New Yorker Paul Hemmings, the world’s foremost jazz ukulele player, has been announced as a special guest of the third Cairns Ukulele Festival, to be held at various venues between July 5 and 8. Hemmings, who leads the critically acclaimed Paul Hemmings Uketet, is one of the talented artists who joins the esteemed line-up at the Tanks Arts Centre concert day on Sunday July 8.
Originally a jazz guitarist, Paul Hemmings experienced an epiphany in 2005 while visiting Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. Introduced to the ukulele in a local music store, the talented musician discovered that the tiny instrument was a lot more than simply a plaything.
“In a way, the ukulele has changed my life by challenging me to do more with less,” he said. “In a musical sense, with only a little more than two octaves to work with, it forced me to approach music in a way that belies the instrument’s limited range. The constraints of the instrument have actually become liberating, by forcing me to come up with more creative ways to use what amounts to only a handful of notes.”
Paul Hemmings’ musical journey has taken the ukulele a long way from its folk roots and pushed it firmly into the world of serious jazz. Not only does he perform original compositions, he also constructs startling ukulele-led reinterpretations of works by jazz greats such as Thelonius Monk, roots legends such as Bob Marley and pop icons including Lennon and McCartney. A Paul Hemmings performance incorporates elements of hard-swinging jazz, Latin-infused polyrhythms, and reggae-tinged grooves, all peppered with fancy flights of improvisation.
“I was already making a living as a jazz guitar player, but when I played my first ukulele something just clicked,” he said. “For me, it was like a breath of fresh air from the heady world of modern jazz that I was immersed in at that time – it’s just not possible to take yourself too seriously when you’re playing an ukulele.”
Paul’s performance at Tanks Arts Centre will be a special one, he will be teaming up with the legendary Seaman Dan for a special ‘New York meets the Torres Strait’ experience. This amazing collaboration will feature a sneak peek of Seaman Dan’s forthcoming album, which features Nat King Cole material.
This is a chance for music lovers to catch Paul Hemmings’ performance and also see a rare opportunity where the Paul Hemmings Uketet provides support for the special Seanman Dan set. Other artists appearing at the Tanks Arts Centre concert day include ukulele virtuoso Herb Ohta Jr (Hawaii), bluesman Manitoba Hal (Canada), and folk musician Aaron Kein (USA), to name a few.