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 Aaron Aranita is a multi-talented jazz musician who is based in Hawaii. He not only plays tenor, alto, baritone, flute, clarinet and piano but is a fine arranger-composer-lyricist.

 On the self-titled debut of the Aaron Aranita Big Band, he arranged and composed ten of the dozen songs. Each of those ten numbers features a swinging orchestra that is a little reminiscent of Count Basie’s in style along with a vocalist. While he utilizes four trumpeters, four trombonists, rhythm guitar, bass and drums, Aranita (through overdubbing) plays all of the reeds and piano. Due to the fine recording quality and balance, one does not notice that the music was not completely recorded at the same time.

 Of the six vocalists, Al Romero and Garry Moore are the most impressive. Romero is a personable singer inspired by Tony Bennett. He is in the spotlight throughout “You Look So Good” and “The Idea Of Love”; the latter is particularly memorable. Moore is featured on four songs. Of these, “I’m A Caffeine Man” extols the joys of both coffee and a caffeinated female, “Let’s Get Juiced” is about juice rather than liquor, and “The Littlest Things” is a real swinger.  “Love Prescription,” which has a doctor prescribing love for a patient, could become a standard in the future.

 The other selections include a humorous and rock & rollish “Weedwack Attack” (featuring the singing of Alwyn Erub), the love song ‘We Both Belong Together” (with some nice vocalizing by Marcella Kalua) and a plea for love on “Just Use Me” (with David Yamasaki).

 The final two performances are reworkings of the Glenn Miller hits “A String Of Pearls” and “In The Mood.” The leader’s saxophone playing (on two tenors and alto) during those performances is quite impressive.

 The Aaron Aranita Big Band’s CD is fun and easily recommended to fans of middle-of-the-road singers and swinging big bands.

 Scott Yanow, author of 11 books including Swing, Trumpet Kings, The Jazz Singers and Jazz On Record 1917-76

Smooth and sultry jazz, this.

Don't Stop the Feeling":Wayne Harada's Take 

Sunday, July 10, 2005 


By Wayne Harada 

Advertiser Entertainment Writer 

"DON'T STOP THE FEELING" by Aaron Aranita; Sugartown Records 

Genre: Jazz. 

Distinguishing notes: This retrospective recording, from 1987 to the present, features original music by Aaron Aranita and is largely derived from his "Eastbound" album, as well as other unreleased tracks, plus new titles featuring guest trumpeter Valery Ponomarev. The fare is a roller-coaster ride through all avenues of jazz, with telling titles like "Kekaha" and "Ellingtonian," with the Berklee School of Music wizard waxing hot and eloquent on both alto and soprano saxophone. "Sugartown," named for his own studio where he records other artists (besides himself), is one of his signatures aired nationally on "Late Night With David Letterman." 

The outlook: Yet another opportunity to get acquainted-or reacquainted-with the allure which is Aranita. 

Our take: Smooth and sultry jazz, this. 

Soars to a cheerful conclusion

Island Mele 

John Berger 

Saturday, July 2, 2005 

"Don't Stop The Feeling" 

Aaron Aranita 


There's a good reason that so much of the music on Aaron Aranita's new album has a retro sound reminiscent of the electronic "jazz fusion" sound popular here in the 1980s. You remember, electric bass and keyboards/synthesizers opposite drums, guitar, and some wind or reed instruments. The small print reveals that several selections date from 1987 and were released on an album he recorded for Wayne Sekiya's MGC label. Others were made in 1989 but never released. The remainder are of recent vintage, but mesh naturally with the older material. 

The most interesting tracks are the contemporary recordings that feature Russian jazz legend Valery Ponomarev on trumpet. Ponomarev was hit on Honolulu's jazz scene when he came out for some gigs in 2004. Ponomarev's solos on "Jazzamba" and "Never Say Never" are fine mementos of his stay here and make the album of interest outside Hawaii. 

Aranita produced the album, as well as played or "programed" several instruments in the various sessions. He proves especially astute in choosing the order in which each song is heard. The musical journey starts off on a promising note, spending a considerable amount of time revisiting the 1980s, and then soars to a cheerful conclusion.

JAZZIMPROV MAGAZINE Fall 2005...regardless of the label or style of music from track to track, Aranita is a skilled reed artist and composer, and the depth of his artistry shines throughout.

Aaron Aranita and Eastbound’s One Day on Sugartown Records.  Hawaiian composer and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Aranita has assembled fourteen original compositions. The CD has a good mix of vocal and instrumental tracks and I prefer the tracks where Aranita’s soprano sax piano and gorgeous flute get a chance to shine. 

My favourite vocal though is the smoky I’ll Say Goodbye featuring Harve Thompson.  The acoustic piano/bass/drums backing is classy and Aranita’s sax solo is very soulful.  It’s timeless stuff. 

Among the instrumentals, the bluesy Urbanity stands out, as does the tribute to Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta, simply entitled Toninho.  That flute and Randall Yamamoto’s funky bass could make you think of Dave Valentin’s tropical and jazzy outings. 

Rejoicing is a 100-miles-per hour drums and bass workout.  Rogerio Araujo is the man with the sticks and he’s a monster!  Kaila Novicki provides a vocal backing reminiscent of Flora Purim. 

The uplifting Elima is the album’s best showcase for the high-voltage sound of guitarist Robert Shinoda.  His sound is full on – any Yoshiaki Masuo fans out there? 

Original songwriter, tasteful pianist and adventurous saxophonist – Aaron Aranita is all of these things


Elsewhere on this site you can read a biography of Hawaiian composer and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Aranita.  You can also read my review of Aaron’s second album “One Day”. 

We’re doing something a little unusual here and revisiting his first album, which was released in 1998.  It came out on the MGC label and was never distributed nationally or, indeed, reviewed outside Hawaii until now. 

Hide and Seek is a lovely upbeat opener.  It has a real Dotsero-type sound (which is great for me as I love Dotsero).  It has a strong melody and is catchy.  I particularly enjoyed Aranita’s electric piano solo.  Is it You showcases his bright tenor sax sound, which works well with the ‘80’s-style female backing vocals and brassy keyboard sounds. 

Natalie is a nice smoky ballad where Aranita’s lovely tenor reminds me of Ronnie Laws.  In my notes I wrote “grand and beautiful” – and a week after writing that, I still feel the same.  There’s a very breezy feel on Sugartown.  Soprano sax dances over Ricardo Pasillas lively percussion, and Peter Horvath’s Chick Corea-style keyboard solo is gorgeous.  There is so much to enjoy in this classy tune. 

The very romantic One Moment is the first of two vocal tracks on the CD and though the vocal is cleanly recorded, I find the sax sounds on this song more appealing.  I’ll make the comparison again with my beloved Ronnie Laws on Far Eastern Standard Time.  It has a lovely, lazy 5/4 beat and great chord changes.  Superb! 

Aranita’s award-winning Gregoria launches with Terry Miller’s lovely fretless bass and Don Pendergrass’ piano before settling into a bluesy ballad with tenor horn to die for – great phrasing, enough reverb and just a classic sound!  The title track is a vibrant and upbeat, latin-tinged tune.  If you couldn’t hear the similarity with Ronnie Laws’ sound before, just check the soprano sax on this!  Think “Every Generation”. 

There’s Rippingtons-style intro on the exotic Ka’ohe (Bamboo).  I enjoyed Terry’s bass solo on here and the exquisite doubled horn lines throughout.  My favourite song.  Follow Me is the second vocal and again I’m more drawn to the string synth sounds and heavenly soprano sax than to the vocal itself. 

This CD was a real surprise; it’s from a player little known outside his native Hawaii and released on a small label without a major distribution deal.  The standard of composition, musicianship and production is very high.  I consistently enjoy Aranita’s sax sound and look forward to his next release which will be available later in 2004 and which I hope to review.  Aaron’s own website is the one to watch for news.  “Eastbound” has been available recently online.  If you have problems accessing either of these sites, please let me know and I will contact Aaron to get details of where you can get more information and buy his music.

Jazz, naturally, has a rich and varied history but it could be argued that it misplaced a little something on its way to becoming a Respected Art Form. Not to imply that jazz shouldn’t be taken seriously, but there is such a thing as taking a thing too seriously. Count Basie are among the music’s most important artists ever but they never shied away from being entertainers—aside from musical excellence, they always showed their audiences a good time. Saxophonist, composer, lyricist, arranger, and bandleader Aaron Aranita knows this—and out of that knowledge emerges the Aaron Aranita Big Band (aka The Action Guys) and their debut Rough Jazz

This disc is a powerful capital-S Statement—these are men with a Message and the word is: Have a grand time! Not to imply the contents of Rough Jazz are frivolous—this is top-shelf, hard-swinging, inventive big band jazz in the grand tradition of the orchestras of Count Basie and Woody Herman.But there’s plenty of humor in the lyrics and singing therein—parody, satire, and plain old patent-pending inspired silliness. Gents such as Waller, Cab Calloway, and patron saint of hepcat humor, Slim Galliard made audiences laugh while making their feet tap and engaging their brains with classy, earthy swing... and Mr. Aranita carries on in that tradition.For over 35 years, saxophonist, flutist, composer, bandleader, and lyricist Aaron Aranita has been making music in a dazzling array of contexts from Boston to Japan, finally settling in Hawaii. Aranita has accompanied R&B icons The Temptations and Natalie Cole; old-school entertainers Andy Williams, and Jim Nabors, Boston fusion combo Birdland, and the Hawaiian PBS Big Band. Obviously Aranita is not one to put all his musical eggs in one basket—in fact, he’s gone so far as to create his own “basket,” to tap into a need that some folks didn’t even know was there. (Isn’t that the American Way, after all?) Rough Jazz is the response to that entity known as Smooth Jazz—on the opening track, singer Garry Moore lays it down for us: “I don’t want any kind of fluff jazz / it’s got to be more than enough jazz / that can blow my blues away!” The band swings with the precision of the legendary Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band and with the joie de vive of the Basie band when it was fronted by the suave, bluesy vocals of Joe Williams 1954 – 1961. In fact, the Basie band was a primo inspiration for Rough Jazz, that 1950s Basie renaissance wherein the orchestra’s arrangements were by Quincy Jones, Neal Hefti (who wrote the ‘60s TV Batman theme, not so coincidentally), Sammy Nestico, and Ernie Wilkins, when blaring brass, rich banks of reeds, uninhibited swagger, and suave singing blew away the whitebread pop of the ‘50s.

If while listening to “Home Cookin’” you find your mouth watering and licking your lips in anticipation, it’s no accident. “I was writing the melody and chords of “Home Cookin’” on the piano and at the same time cooking a pot of gumbo in the kitchen,” Aranita said. “I kept running back and forth between the kitchen and studio reading the cookbook and music sheet. Then after a while it kind of made sense together.” (Don’t you love it when a fellow really throws himself into his work?) Another vivid story-song is “The Big Banditos,” of which Aranita says, “I like Western movies and I wanted to make my own Magnificent Seven.” With a hip-shaking “Sing, Sing, Sing”-like intro, the deep, poised voice of John Hulaton paints a picture of a Mexican bordertown intrigue wherein musical instruments are the weapons of choice rather than pistolas. This tune alternate between ominous, darting swing, affectionate parodies of mariachi and Afro-Cuban jazz (think Machito, Dave Valentin)—it’s so vividly detailed you half expect Clint Eastwood to kick in your door, but it’s cool, because while he’s carrying, it’s a trombone! And to put the icing on the gravy, the renowned Russian expatriate trumpeter Valery Ponomarev and former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, is a guest in the two-fisted world of Rough Jazz.

WHY, the cry from crowds the world over, why is this big band platter SO different from most similar offerings? Aranita means to uphold the tradition of when songs told stories. “I dig Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan,” testifies Aranita, “[they performed] songs that are stories are cool like [Calloway’s] “Minnie The Moocher.” Beyond the jazz sphere: “I always liked ‘A Boy Named Sue’ (by Shel Silverstein, made famous by Johnny Cash) and [Ray Stevens’] ‘Guitarzan.’ Roger Miller’s ‘King Of the Road’ strikes a chord,” said without punning intent. The Great American Songbook has a similar continuum, songs extentions of storytelling (in the context of a Broadway show). “I love all the standards from Cole Porter, George & Ira Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart.”

“I read a lot of comics growing up and the idea of the Action Guys is the result of that, along with Kung Fu movies (especially with English dialogue), private detective movies and TV. (Think Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, It Takes a Thief, the original Pink Panther films.) “Beboperoni” is a nifty bit of groovin’ hep talk, evoking the musical raconteurs Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and Mose Allison and more recent heirs to that sphere, The Manhattan Transfer. Aaron Aranita combines seemingly contrasting aspects of pop culture with dynamic jazz—far-fetched yet immediate and exciting stories melded with tightly-arranged, large-ensemble swing performed with plenty of panache and concise, heartfelt soloing. Rough Jazz will hit your funny bone right smart but it’ll take up residence in your heart and cranium.