Liner Notes by Robert Pennybacker
The first ten years of life are jam-packed with achievement: our first steps and words, first and second sets of teeth, first report card, Little League game, school play, schoolyard crush. These formative years shape our personalities and set the stage for the rest of our lives. The same can be said for the first decade of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet. It seems like just yesterday that, in July of 2001, Hawaii’s preeminent jazz quartet was born. Yet the landmark productions and events of that decade are enough to fill a lifelong career: a first EP release, Remembrance (2001), followed by two full-length albums—Sounds of the City (2003) and Tenacity (2007); garnering a local fan base through regular gigs at Honolulu's Studio 6, Kapono’s, Gordon Biersch, and Brew Moon; performing at the Hawaii International Jazz Festival; playing their original compositions at the Blaisdell Concert Hall with the Honolulu Symphony Pops; a successful West Coast tour; a major-market jazz radio campaign resulting in HJQ’s Heater’s On reaching number one in Philadelphia’s Jazz Top Ten; and being recognized and honored by the world’s most famous, and respected, jazz critic—Nat Hentoff. Hentoff wrote the liner notes for Tenacity, in which he states: “The Honolulu Jazz Quartet…is ready to be recognized in jazz scenes throughout the world, as is manifestly, invigoratingly evident in Sounds of the City and now Tenacity.”
Accolades like these might entice some groups to rest on their laurels. But coasting is not part of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet’s repertoire. Relevance and dynamism in the music scene rely on the ability to grow and evolve. Just think of the many stages of evolution in the career of Miles Davis, each new phase more exciting than the last. During its first, eventful ten years, HJQ has stretched its wings. Now it is ready for extended flight. As HJQ enters its second decade, John Kolivas, Tim Tsukiyama, Dan Del Negro and von Baron are ready to explore new musical frontiers.
But to know where you are going you must know where you’ve been, and this album provides the perfect time capsule of the first phase of HJQ’s journey. It is fitting that this remembrance of their first decade comes in the form of a live recording, because what has come to define the Honolulu Jazz Quartet is the culmination of all its moments onstage, in front of a live audience. Studio recordings depict a jazz group as it would like to be. Live recordings capture a jazz group as it is. And in the world of jazz, is is far more exciting than would. It is also interesting to note that the performance takes place at Seattle’s Triple Door, far away from and far colder than the city that is the group’s namesake. Just as Andy Cummings wrote his most famous Hawaiian song, Waikiki, when he was homesick and freezing in Lansing, Michigan, and John Kolivas' Heater's On was inspired by the clanking of a winter radiator in New York, the Honolulu Jazz Quartet often played with the most aloha when missing the warmth and comfort of its island home.
The title track is the only studio recording on the CD. Anita Hall’s haunting rendition of Remembrance remains true to the song’s original intent--an homage to those who lost their lives on September 11th. But with the passage of a decade and the birth of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet, the song also takes on broader meaning— a heartfelt remembrance of and appreciation for all things past.
Remembrance: The Honolulu Jazz Quartet Live at the Triple Door is both a celebration of the first ten years of HJQ and a thrilling anticipation of its next ten years. When past, present, and future converge, magical things occur. Enjoy the magic!