Carol Banks Weber, Jazz Music Examiner
For Friday, July 15, 2011
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 15, 2011
THIS ONE’S FOR DOLLY: “I still remember my mom telling me I should form my own jazz group, and egging me on to do it,” John Kolivas said. “She also encouraged me to try out for the Honolulu Symphony, which I did in 1997. She was a force of nature.” Not only did Kolivas form the Honolulu Jazz Quartet, he also became a symphony bass player, just as his late mom, Dolly Kang Lott, wished. The HJQ marks its 10th anniversary with a performance at Gordon Biersch Wednesday, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m, and the release of a CD that includes past recordings. HJQ members are Kolivas, on bass; Dan Del Negro, piano; Tim Tsukiyama, sax; and von Baron, drums. The album, “Honolulu Jazz Quartet – Remembrance / Live at the Triple Door,” features numbers played at Seattle’s Triple Door music club on HJQ’s 2007 West Coast tour. The CD also includes “Remembrance,” a song with vocalist Anita Hall, recorded in 2001, for those who lost their lives on 9/11. It was written by Kolivas, with lyrics by his brother, Robert Pennybacker. The album is dedicated to their late mom …
CARL AND his wife JIM Smigielski marked their 33rd wedding anniversary at Alan Wong’s last Friday with their good friends Herb Alpert of Tijuana Brass fame and his wife, singer Lani Hall, who live in Hawaii part time. Also celebrating with them were Emme Tomimbang and Jim Burns, who just returned from a nostalgic trip to Glacier National Park in Montana where Burns was a seasonal park ranger 50 years ago. He noted the biggest change, saying, “There are female park rangers now!” …
RESTAURANT industry vet David Nagaishi has stepped into the general manager’s position at Wolfgang Zwiener’s Il Lupino and is again teamed with chef Nicola Sayada. “It’s just great working with Nic again,” David said. They worked together in the 1980s when David held management positions at the Black Orchid and Nick’s Fishmarket. Before coming to Il Lupino in Royal Hawaiian Center, David held top management positions at Ocean House, Don Ho’s Island Grill, Neiman Marcus Restaurants, Bali By the Sea, Pier 7 and Aqua …
SINGER Kalani Kinimaka, 73, died July 7 in a hospital in Wailuku, Maui, after suffering two recent strokes, according to information received from his son, Kimo, and brother, singer Iva Kinimaka. Kalani made a name for himself singing in Waikiki clubs in the 1960s and ’70s and on the “Hawaii Calls” radio show. He had a rich golden voice and specialized in romantic ballads. The handsome Hawaiian had small roles in movies filmed here and also made appearances on the original “Hawaii Five-0.” He later moved to Maui to be closer to his three sons and grandchildren. He continued his career on the Valley Isle, singing at weddings, vow renewals and ocean burials. Condolences to his family members …
Honolulu Jazz Quartet releases live album, including
Bassist John Kolivas hopes to revisit Seattle's Triple Door for a Honolulu Jazz Quartet tour someday soon.
Photo: Michi Moore Images
The Artist: John Kolivas’ canvas captures melodic jazz
January 25th, 2011 2:35 am ET
By Carol Banks Weber, Jazz Music Examiner
Bass players get a tough rap. They’re barely featured, always in the back, just plucking along, quietly keeping the beat, maybe doing something radical, like nodding their heads and grinning at the same time. But for the most part, especially in the competitive art of jazz, they remain largely ignored, an untapped, rich resource for the brasher artists up front in the limelight.
Hawaii jazz bassist John Kolivas does more with his bass than just stand there looking pretty. He’s still at the back of the stage, rhythmically pounding the beats. But he’s also driving the pace, the time, and the groove for the rest of the musicians and a singer perhaps. Besides enabling the others to confidently launch into their solos, he’s providing a cohesive backdrop, with accents, to reinforce each song’s theme. Without his solid, steady leadership, many live shows could turn into train wrecks.
What especially differentiates him from many island bassists—even national and international players—is his innately intricate, tenderly nostalgic, and delicate, sensitive artistry in songwriting. He’s doesn’t just provide a backbeat for other people’s stuff. He has proven time and time again that he has the stuff to carve out a hybrid niche for himself.
Whether it’s providing a touching tribute to 9/11 survivors and victims in “Remembrance” from his Honolulu Jazz Quartet’s “Sounds Of The City,” or conjuring up a fond childhood memory of his grandfather and his love of sports in “The Indians” in “Tenacity,” Kolivas has this ability to capture underlying emotions we keep so deeply hidden and stitch them inside a memorable, catchy, almost pop-tune-worthy hook of a melody. He essentially makes jazz accessible to the mainstream, yet keeps its improvisational, intricate integrity and character—not easy to do.
In learning a little more about this in-demand working jazz musician and music instructor, it’s not at all surprising that all forms of music have influenced his own unique sense of artistic style (which can be described as haunting, playful, full of concave inflections), and have shaped him into a fuller, richer artist on his own. To better understand why he is as open as he is to all influences, is to understand where he came from and where he intends to go.
Why play jazz over, say, rock or R&B? Don't get me wrong. I like all types of music, and play many types of music, including classical, rock, Hawaiian, R&B, Broadway shows, etc. For some background information: my mom was a classical pianist, and my dad a jazz sax player. Although they divorced when I was three and he moved back to Memphis, we always had jazz music playing in the house. By the time I was about 12 years old, I had already started playing bass in the school orchestra. My mom bought me a used Fender electric bass and got me electric bass lessons with a jazz guitar player named Bill Valdez, who lived in Kaneohe. Valdez was a jazz fanatic and he passed on his enthusiasm for jazz to me. He taught me jazz standards, and how to swing. I realized that jazz was a very high form of music, like classical music, but with the freedom to improvise and really use your ear, which is what I was accustomed to, always trying to imitate my mom's piano pieces. Mr. Valdez opened up my mind to the jazz greats like Charlie Parker and all the great jazz guitarists. My brother, Robert Pennybacker, added to that by introducing me to John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, and also Quincy Jones. I was hooked! Also, bassists like Ron Carter - with his rich, growling sound, and Ray Brown - the greatest walking bassist ever, made me really loved the sound of the bass.
Was there any pivotal point in your life when you knew this (working musician) was the kind of life you had to pursue? Yes. I went to Punahou School from first grade. Being that I write with my left hand (I do almost everything else right-handed, including bass-playing), I would always smear the pencil lead across the page. My hand and paper were so messy! I also hated Math. I thought to myself, I have to go to school for 12 years, then another four of college? Forget it. I'm going to find something else I like to do. I already loved music, so as the years went on, I decided I wanted to be a professional musician one day!
What, if anything, is going on in Hawaii in terms of supporting/sustaining live jazz, or is it dying there too? I wouldn't say it is dying, because, you have a nucleus of musicians who have an enthusiasm and love of the music. And, there are non-musician jazz lovers who regularly support the music. Although the jazz venues are a lot less than, say, the ‘70s, I think the music will continue on. However, it is getting more difficult to make a living just doing music. If I didn't teach music, I'm not sure how I'd make a living.
Describe the kind of music you enjoy playing and composing. I enjoy playing jazz, because of the creativity involved, although I do enjoy playing many types of music as well. I got more into composing when I formed the Honolulu Jazz Quartet. I realized that writing a tune is a creative/artistic outlet that has many rewards. It's such a privilege to know that my compositions have been heard throughout the world, and it started at my dining table! However, I'm not limiting myself to only jazz compositions. I'm starting to look into Hawaiian and other types of music to compose.
What inspires you when you compose your own works? Good question! I get inspired by images, mostly images I've experienced in my life. “Remembrance” was written with the image of the Twin Towers burning. What a horrific site. Having lived in New York City, and my wife even worked in the WTC, I had to write something. I wrote “Hibiscus Drive” and “The Indians” with my mom and grandfather in mind, respectively. Many times, I'll get ideas for tunes just from taking a walk. I have to write them down quick, or sing it into my phone so I don't forget the tune! Or, I'll wake up in the morning with a tune in my head. If it sounds original, I'll write it out. I always get melodies first, and figure out the chords later.
You and your Honolulu Jazz Quartet are working on a new recording. Tell me about that. It's in the early stages. I've given the band some assignments, to do some composing. I have a bunch of tunes or partial tunes already written, but I need to go over them and see what needs to be done to finish them. Once we have enough originals, we'll be ready, which I hope will be soon. I'd like to put something out this spring or summer. This being our 10th year as a band, I think it is important to get something out.
What else is on the agenda for you—as a solo artist, and as a part of HJQ? I'm currently playing in the orchestra with musicians from the former Honolulu Symphony for the Hawaii Opera Theatre. I'm also working on a project with Hawaiian vocalist Raiatea Helm, doing some arrangements for her. I just got back from New York City with Keola Beamer and Raiatea, playing for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) convention. This means we will probably be doing some touring starting in the Fall. With HJQ, we are looking at doing some special concerts during the year and possibly some short tours. We just did a concert last week at the Volcano Arts Center on the Big Island. I was really happy with the turnout and meeting enthusiastic jazz fans over there!
Honolulu Jazz Quartet's 'Tenacity' hits straight-ahead spot
February 2nd, 2010 10:52 pm ET
By Carol Banks Weber, Jazz Music Examiner
Too many bands claim to be all about jazz. They hail from all the right places: NYC, L.A., Chicago. They drop the right names: Miles, Metheny, Monk. But all too often, when it comes time to put up, these fly-by-nights sound like anything but jazz with their high-stepping, high-falutin’ ideas of cross-cultural fusion taken to 11 on the volume knob.
Rarely do we come across jazz musicians who know how to play it right. Well, ladies and gentlemen, meet the Honolulu Jazz Quartet, made up of some of Hawaii’s finest, hardest-working jazz musicians: bassist John Kolivas, pianist Dan Del Negro, drummer Adam Baron, and tenor/soprano saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama.
To the tourist-minded, Hawaii’s only about the surf, hula dancers, Book ‘em, Dano, and luaus. Jazz, from Hawaii of all unlikely places? Believe it. HJQ formed fairly recently, about nine years ago, out of a need to get the jazz out, amazing, focused, collaborative real jazz. With 2003’s “Sounds Of The City,” 2007’s “Tenacity,” and several major gigs, including a jaunt to Seattle’s Triple Door, HJQ has quietly made a name for itself doing what used to be done, taking care of business playing true jazz the way it was meant to be played.
Individually, these guys can and have held their own, going on tour with the famous Hawaiian slack key guitarist Keola Beamer (whose “Real Old Style” in “Tenacity” was turned into a stylized instrumental), doing gigs with international jazz artists of Tiger Okoshi’s, Herbie Mann’s, George Benson’s, Arturo Sandoval’s, and John Pizzarelli’s caliber, as well as local legends Jimmy Borges, Azure McCall, Gabe Baltazar, and Betty Loo Taylor.
Now that we’ve got some of the credentials out of the way, listen to their second CD, “Tenacity,” and hear what Hawaii musicians can do. Of particular, haunting note is track #4, “The Indians,” written by John Kolivas, the band’s leader. It starts off soft, a piano, a brush of percussion, and then the sax introduces a sad melody that’s replayed in gentle waves throughout. The song itself was written as a kind of homage to Kolivas’ late grandfather, Lawrence Kang, and stories Kang would tell about life in Hawaii. Kang’s influence on Kolivas—through baseball—left a lasting legacy and this song shows.
A memorable song that typifies another way jazz works is #7’s “Chillin’ At The Crib” by Dan Del Negro. Del Negro wrote this ballad on request, to capture the feel of locals doing what locals love to do, taking it easy, “relaxing at home, enjoying some music, wine, and good food.” It takes a simple but curvaceous melody and builds incrementally into a fully fledged jazz standard, allowing instruments like the piano and the sax to fill the gaps creatively. Of all the songs on this CD, “Chillin’…” plays the most like straight-ahead jazz does and should in all the major Mainland clubs you hear about.
Another fun feature of jazz – along the lines of improv – is the occasional tendency to play with chords, borrow riffs from other songs, and incorporate them into the current track. HJQ does this greatly in #8, Kolivas’ “The Keez Is In The Car,” a local interpretation (in the pidgen-English title and the inspiration of driving around Ala Moana). It starts off as an original take, then adds the familiar strains of the “Pink Panther” theme towards the latter half.
“Wayne’s Bounce,” another Kolivas original, borrows heavily from Anita Baker’s “Been So Long” (from her 1985 Grammy-award-winning “Rapture” album) percussive intro to my untrained ears. Kolivas actually wrote it in the theme of “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter then done by Terrence Blanchard.
Posted on: Tuesday, February 20, 2007
HJQ keeps it going
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
H-Town jazz saviors the Honolulu Jazz Quartet are back with a second CD, "Tenacity," and some serious critical praise from lauded jazz author Nat Hentoff. Catch the HJQ live tonight. Dig what makes 'em so cool now.
The Honolulu Jazz Quartet "Tenacity" CD release
Formed a band. July 2001
Get the CDs. "Tenacity" (2007), "Sounds of the City" (2004)
The sound. Kolivas calls it "post-bop acoustic jazz."
Why the title "Tenacity"? "It means to hang on when the going gets tough," says Kolivas. "It also has to do with the group staying together, and playing jazz. We love the music. But it's not an easy thing to stick to. ... You have to be tenacious to stick with what you believe in."
HJQ motto. "Keep it going."
Kolivas: Miles Davis, Woody Shaw, Wayne Shorter; Tsukiyama: Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, inset; Del Negro: Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea; Baron: Jeff Hamilton, Ray Brown, Ahmad Jamal
All originals, no standards. Reason? To create instead of simply play music. "Duke Ellington said, 'It's all been written already. We're just rearranging,' " said Kolivas. "You have to be creative (and) make something ... to be an artist. It's important to do that."
Well, except one. The Keola Beamer composition "Real Old Style," which Kolivas admires for its focus on family life. Beamer, inset, wrote the original about his grandfather and aunties who loved to dance.
Nat Hentoff digs it. So much so, that Hentoff, inset, writes that the HJQ "exemplifie(s) the very definition of jazz � a conversation of individual voices fully listening to one another and cohering into a unique, continually evolving organism."
Don Gordon does, too. The jazz aficionado and host of KIPO-FM 89.3's weeknight "Jazz With Don Gordon" show says, "Hopefully, this CD will gain recognition and grab the attention of respected Mainland jazz programmers. (It) continues the elevation of local jazz both at home and afar."
Kolivas, first turned on to jazz after reading Nat Hentoff's young-adult novel "Jazz Country" at age 12, sent a review copy of "Sounds" to the writer in 2004. Hentoff asked Kolivas to send an advance disc of HJQ's second recording when it was done. "The same day he got it in New York, he called me and said, 'The tracks are fine! ... If you'd like, I'd be willing to write the liner notes.' " In those, Hentoff writes, "I only write liner notes for recordings that make me want to hear them again � and again."
Kolivas met Miles Davis in 1983 in New York while playing in the band of the Broadway musical "The Tap Dance Kid." Renowned session drummer Grady Tate introduced Kolivas to the raspy-voiced trumpet legend. Known for being a dude of few words, Davis leaned in and gave Kolivas the coolest compliment ever: "Bass sounds good." Says Kolivas, "I could've retired after that."
Jazz cat they'd all be roadies for. Miles Davis
ESSENTIAL JAZZ CD
Kolivas: "Kind of Blue," Miles Davis; Tsukiyama: "Afro Blue Impressions," John Coltrane; Del Negro: "Gershwin's World," Herbie Hancock. Baron: "Bam Bam Bam," Ray Brown Trio
ESSENTIAL NONJAZZ CD
Kolivas: "Songs in the Key of Life," Stevie Wonder; Tsukiyama: "Greatest Hits," Sly & The Family Stone; Del Negro: "Mozart Piano Concertos 17, 19, 21 & 25," Ambache Chamber Orchestra; Baron: "Live at the Acropolis," Yanni
Reach Derek Paiva at email@example.com.
WEEKEND February 16, 2007
"You know, a lot of guys have written books trying to tell what jazz is, but Charlie Parker told the whole story in less than 30 seconds. He said, 'Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.' ...
"What he said applies most of all to jazz because when you're improvising, man, you're going inside yourself to dig out how you feel at that moment, and if you haven't lived enough to feel enough, you're not telling any kind of a story that's worth hearing."
-- from the novel "Jazz Country" by Nat Hentoff
John Kolivas was carrying a well-worn paperback copy of the young readers' novel with him when we met last week at the Honolulu Club lounge. It was "Jazz Country" that inspired his own journey into jazz. Imagine his surprise when Hentoff agreed to pen the liner notes to the new album by the Honolulu Jazz Quartet, of which Kolivas is leader and bassist.
Honolulu Jazz QuartetIn concert: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Place: Luke Lecture Hall, Wo International Center, Punahou School
Tickets: $10; $7 students and seniors
Call: 923-3909 or visit honolulujazzquartet.com
The HJQ has become the islands' premier jazz group since its inception in mid-2001. The quartet has certainly "lived enough to feel enough," as Hentoff put it, to play their original music with a certainty and confidence that can come along only with maturity.
"Basically," Kolivas said, " 'Jazz Country' helped me to appreciate that jazz is a language and that you can communicate your feelings through your improvisations and interaction with the band. I also learned that a solo should tell a story. This fascinated me when I read the book years ago."
The quartet's new album, "Tenacity," is an excellent recording that will debut in concert Tuesday at Punahou School's Wo International Center. The CD will be available in local stores starting that day, and going national in stores and online a month later.
"The word 'tenacity,' for us, means sticking together for six years and sticking with jazz, and being true to the art form," Kolivas said. "The album is a real jazz recording."
Recorded late last July at the high-end Avex Hawaii studio in Hawaii Kai with the help of veteran engineer Milan Bertosa, "Tenacity" is the result of an amazingly concentrated two days worth of sessions. With the exception of a fine waltz arrangement of Keola Beamer's "Real Old Style," all the tracks are originals and equally top-notch.
"It's been awhile since the release of the first album, 'Sounds of the City,' " said Del Negro. "We've come a long way with our writing." (His ballad "Chillin' at the Crib" was a welcome last-minute addition to the "Tenacity" lineup.)
"The new album definitely shows some progress in our work," added Kolivas. "The music's a little edgier." With each track recorded live, and getting two run-throughs at most, it was evident that "everyone was clicking on those days in the studio. We've been playing so long together, there was no pressure."
Back to HJQ's special relationship with Hentoff, a giant among jazz writers and critics: The local-born Kolivas discovered "Jazz Country" "just as I was just getting into jazz, back when I was 12. The book helped inspire my move to New York City when I was 21."
"I remember learning jazz history by reading Hentoff's liner notes on those great Prestige label reissues," Tsukiyama said. "His sense of history has been one of the great influences in my life."
The writer was familiar with HJQ's music when Kolivas approached him at a mainland conference of the International Association for Jazz Education. When Kolivas told him about the new album, Hentoff said he wanted to hear it. When he said later that he was inspired enough to want to do the liner notes, Kolivas was understandably floored.
"Each of these musicians," Hentoff wrote, "has extensively varied experiences with established jazz musicians beyond -- as well as in -- Hawaii. And together they have emerged into the front ranks of jazz combos -- all the more so because ... they can create their own multicolored repertory."
The HJQ has made it this far on its own terms. When asked if the band ever considered doing an album of easier-listening (and probably better-selling) "smooth jazz," Kolivas stated, "We've all played that stuff before. It's important that we stay true to what we believe in. The vision for this band was that it always be an acoustic group."
"That's our musical signature," added Baron. "We believe in what we play, and the music proves we have a distinctive sound."
It's paid off for the Honolulu Jazz Quartet.
Posted on: Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Jazz band puts Islands on chart
By Lee Cataluna
Forget "American Idol." Four Hawai'i jazz musicians are attracting
national attention - so much so, that their CD is tied with Norah Jones'
latest on the JazzWeek national chart.
The Honolulu Jazz Quartet's "Sounds of the City," which was recorded
here, has been on the JazzWeek Top 50 chart for the past three weeks.
JazzWeek is the definitive jazz radio airplay chart for stations across
the United States and Canada. The CD was released nationwide in February.
It debuted at No. 44 on JazzWeek three weeks ago.
"We are still hovering in the mid-40 range on the chart," band founder
John Kolivas says. Though he's not counting on climbing the charts much
higher, he says, " ... isn't it something to see the word 'Honolulu' in
the top 50!"
It is particularly impressive since this was an independent project - not
a big-musical label release, but their own project, their first, on their
Kolivas, who plays bass, grew up in Hawai'i and went on to play on
Broadway and perform with a long list of jazz notables including Larry
Coryell, Herb Ellis, Makoto Ozone, George Benson, Glen Moore, Robin
Eubanks and Richie Cole. He has also performed with the Honolulu Symphony
and toured with Keola Beamer.
Saxophone player Tim Tsukiyama, described as a "local boy" in the liner
notes, studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He
has diverse performance credentials, from Ray Charles to Kalapana.
Dan Del Negro, who plays piano, has extensive musician theater
credentials, having performed with touring companies of "Les Miserables,"
"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and "Miss Saigon." He
also performs with, and is married to, Keahi Conjugacion of the beloved
Conjugacion musical family.
Drummer Adam Baron is from Kansas City, Mo. He lived in Seattle before
coming to Hawai'i, where he performed Brazilian music, jazz and jump
The 10 pieces on the CD are all originals. The liner notes give insight
to the inspiration of each; for example, the back story to a piece called
"Heater's On." Apparently, when Kolivas moved to New York City in the
1980s to pursue his music, the noisy heater in his little apartment would
often keep him up on cold winter nights. Many years later, that heater
would inspire his composition. There's also a great little story about
trumpeter Woody Shaw at a traditional Korean barbeque at the Kolivas
family home in Hawai'i.
While so many in Hawai'i are trying to "cross the bridge" to the Mainland
music scene, the Honolulu Jazz Quartet is building their own connection.
You can find out more about the band on their Web site,
www.honolulujazzquartet.com <http://www.honolulujazzquartet.com/> .
Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at
535-8172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, September 5, 2003
Posted on: Friday, February 22, 2002
Island foursome share passion for jazz
Illustration by Jon Orque The Honolulu Advertiser
Quartet with Azure McCall
Advertiser Staff Writer
Bassist John Kolivas formed the Honolulu Jazz Quartet for a single, selfish reason.
"I just wanted to play music that I liked," said Kolivas, laughing. "Where no one could tell me, 'No, you can't play that.'"
Read "that" as jazz, a musical passion for Kolivas since small-kid time with his classical pianist mother and, especially, his jazz sax player father.
"The situation here in Hawai'i is that if you want to make a living in music, you have to play everything," said Kolivas, speaking from experience. In addition to the Honolulu Jazz Quartet which launches KIPO FM's first monthly Jazz Night with a free performance at Kapono's at Aloha Tower Marketplace on Monday Kolivas is a member of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra; plays on recordings by Keola Beamer, Kapono Beamer and Kealii Reichel; and teaches bass and music classes at Kamehameha Schools. And all of this while doing steady restaurant and nightclub gigs around Honolulu.
The jazz quartet was formed by Kolivas last June. Its members in addition to Kolivas, drummer Richie Pratt, pianist Dan Del Negro and saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama knew each other from running in the same local music cliques. Kolivas, Pratt and Del Negro had backed vocalist Marianne Mayfield together. Kolivas knew Tsukiyama from gigging around town.
Kolivas was searching for musicians who would be as passionate about the music as he was, and he became convinced Pratt, Del Negro and Tsukiyama fit the bill.
The group held its first rehearsal on a Sunday in July at Kolivas' Diamond Head home, when everyone was finally free of other gigs.
"We ran through a tune called 'I'll Remember April,' and it sounded nice," Kolivas said. "Then we did a couple of standards. Richie had his originals so we did a couple of his things. And that was about it. It just clicked and felt good right away."
The quartet's debut performance the following month attracted a packed house to pianist Rich Crandall's popular weekly Studio 6 jazz night at the Musicians Union building in Kaka'ako. The roomy rehearsal studio has been the quartet's preferred home ever since.
"Right now, we like situations where we play for people who are there to really listen to the music," said Kolivas. "At Studio 6, you can hear every note, because people are just sitting there and listening. It's a lot more fulfilling, as a musician, for creativity."
KIPO's Jazz Night offers the quartet yet another shot at a potentially rapt audience, but more importantly, a place for other Honolulu jazz musicians looking for fervent fans of the genre.
"And that's great, because there just isn't that much happening in jazz in town," Kolivas said. "And there are great musicians here."
The foursome's repertoire includes a mix of its own original work, as well as standards and rarely heard gems by just about every jazz musician that group members have admired. Truth be told, preparing a set list everyone can agree on is typically the quartet's most trying task.
"There's such a big list of tunes that we can do and we like, so it's really hard to narrow it down," Kolivas said. "We mix it up to make it more interesting. I think we'd only feel satisfied if we had an eight-hour concert."
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This article originally appeared in the Honolulu
Weekly on September 12, 2001.
MUSIC, by Stephen Fox
(photo by Robert Pennybacker )
Newly formed, the Honolulu Jazz Quartet stretches out with singer Azure
McCall for a night of Swinging bebop, scat and progressive jazz.
Bass player John Kolivas performs with the Honolulu Symphony, teaches at
Kamehameha and plays on the pop end, too -- including accompanying a
variety of acts, from Nueva Vida to Keali'i Reichel. But his love since
childhood has been jazz, and that drove him to put together the Honolulu
Jazz Quartet this past June.
"Jazz has always been great tunes from great writers," Kolivas says.
"Playing music like that is challenging. You've got a lot of different
chord changes, different tempos. It's music that sort of gets to our
souls, and we don't get to do it that often."
Before putting together the quartet, Kolivas was jamming with Nueva Vida,
which plays mostly fusion jazz. But he yearned to play music from the
1950s and 1960s, feeling a need to quench his thirst for something more
traditional -- with a careful integration of the cool, bebop style made
famous by Miles Davis. The quartet strives "to play that kind of music
and play it well. Not just try to copy what went on back then, but try to
build on it, develop a sound," says Kolivas.
"Progressive jazz," is how drummer Richie Pratt describes the quartet's
repertoire. "And I started to say traditional jazz, but we kind of
stretch it beyond the traditional."
Kolivas says it was difficult to get a strong regular group together
because so many of the more talented jazz people in town are so busy with
side projects, teaching, recording or something else. But the core of the
group -- Kolivas, Pratt and pianist Dan del Negro -- had backed vocalist
Marianne Mayfield and were receptive to the idea of stretching out
The result is a collection of some of the most talented jazz musicians
Honolulu has to offer. Kolivas started on cello at Punahou, and then
switched to bass. He spent eight years in New York City playing jazz and
Broadway shows before returning to O'ahu to raise his family. In 1982,
Kolivas first heard drummer Pratt who was playing the show Sophisticated
Ladies on Broadway.
In the 1960s Pratt was a member of the New York Giants as a lumbering
offensive lineman. Although he had a better offer from a Canadian league
team, Pratt played as a free agent for the Giants to be around the
Manhattan music scene. He retired from the game early and saved his
knees, and went to work as a host at the Village Gate, the Greenwich
Village clubhouse for some legendary jazz performances and live
recordings. There his pro-athlete status actually was a convenient way to
meet folks like Davis and Ahmad Jamal.
"A lot of the heavyweight musicians were as excited to meet me as I was
to meet them," Pratt says. When those musicians on the scene realized
that Pratt was also an accomplished musician, he began getting gigs. He
played Broadway shows and toured with Lionel Hampton.
"That's why I like working with Richie," Kolivas says, "because he's been
Pratt also returns the praise for the quartet's pianist. "Top shelf," is
Pratt's description of del Negro. "No reservations, great facility, good
Del Negro was born in Chicago, where he played until he moved to Los
Angeles in 1995. He came first to Honolulu on tour with the Miss Saigon
company and met Kolivas playing a benefit at Diamond Head Theatre. "I
fell in love with Hawai'i so hard it was almost impossible to leave," del
Negro says, "and I had to come back. What I fell in love with most was
He's been here since November, playing an increasing number of gigs and
The quartet was completed by tenor saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama, a Berklee
College of Music grad who plays with Kalapana and the Royal Hawaiian
Band, and has backed up Ray Charles and the Temptations in their Hawai'i
The trio needed a lead to round out the group, and Tsukiyama is a
familiar face on the Honolulu jazz scene. "I think Tim was a good
choice," says Kolivas of the reed man. "He's a tenor player. Somehow that
sound, I really like it. It fits the group."
A familiar voice joining the quartet for its gig Sept. 19 at Studio 6 is
stylish chanteuse Azure McCall. "I call her the first lady of jazz in
Honolulu," says Kolivas. "She's got the chops, she's a good scat singer.
She really swings, and that's what you look for in a jazz singer."
"Soon as we hit the first note, we knew it was good. We're gonna go from
Studio 6 to Carnegie Hall," Pratt says with high aspirations.