Jeff Peterson & Riley Lee

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - June 20, 2008

The 411

Jeff Peterson & Riley Lee

As far as collaborations go, Jeff Peterson and Riley Lee now have four amazing contributions between them. Their latest release, Haleakala, is a shining tribute to Peterson’s hometown and a special accomplishment, as it marks the first release for the duo under Peterson’s label, Peterson Productions.

“I started the label on my own like a lot of musicians have done because it’s easier and easier to have the freedom to produce your own music,“says Peterson, who was born and raised in Makawao.“With Peterson Productions I have the creative freedom to record what I want to record. So Riley and I really had a lot of freedom with the recording.”

Haleakala is overflowing with a bunch of familiar Hawaiian standards, such as Akaka Falls, Pua Ahihi, Maori Brown Eyes and Wahine Ilikea, the album also includes four originals written by Peterson which pay tribute to Haleakala.

“On this album I play ukulele and I layered the guitar parts and there’s acoustic bass - it’s a very full beautiful sound,” says Peterson, who also plays regularly with Amy Hanaialii Gilliom. “The sounds is very nahenahe, very relaxing and soothing, and a lot of it has that really soothing sound that you get from slack key and also from the shakuhachi which is a bamboo flute from Japan. But I also tried to have a combination of sounds on the recording, where there are actually some songs that are uptempo and upbeat.”

Catch Peterson live every Thursday through Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Michel’s at the Colony Surf, where he has been performing for the past nine years.

To find out more, visit



Jeff Peterson

Is there an album or song that you’re most proud of?

Jeff Peterson: I wrote a song for my wife called Kahealani - that’s her name. It was featured on the first CD to win a Hawaiian Grammy Award. That is a really special song to me because it’s for her.

What are your goals musically?

I’m always trying to better my craft. I just did a solo concert at the Atherton studio and it sold out, so that was really exciting. And I really work hard to learn new material. My main focus is Hawaiian music, jazz and classical music. Within each of those styles there’s always so much to learn. So my goals are to always to do what I do better and to learn new music. And to compose - I’m starting to write vocal songs as well. But just to do what I do and be creative in new ways.

What do you love most about music?

What I love most about music, especially Hawaiian music, is that it’s a cultural connection. I am part-Hawaiian from my father’s side of the family, and it has always been important to me to connect with my Hawaiian heritage. I find that not only with Hawaiian music, but that music from all over the world is a very defining part of a culture. I love to travel, and just by playing music it’s like traveling around the world.

Did performing come naturally for you or did you have to work at it?

I probably worked at it over time. I find that I’m usually comfortable on stage as long as I know the material that I’m playing. Or even if I’m improvising, if I like the sound. Playing through a nice sound system is always really important.

What has been the highest point of your musical career?

There have been so many, but one has been meeting Eric Clapton and getting to hang out with him for a day. Another, of course, was being at the Grammy Awards in 2005. It was a very historic moment going up on stage and being a part of that experience. It was the first time that Hawaiian was spoken at the awards ceremony and the first time an award was given out for Hawaiian music. Just being around so many of my heroes was just amazing.

Who are your personal favorite local artists and bands?

I am a very big fan of Amy Hanaialii. Her voice is such a great combination. She has such great control and variety. And like me she’s interested in Hawaiian music, as well as other styles such as jazz. I love Keola Beamer’s playing. I think he’s a very soulful musician and he has such a deep cultural connection. I also really appreciate Matt Catingub. Just being around him and his orchestra has been a tremendous learning experience. Matt Catingub is able to write these incredible arrangements for the whole orchestra, it’s just amazing how focused he is and how hard he works.


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