Melissa Samura and Ginger Bertelmann sing, “Sunset Comes.” (COURTESY PHOTO FOR NHN)
Alan Rosen and Chadd Paishon work on “Time for Love.”(COURTESY PHOTO FOR NHN)
Rupert Tripp Jr. sings “Time for Love.” (COURTESY PHOTO FOR NHN)
With an all-star band of Hawaii’s many talented musicians and artists, The Alonzo Spirit Band is releasing its first CD this week. Recorded at Charles Brotman’s Lava Tracks studio in Waimea, the upbeat, unique music features Hawaii Island artists Lorna Lim, Sonny Lim, Damon Williams, Rupert Tripp Jr., and many more.
Alan “Alonzo” Rosen, television writer, producer, director and now composer and songwriter, said he began receiving and writing the songs about five years ago.
“Sometimes the songs would come right after meditation, or sometimes I’d hear a song in a dream,” Rosen said. “My hope is that people get a positive feeling from the music, and they get the spiritual vibration.”
Feeling the songs were a gift from spirit, Rosen named the group The Alonzo Spirit Band because of the positive energy of the songs. The music on the CD is upbeat, feel-good and varied, from laid-back ukulele island pop “Nine Feral Cats,” to country, “This Side of Heaven,” to an uptempo gospel rock, “Find the One,” featuring Damon Williams, backed by Iris Downey, Rupert Tripp, Jr., Ginger Bertelmann and Melissa Samura. There’s even a comedy song, “Don’t Make Me Come Back,” a song about reincarnation, with ad-lib pidgin from Williams, Bertelmann, Samura, Tripp Jr. and Chadd Paishon.
“It is pretty amazing to be part of this collaboration with Hoku Award winners, great talent and awesome engineering,” said Melissa Samura, who backs several of the songs. “There are some really deep lyrics and all of it feels inspired.”
Samura said she knew of Rosen before the project, because he was involved in the voyaging circle and remembered watching his 2008 documentary “Mau Voyager,” a tribute to grand master navigator Mau Piailug.
“After we connected with Alan, we were amazed at the end result,” said Samura said of the recording sessions.
Ginger Bertelmann remembers time in the studio when Rosen would sing one of his songs, Samura and Bertelmann would sing it back, and they would record it.
“In two and a half hours, we were done!” Bertelmann recalls. “With that kind of energy level, and with the flavor of music, we were like, ‘Is that us?’”
Recording began with Chadd Paishon, captain of Makali’i, on guitar and ukulele, Rosen on guitar and Charles Recaido engineering and playing bass. Later on, Charles Brotman took over the important engineering work.
While recording in Lava Tracks, Rosen met other musicians who came to record their own music. Lorna Lim agreed to sing lead on three of the songs. Damon Williams of Hilo, who has been a recording star for 15 years, is featured on several tracks. Sonny Lim, like his sister Lorna, a Hawaiian Music Lifetime Achievement recipient, plays guitar and ukulele on several tracks, and also lends his voice to several songs, some of which will be released on the next CD. The group was so prolific that they had enough material to record three CDs simultaneously — the second CD is now almost completed.
Other musicians include Kauai vocalist Iris Downey, keyboard player Karl Kasberg, blues guitarist Colin John, drummer Michael Surprenant, the Bump City horn section, Barry Fasman (who produced the 1975 first Kalapana album), engineer Charles Brotman, percussionist Gheeza McGhee and harmonica player Paul Crepeau.
“I was in awe as I first heard everyone recording, but then I had to start working as a producer,” Rosen said. “It was really exciting to hear the songs come alive with all these amazing, spiritual people.”
The most personal song on the CD is “A Song to Sing You On Your Way,” which came out of Rosen’s father’s passing. Lorna Lim recorded the vocal for the song, and when Rosen’s mother passed in January of this year, he was able to play the song at her service.
“I was once told that harmony is the closest thing we have to divine healing,” Rosen said. “Hopefully this is being conveyed through the music. I feel honored that Damon, Lorna, Sonny, Rupert, Chadd, Ginger, Melissa and Iris are all singing on this CD. This is a unique vocal gathering, and the songs are blessed to have these super talented people perform them.”
The songs will be released this week on Amazon.com and iTunes. Three music videos are available on YouTube; “Sunset Comes” featuring Bertelmann and Samura, “Time for Love” featuring Tripp, Jr., Bertelmann and Samura, and “Lightkeeper” featuring Williams and Sonny Lim. A video of Lorna Lim singing “Lay a Little Dream on Me,” filmed in North Kohala, will be added soon.
All songs can be heard on the www.AlonzoSpiritBand.com website, which also features photos and bios of the artists.