Waimea’s Grammy Award-winning musician Charles Michael Brotman showcased his passion for acoustic jazz guitar in a hometown virtual concert last Saturday.
Brotman’s one-hour set at the Kahilu Theatre featured songs he’d composed over the past few decades with his acoustic guitar trio Kohala, and from his early solo CDs. The life-long musician brought with him guitarist Charlie Recaido, an original member of Kohala, and pianist Karl Kasberg, with whom Brotman has worked for over 30 years.
Some of the set’s most striking moments came when Brotman performed “Pipeline Samba” and “The Promise of Dawn.” “Pipeline Samba” is a song about the famous surfing mecca Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of O’ahu. Brotman’s and Recaido’s intricate finger work generated deep emotional sonic landscapes, and you could almost visualize the brave surfers as they tackle the massive swells in this unique location.
Not long after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake shook northeastern Japan and unleashed a savage tsunami in 2011, Brotman’s label in Japan asked if he could compose a soothing and uplifting song for the survivors of this catastrophe. The result was “The Promise of Dawn.” Since, Brotman has performed the number at several concerts in Japan and noted that the crowd’s reaction is always amazing.
The show’s most heartwarming highlight was “Ali Ann,” an instrumental named for one of Brotman’s daughters. As he explained the premise of the tune, he welcomed Kasberg to the stage to accompany him and Recaido on the theater’s beautiful Steinway grand piano.
“You know how music can take you back to a memory or a time?” he asked the Kahilu TV viewers. “When I play this song, I think of my daughter as a 6-year-old running through the tall grass in the vacant lot next to our house with her dog.”
Sixty minutes with a virtuoso like Brotman and his musical guests was a gift of harmonic joy, one that leaves you wanting more.
In a post-show talk-story segment, Brotman explained what keeps him motivated daily.
“It’s the learning process,” said the musician. “With the new digital technology for music, it’s like a baby taking its first steps. You’re constantly learning and reinventing what you’re doing. It can be challenging, but interesting too.”
The multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Award recipient has become a Big Island music legend, although if you asked the soft-spoken humble musician, he’d probably deny it.
Brotman has lived in Hawaii for 29 years and grew up on Mercer Island, Washington. He moved to Hawaii in 1990 to earn a master’s in music at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he taught classical guitar for nine years. Since then, he’s co-founded Palm Records with his sister Jody, built the Lava Tracks Recording Studio in Waimea, and since 2002, he’s transformed the Hawaii Songwriting Festival into a high-caliber learning experience for not only locals but for international songwriters too.
Missed the show? Don’t despair. You still can catch the concert and an interview with Brotman on Kahilu.TV.
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.