Other Projects



The musicians of The WAITIKI 7 bring together a wealth of culture and superb musicianship. At its core are three of Hawaii’s finest musicians: Percussionist & exotic bird caller Lopaka Colon (son of original Martin Denny percussionist & bird caller Augie Colon), jazz drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr., and bassist/bandleader Randy Wong. Exotica has always had strong Latin jazz influences; in W7, these tenets are held taut by Zaccai Curtis (piano) and Tim Mayer (winds) — both of whom have received past Grammy nominations in Latin and jazz. Crossing over from the classical world comes the group’s youngest member: twenty-one year old vibraphonist Jim Benoit. The brilliantly exuberant Helen Liu (violin) rounds out this phenomenal group. Six of the members compose and arrange for the group.

…but before waitiki, there was AKAMAI BRAIN COLLECTIVE

I guess you could say that these are two projects that are inextricably linked, but I’ll start by talking about ABC first. In August 2003, Abe Lagrimas Jr was spending the latter half of his summer with his brother Eric in the suburbs of Cranford, NJ, hanging out and playing ukulele before coming back to Boston for another year at Berklee College of Music.

Eric had set up a basic recording studio in the basement of his house, and thought it’d be fun to record Abe making music. (For those of you who don’t know, Abe is primarily a jazz drummer but also can play piano, vibraphone, guitar, some electric bass … and was quickly picking up the ukulele). Earlier in the spring, Abe & Eric had recorded an F blues that Abe wrote called “Cane Road Blues.” It featured Abe on all instruments, and came out pretty well.

Anyways, it was getting towards the last days of summer, and I had nothing to do either, so I went down to NJ to hang with the Lagrimases. Abe & I were jamming a lot at the time, and we thought about recording a demo album. When we approached Eric, he had an even crazier idea: that we should just record a full length album, and commercially-release it. Just for the heck of it! So we did, and I suggested that we call ourselves AKAMAI BRAIN COLLECTIVE.

Akamai Brain Collective

In Hawaiian, the word akamai means “witty,” “clever,” or “intelligent.” The music of Akamai Brain Collective brings together the wisdom and musical know-how of three Hawaii locals born and raised in the Islands, but schooled at two of the world’s finest music schools: New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music.

The Birth of Pass Out Records

Pass Out Records is the label that Abe, Eric, and I started. We wanted to go through the entire process of making and releasing an album, and what better way, than to start our own independent label? I came up with the name for the company. It’s a double entendre, and inside joke: When we were working on the ABC album (which, incidentally is the same time we were starting to book gigs for WAITIKI), we would stay up for endless nights before going to sleep. It just made so much more sense: Work as hard as you can, worry about sleep later. Of course, the kind of sleep that that breeds is also known as “passing out.” On top of which, I’m big into punning, and realized that one can also pass out records … which is what we hoped to be doing, if our label turned out to be successful. We didn’t really know what to do for a logo, so I contacted my friend Brent Akamine of Kaneohe and asked him if he could help us out. I told him about the double entendre of the name, and also mentioned that we wanted our logo to be reminiscient of our kama’aina roots, and off to work he went. It’s really a beautiful logo, don’t you think?

Development of PORʻs Catalog

2006 saw the release of a very special debut album: Abe’s solo jazz release, Dimensions. As with our other projects, Abe composed originals to fill out the majority of the album, and recorded most of the instruments himself. For this project though, Abe invited some of his closest friends to help him out … I guess you could say, as a tribute to his friendships & work with them. Joining Abe on the album are bassist extraordinaire Shawn Conley, Korean pianist Heean Ko, guitarist Alden Tokuzato, his brother Eric, myself, and some of Abe’s friends and teachers from Waipahu High School. The album was nominated for “Best Ukulele Album of the Year” in thie 2006 edition of the Hawaii Music Awards.

Relevant Links


The “HARX” is an acronym which represents the first initial of each member in the band (“Helen, Abe, Randy Xperiment” or alternatively, “Helen, Abe, Randy Xmas”). Helen Liu is a violinist studying at New England Conservatory and one of Boston’s most well-respected chamber musicians. The three of us put this ensemble together when the opportunity to record a Christmas album, originally set for release in December 2003, presented itself.

We never ended up recording the full album, but we did have some really nice arrangements that we worked on collectively. We ended up recording only three of them, but I think they turned out pretty well. Maybe someday we’ll get to finish them up for real. In the meantime, visit The H.A.R.X’s myspace page to get a listen of our music. You can also download our promo kit (it’s cheesy, I know, but also our first attempt at putting together any kind of press materials). Actually, the main thing that The HARX project accomplished was that we learned how to manage and promote our own project, and that we started making our own arrangements of music with the specific task of recording in mind.

The HARX are: Helen Liu, violin; Abe Lagrimas Jr., piano & drums; Randy Wong, upright bass.