The humble ukulele has sat on the back burner throughout most of Jazz music's rich history. Paul Hemmings is determined to change that.
With The Paul Hemmings Uketet, the unassuming four-stringed Hawaiian instrument takes its place front and center, alongside bass and drums, in a contemporary jazz combo that pushes the boundaries of what has often been considered a mere novelty instrument. Based in New York City, The Uketet (pronounced yook-TET) serves up a savory blend of original music, jazz standards, and contemporary classics, all the while showcasing the instrumental virtues of its key ingredient.
With a repertoire ranging from Thelonious Monk and Antonio-Carlos Jobim to Bob Marley and The Beatles, the group's debut album, Introducing...The Paul Hemmings Uketet, was released in 2012 on Leading Tone Records. In the intervening months, Paul and his Uketet have been winning over audiences at festivals and jazz clubs from coast to coast and around the world with their distinct blend of hard-swinging jazz, latin-infused polyrhythms, and reggae-tinged grooves, all peppered with fancy flights of improvisation. From the Hawaiian Islands to the Island of Manhattan, The Uketet combines the warm spirit of Aloha with the vibrancy of New York's world-renowned jazz scene to offer an original twist on the instrumental jazz trio.
Viewing music through a wide-angle lens, Paul Hemmings incorporates elements of jazz, free improvisation, and world music into a signature style that has been called "bold, beautiful, and full of promise." He has released five albums over the past decade, including critically acclaimed recordings with saxophonists John Tchicai and Eric Alexander, in addition to his work with The Paul Hemmings Uketet. His proclivity for crossing musical boundaries led All About Jazz to write, "Hemmings' mixture of cultures, influences, and genres, exploring the edges of harmony and rhythm, is remarkably fresh and a complete success."
A jazz guitar player by training, Paul's love affair with the ukulele started while visiting the island of Maui for a friend's wedding. What began as a light-hearted fling soon developed into a full-fledged obsession. Paul's ukulele started making appearances on more and more of his jazz guitar gigs until it became clear that it was time to launch a project that would feature the diminutive instrument in its own right. The Paul Hemmings Uketet was born, and along with Gaku Takanashi on bass and alternately Mike Campenni or Kirk Driscoll on drums, the group set to work playing gigs around New York, developing their unique sound with arrangements that combine familiar melodies with exotic harmonies and the rhythms of the world.
In addition to performing and composing, Paul is a passionate and enthusiastic music educator. For the past ten years, he has taught students of all ages at the Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City, the nation's oldest community music school. With a music degree from the acclaimed jazz program at the New School University in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, he has also conducted clinics, workshops, and master classes at numerous ukulele festivals and music camps. Paul is currently toiling away on a series of books and instructional videos for ukulele players of all stripes.
The history of the ukulele is a case study in cultural exchange. With The Paul Hemmings Uketet, "aloha" meets "fuggedaboutit", and the ukulele will never be the same.
Blue Uke (Paul Hemmings) by The Paul Hemmings Uketet
If I Fell (Lennon / McCartney) by The Paul Hemmings Uketet
No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley) by The Paul Hemmings Uketet
'Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk) by The Paul Hemmings Uketet
Papakea (Paul Hemmings) by The Paul Hemmings Uketet
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""The ukulele has been riding a wave of resurgent popularity in recent years...but while many of the current crop of ukulele players focus solely on technical virtuosity, few have incorporated the sophisticated language of modern jazz as successfully as Paul Hemmings.""
-- The Davis Enterprise [Click here to read the full article.]
"With so many new 'ukulele players appearing on the scene, it can be daunting to sort through and decide what artists are really original, and what ones are just repackaging the same-ole, same-ole. The Paul Hemmings Uketet definitely falls in the "original" category. [...] Introducing...The Paul Hemmings Uketet is a great, well... ...introduction to a talented group!"
-- Brad Bordessa, Live 'Ukulele [Click here to read the full review.]
"Paul's uke playing shines. This is no random fingerpicker, but clearly...somebody who is dedicated to both jazz and the stringed instrument world. Highlights of the jazz covers for me include One Note Samba and one of my favourite jazz standards in Monks 'Round Midnight, the latter carried off with a particularly smoky aplomb."
-- Barry Maz, Got A Ukulele [Click here to read the full review.]
· Bell, Book, & Candle (New York, NY)
· Cairns Ukulele Festival (Queensland, Australia)
· Dana Street Roasting Company (Mountain View, CA)
· Fifty Fifty Brewing Company (Truckee, CA)
· Garden Cafe (New York, NY)
· Gramercy Tavern (New York, NY)
· Ivories Jazz Lounge (Portland, OR)
· Jazz Station (Eugene, OR)
· Kitchen Door at Oxbow Public Market (Napa, CA)
· Lake Anne Ukulele Festival (Reston, VA)
· Palms Playhouse (Winters, CA)
· Reno Ukulele Festival (Reno, NV)
· The Triple Door (Seattle, WA)
· UKEtober Fest (Eugene, OR)
· Wine Country Ukulele Festival (St. Helena, CA)
Click on the thumbnails below to download a 300dpi JPG image.
Photography by Bill Wadman.
Click on the thumbnail below to download a 300dpi JPG image.
Photography by Bill Wadman.