I met bassist Bruce Imai—who co-founded the Glass Candle Band with guitarist Robert Shinoda when they were about 12 years old—on stage in between sets at the Glass Candle 2011 Reunion Show at Hawaiian Brian’s.
Bruce was happy to meet me, especially after reading my article last week. I asked him what it was like back then, when live dance bands were everywhere and soulful, funky music pulsed through the streets of Honolulu.
“There was no shortage of good music,” Bruce told me.
Bruce and Robert Shinoda got their first gig in intermediate school, as 12-year-old schoolkids at Niu Valley Middle School near Hawaii Kai and Aina Haina.
“During that time it was fertile ground for great horn songs. We had bands like Tower of Power, Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears. [Locally] there were so many bands, a lot of competition. Glass Candle was one of the first bands in Hawaii to really feature horns… Other bands followed, but we had the leading edge.”
After some 40 years, Glass Candle once again proved they are one of Hawaii’s best performing acts.
When you have three outstanding singers—Little Albert, K.K. Kaminaka, and Doug Rivera—you’re guaranteed to get great results. K.K. did a near flawless (and largely humorous) Barry White monolgue in the first set.
Little Albert sang with such power that strangers to Albert Maligmat’s music might wonder how this small guy got such a big voice. You don’t have to watch him perform live to believe me (check out “Movin’ In”), but there’s nothing else like hearing Little Albert belt “Do I Do” and “Me & Mrs. Jones” right in front of you. What a voice!
And what a stage presence! Albert bounced all over the stage. Albert felt the music move throughout his body, playing tambourine hits on his elbows, arms, hands, hips—anywhere that helped keep the beat.
Robert Shinoda kept his cool at his position, stage left. As Glass Candle’s bandleader, Robert signaled to the musicians to change it up, extend a break, start a solo, or end a song. Without Robert, I don’t think the group would’ve been as tight as they sounded that night.
Doug Rivera flew all the way from Sarasota, Florida, to reunite with his bandmates. You could immediately tell Doug was grateful having the time of his life once again. After all, Glass Candle rocked the dancefloor at Duke’s in Waikiki night after night—and made countless memories at the same time.
As I watched Doug and the guys perform, I saw hints of contemplation in his eyes (are you reading this Doug?) that gave thanks to such a remarkable group of musicians.
I couldn’t have asked for a better setlist, with songs like “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, “Soul Vaccination”, or Billy Paul’s “Me & Mrs. Jones”, after which Little Albert threw a shaka! (A Filipino king of soul who throws a shaka after singing one of Philly’s greatest R&B tracks? Only in Hawaii).
But it was Kurt Ken (K.K.) Kaminaka whose jaw-dropping solo had everyone screaming. Not only did K.K. spin around on a swivel keyboard stand—while jamming a massive solo—the man sits down to read a book as his fingers fluttered over the keys.
As if sitting and reading weren’t good enough—wait for it—K.K. lifted his keyboard at a 45-plus degree angle and rocked the final bars of his solo. That’s how you end the year. I’m happy I was a witness.
I break a sweat just looking at these photos. Hands down the highlight of the night! (Check out all 20 photos of K.K.’s solo on Flickr.)
What else can I say?
Glass Candle rocked their reunion show—Hawaiian Brian’s was packed, the dancefloor filled up, and the musicians never sounded better. It was a great performance! (By the way, I still can’t get over that K.K. solo!)
Mahalo to trombonist Dale Nishikawa for giving me the opportunity to attend, and also for organizing the reunion show!