Although he was raised in the tropical paradise of Oahu, these days Kalae Miles-Davis is a denizen of cooler climes—literally and figuratively. Now living in the much chillier Santa Cruz, the man who once intended to parlay his love and knowledge of traditional island music into a teaching career, and for a spell went by the moniker The Jazzy Hawaiian, has ditched his ukulele to pursue his newfound passion for the chillier sounds of straight-up jazz. “Moving to the mainland has really opened up more of a jazz interest in me,” says Miles-Davis, who, despite his hyphenated last name, was only recently turned on to Miles Davis the jazz legend.
Miles-Davis’ musical background is extensive. As a child, his parents placed him in music magnet schools. He went on to study opera at the University of Hawaii, a pursuit he eventually gave up to teach classes on Hawaiian music and culture. He ultimately stopped teaching to perform a smooth cocktail of jazz and Hawaiian tunes as The Jazzy Hawaiian. But the more he learned about jazz, the more he fell in love with the genre. At his show on Dec. 12 at Kuumbwa Jazz, fans of Miles-Davis’ previous act will find he has traded his signature lilting chords and airy melodies for a more sultry sound, which includes jazz standards as well as originals. “There’s nothing Hawaiian about it,” he says, though he admits there will be a hula dancer at the show. Traces of airy slide guitar on rough recordings of recent rehearsals with his bandmates—many of whom played with him during his Hawaiian music stage—suggest his island influence isn’t totally gone. After all, he says, he chose to settle in Santa Cruz because it reminded him so much of his Hawaiian home, albeit a little less humid.
INFO: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $15/adv, $18/door. For more info, call 454-6344.