Abe Lagrimas Jr. Trio brings ‘ukulele jazz to UHH

Hawaii audiences know Abe Lagrimas Jr. as an ‘ukulele player, but that’s not how his thriving musical career took flight.

Hawaii audiences know Abe Lagrimas Jr. as an ‘ukulele player, but that’s not how his thriving musical career took flight.

The Waipahu, Oahu, native is well established as a jazz drummer and vibraphonist in Los Angeles, where he now lives, and is the former music director and drummer for Philippine-born jazz vocalist Charmaine Clamor.

But the ‘uke made Lagrimas a Na Hoku Hanohano award winner, and it’s the instrument he’ll play fronting the Abe Lagrimas Jr. Trio at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 15) at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center. He’ll be joined by Dean Taba on bass and Noel Okimoto on drums and vibes. Taba and Okimoto were the rhythm section for the world-renowned smooth jazz ensemble Kilauea, led by multiple Grammy award winner Daniel Ho.

“I’ve played with them many, many times in many different settings, but as a trio, we played together earlier this year for the first time and it was amazing,” Lagrimas told the Tribune-Herald. “And when I was first invited to do these concerts (he’ll also play on Maui), I needed Noel and Dean. They’re the top rhythm section in (Honolulu). And I wouldn’t do it with anyone else unless I had the option to bring musicians with me from L.A.”

Lagrimas, who’s released five CDs of ‘ukulele music, started on drums at age 4, played guitar as a youth but didn’t pick up the ‘uke until the beginning of his junior year at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music.

“As far as my own style, I think I kind of just came up with it on my own because I was also learning the instrument,” he said. “It’s this weird thing where I was learning the instrument but also developing my own sound and style but not even knowing that, at the time.”

Lagrimas said he’s excited to do the trio shows “because this is a new thing” for him.

“A lot of the shows I’ve been doing are all solo ‘ukulele shows,” he said. “I’m so used to attending festivals and performing solo and watching other people play solo. But I don’t see a lot of ‘ukulele trios with a bassist and drummer.”

Advance tickets are $25 general admission, $20 for seniors and $12 for UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College students with ID and ages 17 and younger, available at the UH-Hilo PAC box office by calling 932-7490 or online at http://artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu.

Admission is $5 more at the door.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.