I am beginning to sense that in even fairly recent times before travel to our 50th state was so plentiful, that a highly-charged, self-contained jazz scene existed there. My good friend Susan grew up in Hawaii and is forever dropping names of and turning me on to musicians who were household names there when she was in her formative years. Thus, she is the one who alerted me to the excellent singer-bassist of more recent times, Bruce Hamada.
And from a slightly earlier era, vocalist Ethel Azama. I came across a free download on the net last night of an album by her that is long out-of-print, very pricey in its original LP form, Cool Heat, and thus seems fair game for sharing on the net. Might even be out of copyright? (note: I have no knowledge of how long the link will remain active.)
Recorded in 1960, and arranged by Marty Paich with the participation of musician Art Pepper (one of the main reasons for its expensiveness), this is one of two LPs recorded by Azama for the Liberty label. The other is a somewhat less interesting affair, produced by Martin Denny ("cawww, cawww"), though "Speak Low," "Lazy Afternoon" and "Two Ladies in de Shade of de Banana Tree" are quite nice. (I also found a download of that LP last evening.)
I don't know too much more about Azama yet (oh, but I will, I will) except that she died in 1982 of a brain aneurysm, and the following info found on a myspace page:
"Hawaiian-born, of Japanese origin, Ethel Azama also appeared with Arthur Lyman in the early 1960's, and her version of "Lullaby of the Leaves" can be heard on the "The Leis of Jazz". She was also an actress who appeared in the TV-series "Hawaii Five-0" in 1975 and 1976."
She apparently didn't pursue her career too much after she had children in the mid sixties. Too bad. Based on the evidence of these two albums (her only ones?), she had already developed into a quite skillful singer by the time of her early twenties. Long-forgotten in the lower 48, she is still fondly remembered in her native state. Someone on the net even claims to be making a TV docu about Azama.