively swinging uptempo postbop burners like “Cinder Cone” and “Myochlonic Jerk,” both of which feature bristling trumpet work from Tiger Okoshi and exciting piano solos from Makoto Ozone. And while fusion fanatics may dig Okimoto’s Cobham-esque attack on “Displaced”-a fuzoid romp full of chops-busting unison lines and fueled by guitarist Vernon Sakata’s distortion-laced fretboard pyrotechnics along with Todd Smith’s bubbling fretless electric bass-they may not fully appreciate the romantic nature of Okimoto’s lush ballad “San Francisco Rain,” his buoyantly swinging “Pop’s Bop” or his Afro-Caribbean flavored “Tropi Jazz.”

Undeniably talented and incredibly versatile, Hawaii’s premier drummer may want to tighten up the wildly eclectic mix on his next project.

Originally Published