Jake Shimabukuro – The Greatest Day
The 12 studio tracks that comprise The Greatest Day feature some of Shimabukuro’s most imaginative and adventuresome playing yet. Half of the album is devoted to originals, on which the instrumentalist reaches new heights of compositional distinction. And on the covers, Shimabukuro’s prodigious skills allow him to transcend his material – no mean feat considering some of the classics and standards he’s tackling.
Among the self-penned tunes, there’s the blissed-out title track, so effervescent and airy that it transports the listener into the clouds. Shimabukuro wrote the song the night before going into the studio. After laying down parts with Verner and Hutchings, he watched Dave Preston add a joyous, Edge-like guitar riff that completed the picture. “It came together so quickly,” Shimabukuro says, “and when I heard the final mix, I just thought, ‘Wow, this has been the greatest day!’”
The Greatest Day concludes with a sparse yet exquisite reading of Leonard Cohen’s iconic hymn “Hallelujah.” Each line that Shimabukuro plays seeps into one’s heart and soul, proving that music is indeed the universal balm. “I had recorded it before, but after Cohen passed, I wanted to re-record it – I felt a new emotional response to it. It seemed like the perfect way to end the album.”
Only he didn’t end it there: Shimabukuro was particularly excited about his playing on a recent round of dates with bassist Nolan Verner and guitarist Dave Preston. The addition of a guitarist allowed him to solo more expressively than ever before. The digital edition of The Greatest Day includes a beautiful live version of “Blue Roses Falling” that features Shimabukuro dueting with cellist Meena Cho as well as a concert recording of “Kawika” (originally made famous by the Sunday Manoa).
The CD and vinyl versions of the album include both tracks along with three more cuts including immersive takes on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Shimabukuro’s own “Dragon.” There’s even a slinky, ultra-funky interpretation of Bill Withers’ hit single “Use Me” that sees Preston showing off his soulful vocal chops. They were recorded live with no overdubs at various venues by engineer Brett Lind and mixed by Jack Clarke (who engineered Nashville Sessions and The Greatest Day).
Shimabukuro has already been performing some of the material from The Greatest Day live, and he’ll soon work more songs into his set. In mid-July, he embarks on an extensive tour of the U.S. and a fall tour of Japan. “I’m really excited to play the new songs in my shows,” he says. “Making this record was one of the highlights I’ve had in the studio. I couldn’t be happier with the sounds and arrangements. But most of all, we had a ton of fun making it.”