Amy Ha naiali‘i has come home to Maui, the place of her birth and home artistically to the great American songbook that she loves so much. It is said that when you does what you love, you will be good at it. Amy is so good, she turns that phrase into an understatement. Dressed in skintight black spandex pants and matching shiny bolero jacket, her long straight tresses emphasizing her femininity, Amy is the picture of a professional entertainer.
Appearing on Fridays and Saturdays (except April 17) for the rest of the month at the supper club at Stella Blues in Kihei, the 14 time Na Hoku Hanohano award-winner and four-time Grammy nominee is attacking the standards and reinterpreting them so that they become hers.
Backed by Maui’s finest rhythm section of Sal Godinez on keyboard, Marcus Johnson on bass and Roscoe Wright on drums, Amy performs virtually non-stop for 90 minutes. Peppering the infrequent pauses with humorous anecdotes, Amy is in super-fine voice. She is a powerful vocalist with pipes bigger than a cathedral organ. However, when the number called for it, she can croon with the best of them.
She can also get down. In Since I Fell for You, Amy makes you forget that Dinah Washington originated this song. We’ve all heard Summertime from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, but I’ll bet you never heard it done as a Latin salsa tune?
Going to a Hukilau is a song with which every tourist and local is familiar, but Amy does it in Hawaiian. This version was authorized by her grandmother, she said. Amy’s song stylings are confident, controlled and spellbinding. The audience was so mesmerized that throughout the evening, Amy had to inquire as to whether they were there. Cabaret singers are not used to rapt attention. Even greats such as Ella Fitzgerald had to suffer through the din of conversation in the places she sang. It’s rare that a singer creates a concert atmosphere in such a setting.
Amy will also record live at Stella Blues. Organizers are working to get an acoustic piano for that gig and Godinez’s breaks, which are always inventive, improvisatory and melodic. They’ll shine even brighter when played on a real piano. One of my favorite Godinez moments was during Route 66.
Those of you of a certain age, will recognize his clever quote from Nelson Riddle’s theme for television show of the same title with George Maharis, Martin Milner and Corvette.
The Stella Blues Supper Club starts with seating for dinner at 6 and the show at 7:30 p.m. Reservations are required. And this is a real supper club setting. The night I was there, the ladies were dressed in island cocktail dresses and I didn’t see a pair of shorts or slippers in the crowd.
Call 874-3779 for reservations and go to www.StellaBlues.com for more information.
Amy Ha naiali‘i performs on Fridays and Saturdays (except April 17) for the rest of the month at the supper club at Stella Blues in Kihei,