At Hank’s Café in Honolulu’s Chinatown district, patrons sit surrounded by kitsch and fine art. Hank’s paintings, many depicting local scenery, Polynesian people and canoes, hang on the walls, alongside 1940s Hawaiiana, pictures of bar regulars and other assorted knick knacks. There’s live music every night. While being entertained by a variety of local musicians, and enjoying the friendly neighborhood feeling, customers often take the mic and share their songs.
As is often the case at Hank’s, half the crowd on this night consisted of musicians, and things soon evolved into a high-spirited game of musical chairs, with instruments changing hands so often that it was soon unclear who’d actually been hired to play in the first place. Guitarist moved to drum kit, bassist went to bar stool, drummer picked up bass, and a barfly that at first glance seemed too sauced to stand was suddenly punching out a perfect tempo on the communal congas … and on and on.” Stu Davis, Hana Hou!
The indie jazz scene is thriving at The Dragon Upstairs. Some of the best musicians in town gather to jam and entertain in grand bohemian style. One of the hottest jazz spots in town, The Dragon is where Honolulu’s jazzerati come to hear the best jazz musicians and singers in town. Musician friends visiting from places like LA and NY drop in for impromptu sets. Our club — formerly a tattoo parlor, hence the dragon mural, serves up more than just great drinks and cool jazz — it serves aloha.
“One of the beauties of this place is how people just come in off the street and jam…” The Dragon Upstairs | Hi Luxury Magazine
Her uncle, ‘Don’ Azpiazu, was a Cuban orchestra leader credited with the explosive introduction of Latin Music to America and Europe. Her father, Eusebio Azipiazu (aka Mario Antobal) was a music publisher and managed her uncle’s musical career. Her mother, May McKim, was a chanteuse in the supper clubs and society orchestras of the 1930s and her stepmother, Marion Sunshine was a Vaudevillian star, musical comedy actress and well known songwriter.
Laura-May’s songwriting career was not only written in the stars, but in her DNA. When others were learning how to read and write their ABC’s, she was learning how to read and write music. With her Latin heritage, tangos and salsas call to her but she writes for all styles including jazz, instrumental, country and Christmas.
Listen Laura-May’s Film Noir-The Musical, winner of the 2011 Hawaii Music Awards and access the script.
She now resides in Hawaii with her artist husband Hank Taufaasau. They own two evening hot spots in downtown Honolulu; Hanks Cafe and The Dragon Upstairs where jazz and contemporary music are featured in the artistic atmosphere of Chinatown. Living in paradise has inspired her to write world music as well.
I was fortunate to be born into a proud musical heritage: a great grandfather who two centuries ago performed for a Queen; an uncle who is credited in all Latin American history books with the explosive introduction of Cuban music into America and Europe; a cousin, whose career in music has led him to perform at Presidential Inaugurations and command appearances before royalty (as well as composing and recording); my music publisher father who also organized an elite group of musicians whose limited recordings are much sought after by today’s collectors; my stepmother, who enjoyed an extraordinary career in Vaudeville and musical theater (and many silent films with the likes of Mary Pickford), as well as being a most successful and prolific songwriter; my mother, a dazzling chanteuse; and even a brother-in-law who was a renowned symphony conductor.
Against this background, I struggle valiantly to “hold my own”, and be deemed a worthy heir to their legacy. (And I’m pretty well satisfied that wherever in the cosmos they may be, they are approving, if not actually pulling strings on my behalf!)
I write songs, I’m not a musician or a performer, so I’ve been very lucky to be able to ‘package’ my songs with the talents of wonderful musicians, vocalists, and a really great recording engineer. The results have been well received by reviewers and public alike.
Songwriting is a particularly satisfying profession if you love the infinite variety of language, but are not a novelist. And if you’re not a musician? You can always hum or whistle a memorable melody. But, it is a skill, and in a well-crafted song, lyrics and music must be partnered intelligently. The direction of my songwriting has been influenced by my own preferences, not by trends; but I would welcome collaborating on any sort of project, rap included.
Join Laura May on Facebook and Twitter where she talks about what is happening in music today and shares her memories of what it was like growing up around the greats. Talking about all genres of music and the art of songwriting, she also shares songwriting tips, industry news, the latest songwriting contests and more. Let’s get social!
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