Richard Russell & Friends’ Winter Solstice Celebration

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Ricardo & Friends
Kohala Village Hub Barn
December 21, 2017

Photos by Steve Roby.

Winter Solstice has been honored in world cultures for thousands of years, and North Kohala guitarist Richard Russell (AKA Ricardo) invited several of his favorite Big Island superstar musician friends to celebrate the occasion with a nearly three-hour performance that wowed a packed room at the Hub Barn in Hawi.

Russell thanked everyone for coming, and told the audience about the occasion. “This the solstice and that means the celestial wheels have turned, and they’ll be bringing the sun back more each day. It’s cause for celebration, and returning of the light.”

Russell has recorded nine albums of mostly original music, and you’ve probably seen him playing at various venues in several musical incarnations over the years. In 2016, his jazz sextet called the Slippersons released an album called Boundaries, which was nominated for a 2017 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Jazz Album of the Year, by the Hawaiian Academy of Recording Arts.

Russell’s band of friends featured sax man Jesse Snyder (above), who directs the horns in the Hawaiian swing band Kahulanui. Jesse can also be found playing with the Olliephonic Horns, Peak, Bump City and the Slippersons  among others. (Check out our exclusive interview with Snyder.)

On upright acoustic bass was Brian McCree (above). Hailing from the Boston music scene, he’s performed with Bobby Hebb, Jackie Byard, Pharoah Sanders and a long list of others. In 2003, he moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, where he’s played with the Olliephonic Horns, and the Slippersons.

Pianist Alex Czerny has been playing since he was four years old.  Originally from East Berlin, he came to Hawai‘i in 2008 with the intercontinental reggae/rock band The Durgas, and tours with them every summer in Europe and Asia. Czerny has also performed with vocalist and bandleader Lou Ann Gurney in the group Jazz Mele.

Pat Eskildsen is a diverse guitar player who can be heard on numerous Big Island recordings. Most recently he performed at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea with the big band Kahulanui, where they debuted their new release Mele Ho’oilina.

Drummer Joe Gargiulo has been featured in a number of bands including Big Rock, the Bill Noble Sextet, and The Slippersons.

The first set featured original tunes, and the second set included songs Russell played at his son’s wedding last year. That set was an upbeat blend of mostly Motown classics and swing jazz favorites. It got the crowd on their feet, and dancers filled the parameter of the venue. Singer Joey Bradley sang lead and really shined on Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life,” and got some back up “Pips” help for Gladys Knights’ “Midnight Train To Georgia.”

Russell played a trio of guitar beauties throughout the night. The acoustic guitar with the inlay was made by Jack Spira in Australia. It was crafted of Australian Blackwood and Ezo Spruce. The darker guitar with the round hole in the wrong place was a “Halfling,” made by Tom Ribekke of California. The solid-body guitar with the peacock feather pick guard (see photo) is a Firebird (with a mango wood top from Hawai’i island), made by Mike Lull of Seattle.

Russell plays with Snyder and McCree as The Red Water Trio on Friday evenings (6-9pm) at the Red Water Cafe in Waimea. Their set focuses on American jazz and Bossa Nova standards. More info here: http://www.redwatercafe.com

Set One
Comes a Time | My Fault Insurance | Happiness | Captain Time | Listen | Here We Are | Holy Now | Nana’s Song | Live That Long | The One You Are

Set Two
A Song For You | Is You Is or Is You Ain’t | Sunny | What’s Goin’ On | If Not For You | For Once In My Life | Midnight Train To Georgia | Try A Little Tenderness | Kiss | Summertime | Whole Earth Blues |

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