Once upon a time not so long ago in Hawaii, the cool kids on the jazz block would play in a couple big bands around town, including Ollie Mitchell’s Sunday Band. Mitchell was the Wrecking Crew trumpeter who laid down that famous horn line in the original Hawaii Five-0 opening.
Another trumpet player by the name of Mike Lewis was a part of the late Mitchell’s Sunday Band, featuring the best session musicians and sidemen in and out of the islands.
Like all good things, the jazz big band didn’t last long. After over a decade and some change from the last swinging gig, one of the faithful members — New York native Lewis — has returned home to paradise to start up the big band tradition again under his illustrious name.
Mike Lewis is a genial trumpeter who goes under the radar in most situations. That is, until he blows a powerdrive on his horn, blending in with cutthroat precision and unlikely frivolity. He’s also likely to bust out a few hilarious, clever verbal riffs in between sets or songs, transforming even the dullest crowd into a Saturday Night Live special.
You’ll never hear him brag about his credentials, but he’s been places — with drummer Buddy Rich, Sonny and Cher, Rosemary Clooney, the Temptations, Billy Joel, Wynton Marsalis, Sarah Vaughan, Gladys Knight, and most recently, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (yes, that jazz record).
The man is back in town with his own 16-piece big band playing live jazz every other Monday (or so), 7 p.m., at the historic, beloved Pagoda Hotel in the heart of Honolulu. The show is free, but please donate what you can to keep the music going.
Tonight, vocalists Dana Land (All The Cats Join In), Amalia Carter, Analisa Thirlwall, and Sandy Tsukiyama appear with the Mike Lewis Big Band till 9 p.m.
The next Big Band Monday falls on December 28. See you there.