HAWAIIAN TOUCH: Acoustic Steel & Slack Key
One of Hawaii’s premier steel guitarists, Alvin “Barney” Isaacs, Jr., plays acoustic steel in duets with George Kuo, one of the younger generation’s great Slack Key players. This groundbreaking album is the first time in the history of Hawaiian music that pure duets of just acoustic steel and Slack Key have ever been recorded. The result is a beautiful blend of the sound of old Hawaii and sweet Slack Key.
Maui Medley: Ke 'Ala O Ka Rose (The Fragrance of the Rose)/ Ka Loke (The Rose), Roselani Blossoms/ Hanohano Olinda/ Kilakila O Haleakala (Majestic Haleakala)/& Maui No Ka Oi (Maui is the best). 6:30
Waltz Medley: Honolulu Eyes & Aloha No Wau I Koumaka (I Love Your Eyes) 4:44
Moana Chimes 3:24
Pua Lilia 3:20
Medley: Lei Momi & 'Ili Puakea 4:10
Hula Blues 2:29
Wehiwehi 'Oe 3:27
Medley: He Aloha No 'O Honolulu & Mauna Loa 3:08
Beautiful Kahana 3:06
Aloha Nui Ku'uipo 2:50
Medley: 'Ahulili & Nani Wale Na Hala 4:27
Goodnight, Mapuana 3:13
Lahaina Luna 4:08
Medley: Old Plantation & Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani (solo acoustic steel guitar) 3:41
This pairing of Barney Isaacs and George Kuo is the first ever recording of acoustic steel and Slack Key guitar duets, and the first release in Dancing Cat Records’ new series, Hawaiian Steel and Slack Key Guitar Duets.
Alvin Kaleolani "Barney" Isaacs, Jr. one of Hawai'i's premier steel guitarists and recording artists, was born in Honolulu, Hawai`i on July 18, 1924, and passed away on February 12, 1996. Barney grew up in a remarkable musical family that included his father, composer and band leader Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Sr. (1904-1984), and two brothers, Slack Key master Leland "Atta" Isaacs (1929-1982). and bassist and vocalist Norman Isaacs (1935-1980).
“We were all exposed to music from the time we were little kids.” Barney recalls. “We had a big house and music was there all the time. Our dad had a dance band that rehearsed on the premises. They played all kinds of music, not just Hawaiian.” Alvin, Sr. actively encouraged his ten children to play. He taught Barney, Atta and Norman the rudiments of steel guitar while they were still in elementary school. “When my dad noticed that we were always playing together, he suggested we form a trio.” Barney recalls. When the trio was formed, they had to spread out. “As the oldest, I got to pick first, so I stayed with the steel.” Atta went to guitar and Norman played the bass. “We could sing parts and everything. We started working casuals. At that time Hawaiian music was very danceable; fox trots, waltzes. We were always trying to keep up, learn as much as we could from the older guys and each other. Pua Almeida, Jules Ah See, the Kalimas, they were all our age. Jules probably had the most influence on me. He could really make it sing. He had so many styles and different tunings. He was so adept at picking things up, but he never lost his own recognizable sound.”
Alvin, Sr. was a very successful band leader and composer, and in 1948, Barney accepted a position in his father's group, the legendary Royal Hawaiian Serenaders. “It couldn’t have been a better place to start, in the Monarch Room at the Royal Hawaiian with that group, my father, Benny Kalama, George Kainapau. They were really terrific.” Since the late 1940s, Barney has been one of Hawai'i's most versatile and active performers, and a globe trotting ambassador of the steel guitar. He spent 25 years with the Hawai`i Calls radio show and enjoyed long associations with Alfred Apaka, Danny Kaleikini and his own groups at numerous nightspots.
Also active behind the scenes, Barney served as the musical director for Waikiki Records in the 1950s and even operated his own club, The Palm Tree Inn, turning it into a locally celebrated musician’s hangout. Barney’s father was well-known for the huge musical gatherings he liked to hold at his house in Kahili. Following his father’s example, Barney loves to bring musicians together to socialize and perform for their own enjoyment. He also teaches and serves on the governing board of the major steel guitar societies.
Barney’s recording credits number in the hundreds, including ground breaking electric steel and Slack Key duets with Gabby Pahinui ((1921-1980) in 1960 on the classic albums HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY GUITAR, VOLUMES 1 AND 2 - WITH GABBY PAHINUI (Waikiki Records #319 & #320 [confusing to tell apart since they have the same front cover), and those recordings were the inspirational predecessors for this album. Barney says he feels a special aloha for this project. “The acoustic steel is the instrument I started on,” he says. “Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve ever recorded on it. I feel good.”
George Kuo is a highly respected Slack Key soloist and ensemble player who came of age in the 1970s, an era sometimes referred to as the Hawaiian Renaissance due to the wide-ranging revival of traditional culture. Like many musicians of his generation, George picked up ki ho'alu (Slack Key guitar) in high school, encouraged by friends such as Richard Rathburn and Antone Gabriel, whose grand uncle, Albert Kawelo, taught Raymond Kane. "When I heard Antone, I said that that was the way I wanted to play," George explains. "My granduncle and aunt liked to hear that style too and they really encouraged me. There have been so many others, Ray Kane, Sonny Chillingworth, Atta Isaacs, Gabby Pahinui, Leonard Kwan, Tommy Solomon, too many to mention them all." Because of these influences, George very much embodies the older traditional ways of playing, which he incorporates with modern improvisational stylings. An alumnus of The Sons of Hawai’i, the Kipapa Rush Band, Hui Aloha, and currently performing solo and with the Martin Pahinui Band, George recorded his first solo album, NAHENAHE (Hula Records CDHS-576), in 1980, and his second one in ALOHA NO NA KUPUNA [LOVE FOR THE ELDERS] (Dancing Cat Records) in 1996.
George has played with Barney and other members of the Isaacs `ohana (family) on many occasions for most of his professional life. “Traditionally we’d all jam after playing a round of golf,” George recalls. In many ways this album is an outgrowth of those remarkable moments at the 19th hole. “Sometimes we’d go on outer island safaris, “George explains. “Barney started taking along an acoustic steel. That’s where the idea for the album came from.” In the studio, Barney and George sought to cultivate a similar spirit of improvisation. “We tried some very impromptu playing,” George says. “We had a lot of fun just bouncing back and forth off each other. That’s basically the whole theme of the album -- give and take. We wanted to capture the feeling of the two Gabby and Barney Waikiki Label recordings from 1960, where somebody would think of a song and they would work out arrangements and modulations utilizing everybody’s talents, each other’s specialty. It represents a spontaneity that’s very special. Hey, sometimes you can only play these runs that one time and that’s it.”
The title HAWAIIAN TOUCH describes the playing perfectly. As George points out, Hawaiian musicians have a unique, instantly recognizable way of phrasing. “You can fool around with other styles,” Barney adds, “but don’t go overboard. You gotta remember your Hawaiian touch. Keep it nice and sweet.”
As accompaniment on this album, George sometimes plays in keys other than key of the Slack Key tuning, inspired by one of his mentors, Barney’s brother Leland “Atta” Isaacs, who almost always played in his C Major Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E – from the lowest pitched string to the highest), but very often played in keys other than C (especially in the keys of F, G, D and occasionally A and Bb), and who was the first Slack Key guitarist to incorporate extensive modulations within songs and medleys.
George is also recording two more solo Slack Key albums for Dancing Cat Records’ Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters Series. Another pure duet album is planned with Barney with recorded tracks with George Kuo, as well as duets with Slack Key guitarists Cyril Pahinui and Led Kaapana, and duets with Aaron Mahi on acoustic bass.
1. Maui Medley: Ke 'Ala O Ka Rose (The Fragrance of the Rose)/ Ka Loke (The Rose), Roselani Blossoms/ Hanohano Olinda/ Kilakila O Haleakala (Majestic Haleakala)/Maui No Ka Oi (Maui is the best).
Barney Isaacs– plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E -from the lowest pitched string to the highest), playing in the keys of G and C.
George Kuo – G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D – from the lowest pitched string to the highest), playing in the keys of G and C.
Where applicable, will compare versions of the songs on this album to versions on the two albums that very much inspired this album: HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY GUITAR, VOLUMES 1 AND 2 - WITH GABBY PAHINUI (Waikiki Records #319 & #320): on Roselani Bossoms (aka Roselani, as part of Slack Key Medley on Waikiki # 319), Gabby plays in his F Wahine Tuning (F-C-E-G-C-E); and on Kilalila O Haleakala (on Waikiki #320), Gabby plays in his F Wahine Tuning (F-C-E-G-C-E), and he and Barney play in a ballad tempo a bit slower then on this recording
On this six-song medley of well-known Maui songs played mainly in the key of G, Barney plays in A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E -from the lowest pitched string to the highest), as he does on all songs on this album, regardless of the key in which he plays.
In the Slack Key tradition songs is usually played in the key that the Slack Key tuning in. However, on this album, George also plays in keys other than in the keys of the tuning to incorporate Barney’s modulations, very much also inspired by the way Atta Isaacs would play in keys other than the key of C.
Ke 'Ala O Ka Rose (The Fragrance of the Rose), a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) favorite played in the key of G, may have come to Maui's ranching community from the island of Ni'ihau, and is variously attributed to Daniel Ka`opio and Joseph Kelly. A poetically rich courting song, it praises a sweet, blossoming flower growing with the small leaf maile in the kuahiwi (the mountain).
Mary Heanu and Johnny Noble wrote Ka Loke (The Rose), which is also known as Ka Loke O Maui. Like the previous song, and again played in the key of G, it compares a loved one to Maui's official flower, which by any name, in any language, smells just as sweet.
Continuing with the rose theme and modulating to the key of C Roselani Blossoms springs from the fertile imagination of the dean of Hawaiian music, John K. Almeida. It expresses the author's interest in sipping the sweet water that flows in 'Iao Valley.
Barney and George return to the key of G for a traditional mele pana (song of place) probably composed to honor the estate of Samuel Alexander. Hanohano Olinda (Glorious Olinda) praises ku'u home kuahiwi (my beloved mountain home) on the slopes of Haleakala.
Also set on the slopes of Maui's most famous mountain and played in the key of G, Kilakila O Haleakala (Majestic Haleakala) takes us zigzagging along the trails of slippery sands. But never fear: our horse's steps are impressive. The song was composed by Charles E. King.
The hui (chorus) ends with the island's unofficial motto, Maui No Ka Oi (Maui Is the Best), which is also known as the song Maui Chimes. Credited to Samuel Kapu and John Kalapana, this exceedingly popular instrumental is known to most steel and Slack Key players. Mainly played in the key of G, George and Barney then modulate to the key of C here for the bridge, instead of the normal key of D, producing a unique sound.
As George explains, “This medley represents our typical sequence. I allow space for Barney to take a lead, he allows me one. Sometimes we both come in together.”
2. Waltz Medley: Honolulu Eyes & Aloha No Wau I Koumaka (I Love Your Eyes)
Barney – plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E) playing in the keys of G, C, F, and again G.
George plays the song in the C Wahine “Leonard’s C” Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the keys of G, C, F, and again G.
Waltzes have been a cherished part of Hawaiian music since the turn of the Century when King David Kalakaua would hold elegant balls at the `Iolani Palace with music by the Royal Hawaiian Band. “Barney and I used to perform Honolulu Eyes at the new Hawai`i Calls program in the early 1990s,” George says. “It really brings back the feeling of the ‘50s.” Written by Violensky and Howard Johnson, Honolulu Eyes was recorded, most memorably, by Pua Almeida and His Polynesians, and by Barney with Gabby Pahinui in a beautiful electric steel duet for Tommy Kearn's Waikiki label HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY, VOLUME 1-WITH GABBY PAHINUI (Waikiki Records #319). Barney and George play it here in the key of G.
George created this lovely Slack Key arrangement in the keys of C, F, and G for Aloha No Wau I Koumaka (I Love Your Eyes) by Prince William Leleiohoku (1854-1877) In the song, he attempts to get and keep the attention of someone he admires, someone who has captured his heart. Leleiohoku, younger brother of King David Kalakaua and Queen Lili`uokalani, was trained musically by Henry Berger, passionately loved music and wrote many memorable songs.
Wailana is sometimes attributed to dance band leader Johnny Noble, sometimes to Mekia Kealakai, internationally renowned flutist and leader of the Royal Hawaiian Band in the 1920s. Barney says that this is one of his favorite songs. He hasn’t recorded it before but often performs it with his current trio, the Kahala Surf Serenaders, in a lovely three part harmony vocal arrangement.
3. Moana Chimes
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the key of F for his solos, and playing in the key of G to accompany George’s solos.
George plays the song in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), playing his solos in the key of G, and plays in the key of F to accompany Barney’s solos.
Usually attributed to M.K. Moke, this steel guitar favorite makes good use of the dulcet tones produced by lightly touching the string at specific parts on the neck (usually 12 frets above the note touched by the left hand, but also sometimes the 7th fret, or the 5th fret)to produce harmonics. In Hawai'i this effect is referred to as “chimes.” Steel players and Slack Key guitarists frequently employ it to add color or end a phrase. “If you're a master on chimes, you're really something,” Barney says. “I never really pursued it in my own playing.” As George points out, Barney tends to think of himself as an accompanist. “He never pushed himself out into the front,” George says. Note Barney’s classic beautiful turn-around phrases at the end of verse one, and at the end of the other verses.
Gabby Pahinui and Barney Isaacs also recorded it in 1960 on the album HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY, VOLUME 2-WITH GABBY PAHINUI (Waikiki Records #320) as part of the medley Moana Chimes/Kaulana Na Pua/Kuwila. Gabby also recorded it on his album PURE GABBY (Hula Records 567), as part of a medley Slack Key Hula (3 Song Medley): Mauna Loa/Moana Chimes/Pua Be–Still. George Kuo also recorded it as a medley with Pa’ahana, on his 2008 album O KE AUMOE: NIGHT OF THE SLACK KEY GUITAR (Winter & Winter Records W&W 910 142-2). Many other Slack Key guitarists have recorded it as well, most notably Sonny Chillingworth as a Waikiki Records 45 RPM around 1958, and later on his well-known 1964 album WAIMEA COWBOY (Mahalo Records), as a medley with Pa’ahana as Sonny always did (and his version inspired George Kuo, and it has become a standard way of playing Moana Chimes as a Slack Key instrumental). Slack Key guitarist Led Kaapana also recorded it as a pure duet with acoustic steel guitarist Bob Brozman on their 1997 album KIKA KILA MEETS KI HO`ALU (Dancing Cat Records). Slack Key guitarist Ozzie Kotani also recorded it on his 2008 album HO’IHI (RESPECT) – TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY GUITAR (issued on Ozzie Kotani’s own label), with the title Moana Chimes Tribute (as a duet with Tom Kaulakukui on second Slack Key guitar).
Moana Chimes has also been recorded by many steel guitarists, most notably by the composer M.K. Moke, reissued on the album HAWAIIAN STEEL GUITAR 1920s-1950s (Folklyric 9009), and a well-known version was recorded by Benjamin Rogers on the album ON THE BEACH AT WAIKIKI (49th State Records #3024.)
4. Pua Lilia
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the key of
George plays the song in the C Wahine “Leonard’s C” Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the key of C.
The singing politician of Kaua'i, Alfred Unauna Alohikea (1884-1936) wrote this classic love song, a favorite of leo ki'eki'e (falsetto) singers because of its melodic contour, as steep as na pali (the cliffs) the lyrics so poetically describe. Many stories circulate about how the song came about: one hints that Alohikea's wife and another woman both had the name; another suggests he wrote this tender song of affection for Auntie Lizzie Doirin to make up for a fight. Pua Lilia (Lily Flower) is often played slowly but Barney decided to do it in a medium tempo for the session. “The subtlety is in the frailing of the guitar,” George says. “When Barney did this on electric steel with Gabby for Waikiki (#319), Gabby was in his F Wahine Tuning (F-C-E-G-C-E), playing in the key of F), and Barney created a nice violin effect on some notes by turning up the volume switch just after striking the note softly but since there’s no volume switch to play with on the acoustic steel guitar, he uses chimes to get the soft haunting touch.” George plays some fast frailed-type fills to answer Barney, inspired by the way Gabby played fills on this song by rapidly hammering soft notes with the left hand onto the fretboard and some of the other pieces on the Waikiki albums.
5. Medley: Lei Momi & Ili Puakea
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the keys of G, E flat, D, G, A, D, then back to the key of A to end the song.
George plays in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the keys of G, E flat, D, G, A, D, then back to the key of A to end the song.
Barney has always wanted to record these love songs, two of his favorites by his father, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, Sr. Ili Puakea (‘white skinned flower,’ a poetic term for a white person) is sometimes performed with English lyrics as The Story Starts. Vocalist Marlene Sai has also recorded a beautiful vocal version of Lei Momi. Barney is widely praised for his sympathetic accompaniment of singers. “Backing up singers you have to do a lot of concentrating,” he says. “You’ve got to fill the empty spaces and not by playing the melody; you have to play something else, a harmony or a response of some kind. When you play instrumentals you have to be really accurate. If you make a mistake, you gotta roll right into the next note and make people think it’s just a passing note.” Barney and George start the song in the key of G, before a quick modulation to the keys of E flat and D, then to the key of A, then back to the key of G, and finally playing the last verse in the key of A.
6. Hula Blues
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing his solos in the key of F, and plays in the key of G to accompany George’s solos.
George plays the song in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), playing his solos in the key of G, and playing in the key of F to accompany Barney’s solos.
Just as composers sometimes put the word "ragtime" into the title of some songs somewhat influenced by Mainland ragtime, written between 1900 and 1920, so the word "blues" found its way into song titles in the next few decades. More like a Tin Pan Alley pop song and more ragtime than blues, this enormously popular Johnny Noble melody, with lyrics by Sonny Cunha, dates from 1920, a time when Hawaiian musicians were eagerly integrating syncopation, hot soloing, especially inspired by jazz trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Bix Biederbecke, and other jazz influenced cutting-edge ideas and harmonies into their music. Noble debuted the song with his famous dance band at the Moana Hotel and it quickly became a local favorite. Soon the song found its way into the repertoire of many Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian bands and has since traveled the world.
“This was one of the first pieces we did,” George says. “It was real give and take.” Barney previously recorded this piece with Gabby Pahinui on Waikiki Records #320. Note the beautiful modulation at the end from the key of G to end in the key of C, and George’s muted notes just before the end.
This song has also been recorded by many steel guitarists, most notably Sol Hoopii (two different versions appear on reissued tracks on two of his album, SOL HOOPII - MASTER OF THE HAWAII GUITAR, VOLUME 1 AND 2 (reissued on Rounder 1024 and 1025) and by steel guitarist Bob Pauole with Jim Holstein on rhythm guitar (the duo was known as the Genial Hawaiians), reissued on VINTAGE HAWAIIAN MUSIC STEEL GUITAR MASTERS 1928-1934 (Rounder 1052)
Many Slack Key guitarists have also recorded versions, notably Sonny Chillingworth on his classic 1964 album WAIMEA COWBOY (Mahalo Records). Cyril Pahiniu, on his album HE’EIA (Dancing Cat Records), Led Kaapana & acoustic steel guitarist Bob Brozman on their pure duet album KIKA KILA MEETS KI HO’ALU, and Leonard Kwan, on his album THE LEGENDARY LEONARD KWAN-THE COMPLETELY EARY RECORDINGS [HANA OLA RECORDS]
7. Wehiwehi `Oe
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing his solos in in the key F, and playing in the key of C to back up George’s solos.
George plays the song in the C Wahine Leonard’s C” Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the key of F to back up Barney’s solos, and playing in the key of C for his solos.
In a practice very far removed from the music industry's obsession with copyright controls, traditional Hawaiian composers frequently give their songs to others as gifts. In the lovely Wehiwehi 'Oe, composer Sylvester Kalama adorns a cherished loved one with a song that becomes a lei ho'ohiehie no ke ano ahiahi, an elegant lei for the evening. “This is another of the Waikiki album classics” George says “It’s a real slow romantic tune. It’s one of my favorites.” At the end they nicely do a nice quick modulation from the key of C to end in the the key of F.
8. Medley: He Aloha No 'O Honolulu & Mauna Loa
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the keys of G and C.
George plays the song in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the keys of G and C.
Barney begins the song with a verse of He Aloha No 'O Honolulu (Farewell to Honolulu), which has also long been a favorite of Slack Key artists, and has been recorded by Gabby Pahinui, Ledward Kaapana, from his album LED LIVE-SOLO (Dancing Cat Records), Keola Beamer, from his album WOODEN BOAT (Dancing Cat Records), Leonard Kwan, from his album KE’ALA’S MELE (Dancing Cat Records) , and others.
For the second verse of the song, George Kuo goes right into the song Mauna Loa. Composed by Lot Kauwe, this popular classic details an eventful voyage aboard the sailing vessel, Mauna Loa from O`ahu to the Big Island, with a stop in Maui. Popularized by Helen Lindsey Parker, ‘the Lark of Waimea, and later by Gabby Pahinui, the singer asks the ship to return a missing lover to the Big Island.
“That’s a nice Slack Key number,” George says. “A good old time `olapa rhythm (an older rhythm played in the older days). Barney plays the steel close to Slack Key style in single string runs. “That’s probably how steel guitar first sounded when it was being invented.” They modulate back to the key of C for Barney’s next solo of He Aloha No 'O Honolulu, then back to the key of G for George solo of He Aloha No 'O Honolulu, then to the key of C for Barney’s solo of Mauna Loa, then briefly back to the key of G for the ending the song.
Mauna Loa has been popular among Slack Key guitarists, have been recorded by Cyril Pahinui, frm his album NIGHT MOON [PO MAHINA] (Dancing Cat Records), Leonard Kwan, from his album KEALA’S MELE (Dancing Cat Records), Cindy Combs, from her album SUNNY RAIN (Dancing Cat Records), Ray Kane, as part of a five song medley along with KeAloha, Papakolea, E Huluhuli Ho’i Mai and Pua Makahala from his album PUNAHELE (Dancing Cat Records).
9. Beautiful Kahana
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the keys of G and C.
George plays the song in the C Wahine” Leonard’s C” Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D), paying in the keys of G and C.
With melody by Charles E. King and lyrics by Mary Jane Montano, Beautiful Kahana enjoys wide circulation as either an instrumental or a vocal. “This is more of a duet,” George says. “In the middle of it we came in together and Barney took the second part, the background harmony.
10. Aloha Nui Ku'uipo
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the keys of C, G, and D.
George plays the song in the C Wahine “Taro Patch” Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the keys of C, G, and D.
Barney also recorded this song earlier in 1994, on his album E MAU withthe Koaha Surf Serenaders on electric steel with vocaists ans ensembe, and it is interesting to compare the two versions. He plays this version in the keys of C, D, and G and he and Barney back up Fely Gabriel’s vocal. Barney also recorded this song earlier in 1994, on his album E MAU with the Koaha Surf Serenaders on electric steel with vocaists and ensembe, and it is interesting to compare the two versions. He plays this version in the keys of C, D, and G
Ku`uipo is a term of affection that translates into English as ‘my beloved sweetheart.’ It appears in countless Hawaiian mele ho`oipoipo (love songs). George used to fool around with the melody on Slack Key in the early 1990s, and he played it with Barney at a few parties prior to recording it. It’s another of Barney’s favorites written by his father, and one of the standards he loves to play.
11. Medley: `Ahulili & Nani Wale Na Hala
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the key of C to back up George’s solos, and in the key of F for his solos.
George here plays in the C Major “Atta’s C” Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E – also see song #14) George plays his solos in the key of C, and plays in the key of F to back up Barney’s solos.
Attributed to Scott Ha`i, ‘Ahulili refers to a mountain on Maui. Lili means to be jealous. The mele puts this coincidence to good use as it tells the tale of a widow courted by two suitors: one a hard working paniolo (cowboy) and other a kolohe (rascal) musician. The song is probably best known today from Gabby Pahinui's Slack Key versions on THE BEST OF SLACK KEY (Waikiki Records #340) and on PURE GABBY (Hula Records HS-567), both played by Gabby in the G Major Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D).
George says, “We did it reminiscing how Barney and his brother Atta used to jam together. We start real Hawaiian style then move to Nane Wale Na Hala, which has beautiful jazz runs. We ended up with a duet in the last verse. The improvisation is real jazz-like, representative of the whole Isaacs family and really most of the players of that generation, including Gabby, Pua Almeida, and the Kalimas. I guess you could say they all broke out of the older tradition at that time but kept the melodies and rhythms and feelings uniquely Hawaiian.” Also known as Na Hala O Naue (The Hala of Naue), Nani Wale Na Hala (So Beautiful the Hala) honors Queen Emma referring to her as Kaleleonalani, the name she took after the death of her husband, Kamehameha V. It is attributed to J. Kahinu. Note in the last verse Barney’s beautiful harmonics playing the melody and some harmony notes a third interval above the melody.
“Ahuili has been popular with Slack Eky guitarists: George Kuo recorded ‘Ahulili on ALOHA NO NA KUPUNA (LOVE FOR THE ELDERS) in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D). Ozzie Kotani recorded ‘Ahulili on his album KANI KI HO’ALU (THE SOUND OF SLACK KEY) as a medey with 'Ahulili / I Ka Po Me Ke Ao / Mauna Loa in the G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D).
12. Goodnight, Mapuana
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the key of C.
George plays the song in the C Wahine “Leonard’s C” Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D), playing in the key of C
Composed by guitarist Lani Sang as a lullaby for his daughter, Goodnight Mapuana was recorded by the legendary Alfred Apaka, with whom Barney played for many years. “We did this together on Hawai`i Calls,” George says. “For inspiration we kept in mind the great vocal versions by Alfred and Gary Aiko. Barney got a chance to play with both of these great vocalists, I got to play it with Barney and Gary.”
13. Lahaina Luna
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E), playing in the key of C.
George plays the song in the C Major “Atta’s C” Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E), playing in the key of C. This tuning was created by Barney’s brother, Slack Key guitarist Leland “Atta” Isaacs (1929-1983), and Atta was best known for his recordings with Slack Key guitarist Gabby Pahinui, for his great and in-demand backup work with many, many artists, and for his beautiful melodic jazz influenced intros, endings, and improvised solos, with his distinctive sound in his C Major Tuning. Atta was also the first Slack Key guitarist to prolifically play in keys other than in the key of the Slack Key Tuning, often playing also in the keys of F, D, G, and sometimes A and B flat, creating a whole set of other beautiful sounds. Twenty one of Atta’s great recordings have been reissued on the album THE LEGENDARY ATTA ISAACS – INNOVATIVE HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY GUITAR MASTER, by Hana Ola Records, including tracks with Atta as the bandleader, duets with Gabby Pahanui, and tracks with the New Hawaiian Band, and the ensemble Hauoli (both which included Barney Isaacs).
Written by Kui Lee (1932-1966), one of the fathers of Hawaiian contemporary music, this song celebrates in very traditional fashion the beauties of the uplands area above Lahaina on Maui. Lahaina Luna (aka Lahainaluna) was previously recorded by Barney, accompanied by Atta Isaacs on Slack Key on the album HAUOLI (Sounds of Hawaii Records), re-issued on the album THE LEGENDARY ATTA ISAACS–INNOVATIVE HAWAIIAN SLACK KEY GUITAR MASTER (Hana Ola Records): “I got to meet Atta through the family parties. I always admired him. He used to say that keeping the Hawaiian feeling was the main thing, even when you were improvising.” Atta Isaacs played it in his C Major Tuning, C-G-E-G-C-E, which George Kuo also does here, again inspired by Atta.
14. Medley: Old Plantation & Ku`u Pua I Paoakalani (solo acoustic steel guitar)
Barney plays in the A minor 7th Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E ), playing in the key of F on Old Plantation, and modulating to the key of A for Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani.
This is the first solo acoustic steel guitar recording of the two classic Hawaiian songs. Barney first learned the acoustic steel guitar around 1937 since there were no amplifiers in those days, and Old Plantation was one of the first songs he learned. Barney used to play it for the May Day programs at Kalakaua School (‘May Day’ is a Hawaiian cultural day/celebration when school children come out and celebrate with music, especially during their elementary school years.)
David Nape composed the evocative, stately melody to Old Plantation to honor the old Curtis and Victoria Ward Estate, which stood at the corners of King Street and Ward Avenue -- now home to the Blaisdell Arena complex. A prolific composer, Nape supposedly came up with the tune in about half an hour. The lyrics, written by Mary Jane Montano, expertly engage all of the senses with images of flowers of love dripping with fragrance, of cool, glistening water cascading from the old water wheel on the property. As the hui says, ‘Old Plantation nani 'oe home pumehana i ke aloha i ka 'olu o ka niu i ka poli o ke onaona, Old Plantation, you're beautiful, a home warm with love, cool coconut grove, with sweetness in your heart.’
Barney then plays a seamless modulation to the key of A for the lovely Ku'u Pua I Paoakalani (My Beloved Flower at Paoakalani) was composed by Hawaii’s most beloved composer Queen Lili'uokalani (1838-1917) as a mele inoa, or name song, apparently for John Wilson, son of Evelyn Townsend Wilson. She composed it during the unsettled time following the illegal American overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893. After skirmishes at Leahi (Diamond Head) and Manoa in January 1895, the new republic administration jailed a number of Hawaiian and foreign royalists, then put the queen herself under house arrest at 'Iolani Palace. She was forbidden information from the outside world, but the story goes that young Wilson snuck newspapers in to her wrapped in flowers from Uluhaimalama, her garden in Waikiki. Like most Hawaiian composers, Lili'u makes good use of kaona in the chorus as she writes, 'Ike mau i ka nani o na pua i uka o Uluhaimalama. 'A'ole na'e ho'i e like me ku'u pua la'i o Paoakalani (See the beauty of the flowers forever at Uluhaimalama. There's no equal for my beloved flower of Paoakalani.) Wilson was later elected mayor of Honolulu.
Slack Key guitarist Ozzie Kotani has also recorded a beautiful solo instrumental version of this piece in G Major Tuning on his album TO HONOR A QUEEN (E HO`OHIWAHIWA I KA MO`I WAHINE) -THE MUSIC OF LILI`UOKALANI. Slack Key guitarist Cyril Pahinui also recorded a beautiful vocal version, with an extended instrumental first verse on his album HE’EIA (Dancing Cat Records), playing in the C Major “Atta’s C” Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E).
Notes by Jay W. Junker and George Winston.
Barney Isaac’s Steel guitar Tunings
On this album Barney plays all songs on this album in the A minor 7 Tuning (C-E-G-A-C-E - from the lowest- pitched string to the highest). Other Steel Guitar Tunings that Barney has used on other recordings, or have been commonly used in Hawaiian music:
1. C 7th Tuning: Bb-E-C-A-C-E
2. B11th Tuning (often used by Gabby Pahinui when he played electric steel guitar): B-D#-F#-A-C#-E
3. E9th Tuning: B-D-F#-G#-B-E - confirm with George Kuo –and Charlie Wallace)
4. E13th Tuning: B-D-F#-G#-C#-E - confirm with George Kuo –and Charlie Wallace)
5. C# minor Tuning B-D-E-G#-C#-E: This tuning was invented by the great acoustic steel guitarist Sol Ho`opi’i, and he first recorded in it on the acoustic steel guitar in 1929.
6. Open D (D-A-D-F#A-D) [or tuned up two half steps to Open E (E-B-E-G#-B-E) – used prominently by the Rogers Family, especially Benny Rogers, and David “Feet” Rogers (best known for playing with the Sons of Hawaii).
7. E13th Tuning: B-D-E-F#-C#-E) E9th Tuning (B-D-F#-G#-B-E) and the E13th Tuning (B-D-F#-G#-C#-E).
8. C# minor Tuning B-D-E-G#-C#-E: This tuning was invented by the great acoustic steel guitarist Sol Ho`opi’i, and he first recorded in it on the acoustic steel guitar in 1929.
George Kuo’s Slack Key Tunings used on this album:
1. G Major “Taro Patch” Tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D)
2. C Wahine “Leornard’s C” Tuning (C-G-D-G-B-D)
3. C Mauna Loa Tuning (C-G-E-G-A-E)
4. C Major “ Atta’s C” Tuning(C-G-E-G-C-E)
Tunings used by George Kuo on other recordings:
5. G Wahine Tuning (D-G-D-F#-B-D)
6. Gabby’s Wahine C Tuning (C-G-E-G-B-E)