Don’t Stop the Feeling by Aaron Aranita – reviewed by Chris Mann


I have been privileged to review two CD’s by Hawaiian multi-instrumentalist Aaron Aranita on this site.  This latest release contains tracks from the “Eastbound” CD, together with sessions recorded in 1989 and 2004/5, and is a musical resumé for this talented guy. 

The pretty latin dancer Jazzamba is a fresh opener featuring some lovely clarinet work.  In some parts the timing is not rock-solid but that just seems to reinforce the “live” feel which adds to its charm.  I feel like I’m hearing two trumpets here – and they’re both fantastic.  A flute plays and I’m captured.  Dance, dance, dance!  Kekaha is a funky instrumental which again has a nice, loose “live” feel.  I especially like Anthony King’s drumming on here and also Bill Valaire’s jazz-rock guitar solo which in a way shouldn’t work but which fits perfectly. 

The same very natural feel is there on You are a Dream.  This beautiful ballad is from one of the later sessions and the dreamy sax is augmented by superb piano and very well chosen string samples.  I found the drum sound on Never Say Never and the multi-tracked sax a little tiring.  Yes, the carnival atmosphere is captured but there is so much going on I find it hard to get involved. 

Aranita brings the clarinet, sax and flute alternately to the fore on the lilting and lovely Where the Wind Blows.  This has a romantic and old-fashioned feeling and I can imagine this on a movie soundtrack (oh, here he goes again about movies…).  I’m not convinced that the sound balance is completely right here - maybe if the percussion were lower in the mix and the rhythm guitar more forward the whole thing would hang together just a little better.  The sax on Deception sounds a little too live if that’s possible.  It’s not an easy sound to get to grips with, but the vibraphone sound is great.  Once we get to the Caldera-style jazz-rock breakdown I’m hooked!  It’s an intense song. 

For my comments on the funky Is it You, see my review of “Eastbound”.  Listening again, the bright synths and drum programming could only have come from the 1980’s.  The song avoids sounding harsh though and I love the chord progressions.  Ulterior Motives is a very energetic jazz-rock workout from 1989 and I could draw parallels with Caldera and other very technical bands such as Casiopea and Mezzoforte.  Sax and piano are blazing on this crisp, busy instrumental.  Victor Gonzalez on bass and Anthony King on drums forge a rhythm section that leaves you breathless! 

For my comments on the songs Far Eastern Standard Time, Sugartown and Eastbound, please refer to my “Eastbound” review. 

I love the bluesy and atmospheric Ellingtonian.  It’s a very melodic tune featuring just alto sax, piano and bass, and the tempo is very slow.  The acoustic is huge – this really is a beautiful recording.  This is one of the newer tracks, recorded during 2004/5, and it is a great example of Aranita’s development as a composer, artist and producer.  Party for Alto is an offbeat, funky latin tune which takes a couple of spins to get comfortable with.  Despite the busy rhythm, that clean-as-a-whistle sax is the star.  This will make you long for summer… 

To close this varied set, the bright and upbeat Don’t Stop the Feeling is a nice choice.  I wish a real guitar had been used in the intro but once the song gets rolling, the solid bass and a very snappy snare drum keep things moving while sax and keys swap solos.  The horn works better than the keys for me – I’ve realised that I’ve become a fan of Mr Aranita’s superb, clean tone. 

As a chronicle, a “where am I up to now?”, this set is very successful.  It’s interesting in that it shows how the contemporary jazz idiom has changed in just less than 20 years but, more importantly, it shows how this multi-talented Hawaiian jazzman has progressed in every area. 

Once again, I find myself apologising publicly to Aaron for the time I have taken to write this review.  I’ve read that more new music is on its way and I’ll be very excited to hear it.





Sugartown Records – SR2002 Producer – Aaron Aranita, Executive Producer – Michael Chock