“Benny Chong has been known for more than 40 years as the guitarist who helped make Don Ho & the Aliis one of the biggest acts in contemporary Hawaiian music. It has only been in the last few years that Chong has stepped forward as an ukulele virtuoso – although his solo recordings have only been on a compilation album. This is his long-awaited debut as a solo artist. Chong proves worth the wait.”
–The Star Bulletin on Benny Chong’s first solo ‘ukelele CD.
Benny is a one-of-a-kind bee-boppin baritone jazz artist. Benny taught himself ukulele when he was a young kid but left it to be a professional guitarist for many years with Don Ho. One day he brought a baritone to the gig and at the end of the night Don told Benny, “Anytime you wanna play ukulele, it’s fine with me”.
Benny’s long time friend, Lyle Ritz, told him about Ko’olau ukulele, and sure enough, Benny fell in love. He’s always insisted on paying in full for his instruments and is one of the most conscientious musician/artists you will meet.
Today he came by with grandson in tow, to pick up his new Ko’olau Spruce/Rosewood Baritone, same specs as his first one. I asked him if I could record him playing it. He said he needed to play it first and get to know it before recording. I could see how that would be after watching him play. He flies around the fretboard like a race car driver with a flurry of chord melodies and spontaneous interludes.
Benny did have his Spruce/Rosewood baritone #1 so we setup and recorded a few songs. Even as his grandson made fart noises in the background there still remained a sophisticated air and emotional feel to what Mr. Chong was expressing. The intensity and beauty shine through for those with an open ear and musical mind.
Jazz is a thinking man’s music. There’s so much in Benny’s music , subtle but thick in harmonic tension and release, implied tones and rhythms are the cornerstone, melodies and bass lines throughout. Benny Chong is one of the best Jazz Uke players in the world and I want to thank him for sharing his music! Aloha friends, until next time…