Ukulele, guitar and Hawaiian steel guitar.
It’s hard to say whether the ukulele is making a comeback — if it will ever again be as popular as it was in the 1920s and ’30s. Certainly many musicians in a number of different and sometimes unexpected genres such as rock ‘n’ roll and pop are taking it up. Not only musicians, either. Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the world, plays one. (I wonder what Bill Gates plays: a piccolo?)
The ukulele is a Mini Cooper among the SUVs of the music world. It has neither the volume, nor the tonal range of guitars, violins and other acoustic stringed instruments, but if you know how, you can get a lot of musical mileage out of it.
Gerald Ross knows how. Long a familiar face on the Ann Arbor and national music scene for his work with the Lost World String Band, among others, Ross is an excellent guitar player who is also accomplished on Hawaiian steel guitar and Cajun accordion. However, on his latest recording it’s the uke that wins pole position.
On Ukulele Stomp, Ross expertly steers his way through a wide variety of musical styles from Western swing to jazz and blues, and of course a few requisite Hawaiian tunes, smoothly shifting gears from Irving Berlin to the Beatles, from “That’s Amore” to “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Every track is tastefully arranged and masterfully performed — Ross plays all the instruments on the album — and every tune serves as yet another fine vehicle for displaying the ukulele’s unique capabilities. Ukulele Stomp belongs in the winner’s circle.