Brittni Paiva,
Brittni x 3
(Talmidim, 2004)

Brittni Paiva, an award-winning teenage musician from the Big Island of Hawaii, approaches Brittni x 3 with an open mind and a sense of adventure. She is the sole performer on the album, playing ukulele, slack key guitar and bass (hence the title), and shows herself to be a more-than-capable interpreter of music from Hawaiian tradition and more.

Like many young players in the Islands, she shows great respect for the old styles but she also has her heart set firmly in the present as she sets about forging her own sound. The 14 tracks are selected from diverse sources, some quite surprising: tunes from the traditional ("Radio Hula," "E Ku'u Morning Dew") and modern repertoires ("Lei Pikake," "G Minor Fleas") sit comfortably with classics ("Hula Blues," "Sophisticated Hula") and her own compositions ("Thunderstorm Slack Key," "New Beginnings," co-written with Grammy winner Keoki Kahumoku). Tracks such as these create a strong album, but the inclusion of "Summertime" and "Hava Nagili," both performed with a wonderful Hawaiian touch, demonstrate a maturity which belies her years.

Ukulele unfairly is not universally acknowledged for its beauty and versatility. But when Paiva plays Gershwin, you have to take notice. It's almost as though tunes like this were written with its warm and mellow sound in mind. Her sense of timing is excellent as she approaches it with restraint, thereby creating a wonderful tension.

This is followed by her version of George Kahumoku Jr.'s "Mohala," a bright and breezy image-laden piece featuring Paiva on all three instruments, giving her the opportunity to show what a good accompanist she is as well as a strong melody player.

Each track delves into a different aspect of guitar and ukulele music of Hawaii. The final cut, her interpretation of Barry Flanagan's "Lei Pikake," is perhaps the climax to the album as she gently, yet insistently, plays this beautiful melody. A teenager now, one is left wondering how far Brittni Paiva will go over the years as she matures and learns more ... it's a bit scary when you think of it.

by Jamie O'Brien
26 November 2005

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