Today we are joined by ‘ukulele band leader and teacher, Paul Hemmings. Based in New York, Hemmings has garnered a strong following both as a proficient/innovative player and an approachable teacher. As the leader of The Paul Hemmings Uketet, a dynamic ‘ukulele-bass-drum group, Paul leads the group through renditions of modern standards and original compositions. Their latest release The Blues and The Abstract Uke features American blues standards ranging from Nobody Knows You When Your Down and Out to Folsom Prison Blues.
Hemmings has a plethora of great tunes in various styles and mixtures of instrumentation that made it hard to select just one track to listen to. Though having a soft spot for solo jazz ‘ukulele and Bill Evans led me to his beautiful version of Waltz for Debby. Paul opens the melody in 3/4 time with a beautiful sense for the harmonic structure, hardly ever stepping out of the original. He starts swinging the rhythm (1:05) and keeps your toe tapping as he takes the song from the top again. I love his attention to detail as he uses double stops (0:14, 1:24, etc), moving bass lines (1:15 & 1:36), and slight rhythmic variations (2:00) that keeps the listener interested through out the piece. By the third pass he is on full variation/solo mode with a beautifully constructed line (2:19) and starts to do an assortment of variations including triplets on the descending chords (2:24), hammer-ons on the double stops (2:33), and the slurring/sliding (2:34). You also got to love his chords (2:49) and that Joe Pass-esque run (2:54). He returns to the melody and wraps up the tune with some dissonant chords (3:35).
I think he sums up his approach to the ‘ukulele very nicely in an interview from 2013, “I love that bright, organic, warm, and focused sound you can get out of a good ukulele and that has everything to do with why I’ve chosen to focus my music around it recently. I also feel like the instrument’s limited range has forced me to be more creative in terms of doing more with less, which I think has helped me get closer to the elusive goal of finding my own sound.”
UkePrints is a curated playlist of some essential ukulele tracks that all ukulele player should listen to. These songs have left a legacy for future players and in essence, sound impressions of the ‘ukulele or what I like to call them: UkePrints.