Album: The Ookanewi Project, Volume One

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Ookanewi, noun, (oo-kuh-nee-wee)

  1. an island in the North Pacific Ocean that absorbed musical cultures from   19th/20th century Hawaii and 20th/21st  century Japan.
  2. a project from multi-instrumentalist Jim Hanks combining ukuleles with electric wind instrument and other software instruments into a musical amalgam of cool jazz, electronica, latin, blues, avant garde, and more.

Released in January 2017, my sixth album is the first in a series exploring the combination of ukulele and electric wind instrument. Throughout these 14 tracks, the “ook” and EWI take on many different roles, guises, and disguises, some familiar and some quite unexpected. Have fun exploring the magical musical island of Ookanewi. -Jim

Total Playing Time 72:12

Liner Notes/Technical Details

  1. Cool Uke Time
  2. Heard a Song
  3. Callisto
  4. Pongs and Kongs
  5. Not Sure Why
  6. Kona Winds
  7. But It’s Too Late For Me
  8. Night Cruise
  9. Vigorón
  10. Sunset Over Susa
  11. Swiftlet in the Sun
  12. Blessed
  13. Lacewing
  14. Waiting for Spring

Cool Uke Time

Liner Notes:
This is an adaptation of the Eddie Harris classic “Cold Duck Time” but slowed down a bit and with a baritone ukulele backing. All instruments except the uke were derived from the Thor synth in Propellerhead Reason – even the drums!
Technical Details:

The uke is a Brüko mahogany baritone with Living Water strings tuned to linear A (E A C# F#) tuning. Recording was straight from the passive pickup through an Apogee Jam interface into the iPad and into Meteor Multitrack Recorder. The clips were cleaned up a little in Meteor then transferred to Reason for some tasteful effecting (a little compression and distortion).

The EWI tracks were played with the iPad version of Thor and recorded into Meteor before pulling back into Reason for the final mix/master. The lead “sax” sound and harmony “flute” parts were tweaked a bit from Bernie Kenerson’s patch set. The bass breaks are also EWI using my own bass patch derived from the main bass part (which is sequenced). The other Thor parts including electric piano, strings, and drum kit were derived from a combination of stock patches and the Tom Pritchard ThorKit Refill; they were sequenced with the help of Band-in-a-Box.

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Heard a Song

Liner Notes:

In memory of a great man who went home after a battle with pancreatic cancer shortly before this song was completed.

The title is taken from the opening line of Andrae Crouch’s classic “It Won’t Be Long”. This was one of the favorite songs I got to play with Randy several years ago. I couldn’t do the whole song by myself, so decided just to take that first phrase and build this tribute. We will miss you, Randy.

Technical Details:
The chord progression uses some of the chords from IWBL and the melody incorporates the 3 note D-Eb-C motif repeatedly, but other than, that is original. There are lots of extended chords – 9ths and 11ths mainly – so the ukulele backing had to be done with two ukes dividing up the notes, one in low G tuning and one in high G. The EWI lead is a tenor saxophone patch from the Yamaha VL-70m synth module with Patchman Turbo chip. Other instruments, mixing, and mastering was done in Propellerhead Reason 6.5.

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Callisto

Liner Notes:
This piece is named for the second largest moon of the planet Jupiter, for no other reason than that the first few notes of the melody bear a resemblance to a song named for another of Jupiter’s moons. Guitarists or ukulele players might be familiar with that other tune. 😉
Technical Details:

The focus instruments in this song are baritone ukulele and EWI saxophone. The uke is a Brüko mahogany baritone in linear A tuning with “custom” Living Water strings. The saxophone is courtesy of the VL70-m synth, Patchman Music’s MBrecker patch, driven by the Akai EWI 4000s wind controller.

Production was done on Propellerhead Reason 6.5 with MIDI parts courtesy of Band in a Box.

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Pongs and Kongs

Liner Notes:
This tune grew out of a study of the chord progression from Wayne Shorter’s tune Mahjong, but adapted for ukulele and with a completely different melody. I know nothing about the game of mahjong, but took the title from terminology found on Wikipedia.
Technical Details:

The original arrangement was 144 bars long to match the number of tiles in the game but later I added an outro at the end and added some sounds at the beginning – samples from the original Pong video game and some shuffling tiles (actually dominoes) courtesy of freesound.org.

The ukulele backing is a tenor Ohana TKS-15E with Southcoast Soft Medium strings tuned to Bb. It was recorded into Propellerhead Reason straight from the pickup. I had to EQ out some weird resonances probably due to lack of a preamp, but other than that I’m pretty happy with the sound.

The wind work is courtesy of the turboed VL-70m driven by the Akai EWI 4000s. The patches were 15-flugelhorn and (I think) RealFlute.

This track mixed iPad and desktop with Meteor and NanoStudio on the iPad used for the bulk of the composition before moving to Band In a Box for arranging and Reason for production.

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Not Sure Why

Liner Notes:
This song is based on the chord progression of “Don’t Know Why” by Jesse Harris (most famously sung by Norah Jones) but changed up for ukulele backing and with a completely new melody.
Technical Details:
This arrangement features reentrant ukulele tuning in Bb (Iriguchi Keystone tenor) and G (Gold Tone BUT tenor). The EWI lead is from the VL70-m module with Patchman Turbo chip, Oak flute patch. Drums come from DrumJam on the iPhone featuring some middle eastern percussion loops with “kick” and “snare” played on urdu. Bass is from the iFretless Bass app on the iPhone. The project was recorded and mixed into Multitrack DAW on the iPhone then mastered in Propellerhead Reason on the desktop PC.

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Kona Winds

Liner Notes:
This track started with a chord progression on ukulele. I wanted to record with my new Blue Star Guitar custom baritone Konablaster electric steel string ukulele. When I found out that “kona” is a Hawaiian word meaning the leeward or dry side of an island, I thought this was the perfect song for it. The song has a lot of minor and suspended chords that make me think of what “kona” would be like.
Technical Details:

Instruments include: baritone steel string ukulele – DGBE tuning; EWI lead using VL70-m synth module with Patchman Turbo “Nz Flute” patch; iPhone apps Seekbeats (drums), iFretless Bass, Mitosynth (keys, pad, wind FX).

The uke and EWI were recorded via direct input to iTrackSolo interface to Multitrack DAW app. The uke was then effected through JamUp/Bias; the rhythm part is a clean amp model with just a touch of grit while the middle lead part is a crunchier amp model with higher gain, more distortion, etc.

One other trick on this track was the use of BeatMaker 2 as a MIDI player. I generated the “keys” and “pad” part in Band-in-a-Box on the PC, saved as a MIDI file, and then imported into BeatMaker 2 on the iPhone. I set up AudioBus with BM2 in the output slot, Mitosynth in the input slot, wired MIDI out from BM2 into Mitosynth, and armed a track for record in BM2. Then hitting play in BM2 sent the MIDI notes to Mitosynth while capturing the audio back in BM2. I then used AudioCopy to pull the audio into the main mixing environment, Multitrack DAW. Not exactly Reason, but not a bad workaround in iOS.

The track was mixed in Multitrack DAW on the iPhone, transferred to iPad for mastering in Audio Mastering, then trimmed and uploaded using AudioShare.

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But It’s Too Late For Me

Liner Notes:
This is a “song without words”. It was going to be a vocal ballad but I never got more than the title for lyrics. The title is the third phrase in the song and again at the repeat of that section. The rest of the words you’ll have to fill in yourself.
Technical Details:

Main production was done in Propellerhead Reason but composition included many tools including iOS apps NanoStudio, GuitarToolkit, and Multitrack DAW and Band in a Box on Windows.

The lead is EWI 4000s driving a muted trumpet patch from the Yamaha VL70-m synth with Patchman Turbo chip. There is also a two horn section with Koz alto and Trombone.

The ukulele part is my Iriguchi Keystone tenor (capoed at the second fret since I have it tuned to Bb and needed C for this song) recorded through the K&K twin spot pickup. This gave it a bit “sharper” tone than the uke’s natural acoustic voice but some judicious EQ and effects helped it fit in the mix. This part was also recorded last (about a year after the rest, by the way 😮 ) so there wasn’t a lot of space left for it. I may have to do a stripped down version featuring the uke more.

The other parts are all Reason instruments including Kong drums, Dan Dean bass, and electric piano.

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Night Cruise

Liner Notes:
The cool air flows over my helmet, the dull roar of the smooth wind punctuated by unfortunate tinking insects. The full moon illuminates the country woods and lanes, headlight barely needed. Head cleared, difference made but roads converge towards home, not so many miles to go before I sleep.
Technical Details:

Drums/bass/synths were composed and mixed in Korg ids-10 iPad. The chord progression is F# G# D#. The synth lead used the Ryukyu scale (whatever that is 😉 ) on the Kaoss pad.

Exported parts to Multitrack DAW iPhone which was tedious as ids-10 only exports a full mix. I had to copy the project, clear the unwanted parts and export – and repeat that process for each part exported: bass, drums, pads(combined two tracks), and synth lead.

Added EWI part (VL70-m Patchman Turbo – Lyricon patch) in one take.

Added Ono baritone ukulele part using iRig Acoustic interface in one take. This is tuned to linear Ab so the transposed chords were Bb C Gsus2.

Mixed in Multitrack DAW then mastered in Final Touch on iPad.

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Vigorón

Liner Notes:
This track I decided to build from the ground up starting with the ukulele: Cocobolo Ukuleles Super Concert #001 in D tuning with Southcoast Soft Light strings. This uke was made in Nicaragua from local cocobolo wood and was the first 16″ scale concert commissioned. The uke also came with a set of maracas made locally.
Technical Details:

The uke and maracas were recorded as stereo tracks with the Blue Mikey Digital microphone into Multitrack DAW on the iPhone, then immediately transferred via Dropbox to Propellerhead Reason on the PC. (Also, I had a click track running in Reason so I could line things up after import.) A judicious high-pass filter was about all they needed for treatment.

Next up was EWI bass and melody recorded into Reason. The sounds came from the Yamaha VL70-m synth module with Patchman Turbo chip. The patches were MuteBass and Ocarina.

Next up – drums. I wanted to try the new(ish) DM2 iPad app, but I had some trouble finding a usable setup with my aging iPad 2. Finally I hit upon an Audiobus chain that worked: DM2 in the input slot with Multitrack DAW in the output slot and the high latency setting in Audiobus. Still kinda fiddly as there was no MIDI sync between the apps and no audio export from DM2 yet. But ultimately I got the drum track programmed, recorded into MD, exported to DropBox, and imported into Reason. I was going for a simulated snare cajon sound with a couple other sounds thrown in.

Mixing and mastering was done in Reason. Not many effects, but most tracks were EQ’ed and sent to a small room reverb to varying amounts. Mastering was kept “natural” – not too much compression applied overall, but enough to get the level up too standard.

Finally, the track had to be named! Couldn’t keep calling it “ukulele song #18” forever. I chose the name from what looks like a tasty snack from Nicaragua. Hopefully, you find the track to be a tasty treat as well. Provecho!

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Sunset Over Susa

Liner Notes:
Susa was one of the most important cities in the ancient near east and the home of Esther of the Bible. I don’t know if they used this scale in 6th century B.C., but I can imagine Queen Esther and King Xerxes dining on the terrace of the palace in the early evening, the sounds of this melody wafting up from the city bazaar far below. Maybe that’s just me. 🙂
Technical Details:
I’m labeling this track as “experimental” as I was trying a lot of different techniques and new tools on it. To summarize, the composition centers around the use of the phrygian dominant scale, a scale often used in Middle Eastern, Israeli, and Indian traditions (as well as modern rock musicians like Led Zeppelin, Rush, and many others).
All the technical details are available in the production log.

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Swiftlet in the Sun

Liner Notes:
In darkness, the swiftlet awakes to the muffled fluttering of the bats returning to roost many levels above her. Sightlessly, she navigates the black passages, climbing from the caverns before bursting forth into the blinding sunrise. At dusk, her belly full, she glides back, descending past the halls of chittering bats wiping sleep from their eyes. Far below, she finds the nest, her mate arriving moments later. Clicking their hellos, they feed their small brood and prepare for bed. Home.
Technical Details:
All the technical details are available in the production log.
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Blessed

Liner Notes::
This song would have fit well on the last album, electrochristianmeditation, but was completed after it was released. It is offered as a bonus track here, being the only track with vocals on Volume One.
Lyrics:

Matthew 5:3-12, English Standard Version (ESV)

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven

Technical Details:

This track was ultimately mixed in NanoStudio on the iPad though Band-in-a-Box and Reason were used to generate some MIDI parts and record the uke loop. The ukulele is an Ohana TKS-15E tenor in reentrant Bb tuning.

The Robotic Drums app was used to generate several percussion parts – electronic conga, shaker, and cowbell.

The vocal was recorded with iPad mic into Loopy then effected through JamUp into AudioShare and trimmed before AudioCopy to NS.

The EWI lead is a custom programmed Eden synth patch. All other tracks were Eden synth tracks as well including bass, pad, clav, piano, guitar, and strings – except the main drum track which was a TRG track.

The track was finished in the Audio Mastering app.

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Lacewing

Liner Notes::
This is a relaxing jazz piece that belies the pain it took to realize. 🙂 Every sound you hear came from the EWI4000s. Yup, every sound – guitar, organ, strings, leads, bass, even the brushy drum kit.
Technical Details:

The realization of this piece took the most convoluted path of anything I’ve done so far. It started out as a simple chord progression idea in the SoundPrism app on the iPad. The progression was developed further in the iRealB app then in Band in a Box on the PC. The melody was composed in NanoStudio on the iPad and moved to BIAB for final composition. The MIDI parts were printed out in Finale PrintMusic. Finally, all this was pushed aside and the entire piece was recorded with the EWI into Propellerhead Reason. As I said above, every sound came from the EWI so certain instruments took 4 or 5 tracks each (guitar, strings, pad, piano/organ).

I was inspired to try this by the work of fellow EWI sound designer Frank Thomas (who goes by the name ‘gonzomaster’ on the Patchman forum). His patch set has a number of very percussive sounds I was able to turn into the chordal instruments as well as other great patches I was able to use for bass and leads. The drums I programmed myself using mostly the noise generator, some fancy filtering, and some judicious effects in Reason. Would I do it again? Probably not, not to this extent anyway. But it can be done! 🙂

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Waiting for Spring

Liner Notes:
A snowy day
…….the land begrudgingly acquiesces to the cold, white usurper
patience
…….brown and green will soon be restored to their rightful place
waiting for spring
Technical Details:
Every sound was sourced from ukulele. This song was completed last, as a “bookend” of sorts to Lacewing, where all sounds came from the EWI. All the technical details are available in the production log.

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