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Jake Shimabukuro & Friends Present a Master Class at the CMA Theater in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Jake Shimabukuro with a group of special guests performed at the CMA Theater in Nashville, Tennessee on June 27, 2023. The show could have been considered a master class in music at a state-of-the-art venue centrally located in downtown Nashville. The intimate 776-seat room has lighting designed by FDA and sound by Akustiks both respected for their work in concert halls. It was an ideal place to see Jake whose music is warm, welcoming and on this night - wild!


Jake Shimabukuro takes the stage at the intimate CMA Theater in Nashville.

Jake Shimabukuro is often referred to as the "the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele". Jake has rightfully earned that title as he brings versatility and vibrancy to the four-string. He can play blues, bluegrass, classical, folk, jazz, rock, and traditional in compositions that are colorful whether it's his own material or covers. Jake has been playing the instrument since he was four years old and it is no wonder that after two decades, he is a world-wide sensation.

During his diverse set, Jake soared on various guitar heavy songs that had us thinking he could also be dubbed "the Brian May (or insert other names) of the ukulele". On the 27th, he paid homage to a number of guitar gods such as Billy Gibbons, Eddie Van Halen and more. With a little help from his friends, Jake performed a moving tribute to the late Jeff Beck in a configuration that did not even include a guitar. Yes, Jake was using effects but his fluid fret work was the real deal. He would later give a nod to George Harrison with a wonderful take on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".


Jake started out solo before expanding to a four-piece later in the show.

"Aloha" said Jake as he strolled out on stage. Fans echoed the greeting while Shimabukuro started with an instrumental that had elements of classical while incorporating tricky techniques such as body taps paired with delicate touches to the strings. Jake introduced Jackson Waldhoff on electric bass who punctuated the up-tempo uke. The pair presented an innovative version of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby". The next special guest was Justin Kawika Young - formerly of the country pop group Gone West. Jake mentioned that they grew up in Hawaii together and have been collaborating. They played a pretty piece penned by Justin called "Grateful" followed by a track about missing their homeland which was also sweet as a ripe pineapple. Justin handled lead guitar and vocals on both.

"An inspiration!" - declared Jake as Sam Bush armed with a mandolin joined the group which was now a quartet. We were treated to a delightful "Friend of the Devil" (Grateful Dead) and a Lukas Nelson cover. Shimabukuro appeared to be thoroughly enjoying sharing the stage with his friends and smiled as Sam stepped up to solo. Mr. Bush showed us a vintage mandolin that he had figured out how to play like a slide guitar. He honored "Watson Allman" - two of his favorite players in a cool bluesy jam. Sam contributed to the Jeff Beck tune that earned the trio at that point a standing ovation from the attentive CMA audience.


The legendary Sam Bush joins the proceeding fresh off of a run of tour dates.

But, wait! There was more music to come that included beguiling bluegrass and a medley of rock classics. As they closed out the set Jake thanked a lot of folks. They returned for an encore that featured the 1960's classic "Get Together" followed by a traditional Hawaiian tune that Jake said is sort of the "Stairway of Heaven" for native island players. Of course, Shimabukuro slipped a bit of Stairway into it to end a wild night of music on a very high note.

Jake is touring in support of his latest album and some of the songs on Jake & Friends were played in Nashville. It started with the idea of having a few guests but all of a sudden that list got a lot bigger. Songs include: All You Need Is Love (feat. Ziggy Marley) Come Monday (feat. Jimmy Buffett) A Day in the Life (feat. Jon Anderson) Find Yourself (feat. Lukas Nelson) Go Now (feat. Michael McDonald) Get Together (feat. Jesse Colin Young) On the Road to Freedom (feat. Warren Haynes) A Place in the Sun (feat. Jack Johnson with Paula Fuga) The Rose (feat. Bette Midler) Something (feat. Amy Grant and Vince Gill) Stardust (feat. Willie Nelson) Two High (feat. Moon Taxi) Why Not (feat. Kenny Loggins) Wrapping Paper (feat. Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel).


Jakes peeked out to the crowd to see if they were enjoying his tricky four finger fret work.

In addition to the concert at the CMA Theater, Jake was in town to lead Ukulele Time in Nashville. It was his first ever ukulele camp that featured four days of lessons, live performances and workshops. All levels were welcomed. "One of the things I love most about the ukulele is that it's one of the easiest instruments to play. You can play these full chords with just one finger, you just hold one string down and you can play these beautiful four note chords" Shimabukuro states which is encouraging for any new comers to the uke, although Jake himself has taken the instrument to intense levels.

Shimabukuro's mastery of the ukulele has opened other doors for the likable performer who is now able to put his success to use in support of worthy causes. Jake has teamed up with Acoustic Coffee Company to create the Jake Shimabukuro, "My Dog Has Fleas" signature blend of coffee. Jake's passion for sharing his musical talent and tireless dedication to touching hearts in every corner of the world is celebrated with a coffee that gets its name from a song every beginner uke player learns when starting out. The coffee has been crafted of two delicious single-origin 100% Arabica beans from the Kona region of Hawaii and the high mountains of Honduras. Most importantly, this coffee supports three wonderful charities. Guitars in the Classroom brings music into schools to enhance learning and advance outcomes for younger students. Ukulele Kids Club provides musical therapy sessions to help initiate the path to wellness through the power of music for children around the world. Coral Reef Alliance partners at local, regional, and global levels to promote scalable and effective solutions to keep coral reefs healthy.


Jake at the Country Music Hall of Fame - can a country themed uke project be far behind?

Related Links: For more information on JAKE SHIMABUKURO and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Jake Shimabukuro | Jake Shimabukuro Brings His Nashville Sessions to Franklin | Sam Bush | Ukulele Time in Nashville | CMA Theater


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