Some artists, because
of their penchant for excellence without sounding trite or
cookie-cutter, earn the designation of “can do no wrong.” Normally, this
applies to veteran musicians who have been at it for decades, like
guitarist Steve Khan or drummer Peter Erskine. Brittni Paiva, just 23 at
the time of recording Tell U What (Brittni Paiva Music, 2012), is
quickly moving in that direction.
The Hawaiian-born ukulele player impressed with her previous releases,
including Four Strings: The Fire Within. And earlier in 2012, she
Living Ukulele, which accomplishes several things in its 80
minutes. In addition to giving audiences insight to the artist, the DVD
shows the beauty of Hawaii, visits some of Paiva’s cross-cultural
influences, takes a close look at her instrument of choice and shows how
the young performer has won over some musical icons.
Renowned composer and saxophonist Tom Scott, who invites Paiva to
perform with his band in one segment of Living Ukulele, produced,
arranged, engineered and mixed the new recording. He says that he was so
impressed by Paiva’s performance with his band, he wanted to take her to
new heights and invited some of his friends. The duo is assisted on
selected tracks by Michael McDonald, Chuck Findley, Ray Parker Jr. and
One minor drawback to the release is that apart from bass – Scott has
the duty on all but “The Lochs of Dread” and “Alive,” which are handled
by Paiva – rhythm and background instrumentation, all handled by Scott,
sound phony and monotonous in places. The sound isn’t as clean and
engaging as Paiva’s previous releases.
After watering down the title song, the rhythm track is better on the
cover of “I Keep Forgettin’.” McDonald, who made a hit of the Leiber and
Stoller composition, sings the chorus with Paiva covering the verses.
Scott’s subtle tenor adds depth.
Things get even better with “Friends,” one of three Paiva originals. “A
Taste of Honey,” previously recorded by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana
Brass, is slowed down. Scott’s keyboard work gives it a haunting
quality. Findley steps in with the flugelhorn. The percussive element
here is dull but adequately overcome by Findley and Paiva.
One of the more enjoyable selections is “The Lochs of Dread,” a play on
words composed by Bela Fleck and Gerry Douglass. Paiva stretches out a
little here, more so than she does on most tracks. The song has a reggae
vibe, but Paiva’s triplet phrases give it a Scottish or, perhaps, Celtic
Scott’s lone composition for this set is “Mira, which features a lively
pop/funk groove. Sandoval brings his trumpet to add some fire. Another
Paiva original, “Alive,” is a beautiful, easygoing peace in which she
Paiva handles the four-string ukulele like a standard, six-string
guitar, taking the instrument from its familiar setting of traditional
Hawaiian music and introducing it to the worlds of jazz, pop, R&B,
classical and possibly other sounds that Paiva has yet to explore.
Tell U What is very good, but could be much more. A normal rhythm
section would help tremendously. Also, the title song is the only track
that tops five minutes. Several tracks end before the listener is fully
engaged, especially “Friends,” “Alive” and “Cold Duck Time.”