The Java Jazz experience is an icosahedron of multi-sensory inundation. An icosahedron, for those unfamiliar, is a 20-sided polyhedron that occurs as both a natural viral structure and as the plastic answer-generator in the Magic 8-Ball. Similarly, Java Jazz has an organic ability to rest comfortably in a multitude of things.
As I venture out West to the venue’s Lower Honoapiilani Road location, my intentions are purely musical. But by my return across the Pali—with the aftertaste of damned-good (flourless) chocolate cake in my throat and the musings of owner Farzad Azad still rattling around in my brain—I am happily befuddled, unsure what direction to take. Could this be an Arts & Entertainment piece with an element of Food & Drink? A straight CD review? Or is it something else entirely?
It is the impression of Java Jazz that has me inclined—resoundingly—toward the latter. The place can only be likened to that heady space in lucid dreams where all the objects, passions and minutiae of the day have accumulated into one, purgatory boutique.
From the décor to the dishes to the live or piped music, it is at once all my favorite travel memories—slides plucked from my mind’s Kodak carousel and layered upon another to form new dimensional scenery. The walls are blanketed in fine art (mostly Azad’s—my favorite, “Zoya,” is a Peggy Hopper acid trip), Polaroid photos and Barbie dolls en masse (but don’t get me wrong–it’s chic, not kitsch)—kaleidoscope-lit by a gorgeous wine-bottle chandelier of Azad’s design (installed eight months ago, a newer addition to this 10-year strong establishment).
Azad has also created a CD titled What’s Your Function? Java Jazz Volume 1, solely for the benefit of his “Soldier Appreciation Vacation” program. Since 2007, Azad has brought Purple Heart-decorated veterans of the Iraq War (and their wives, of course) on seven-day, all-expenses paid vacations to Maui.
“We cannot delete the memory of the unwanted war from their memory bank but we can sure install new happy memories and that’s the least we can do for our veterans,” states the program’s mission. To date, Azad’s efforts and the sale of his CD have given new memories to 14 individuals.
Given the good cause, the six-track disc is a worthwhile purchase ($15). At its most superficial, it’s a take-home version of the eclectic vibe of Java Jazz that can’t be wrapped in a doggie bag. All tracks are orginals, written, produced, arranged, mixed and performed by Azad who is, impressively, self-taught (a fact that helps to forgive that the first and second tracks have a painfully similar self-produced beat—my only real complaint). The CD also draws on the talents of the Java Jazz ’ohana, including jazz pianist Renee Alonso.
Alonso leant his skills to the fifth track, titled “DeReggaed,” and is on keys the night I visit the restaurant. In the white-edged mirror propped up over the piano, I watch his slender fingers rolling along to, as he describes, “another sad song.” The saddest part is that his own CD (which I acquired for review at the same time as What’s Your Function?) does ill justice to the soulful variety of his onstage work.
Meanwhile, for me to quote Azad in any way (save one word: “shaboomskie”) would lend to inaccurate representation—as much on my behalf as on his. With an intent gaze from behind his glasses tipped low on his nose, he’s all sailor-tongued stream of consciousness. Highly socially and politically charged, the entertaining rant flows from war to weed to his mom’s eggplant azemat to Madame Pele to cum. So, though juicy, I’ll refrain. A conversation with Azad is simply an experience best had for yourself.
Further on the topic of quotes and Azad is the CD’s most notable feature: the mixing of historical speeches as the centerpiece of the music. “Special thanks to JFK, MLK, Einstein, Nixon, Clinton and George Bush for their great quotes,” read the liner notes.
While Martin Luther King, Jr. laces the second track, “Dreamer,” his words also add surprising closure to the bouncing, Lewinsky-inspired track, “Booty Call.” Nixon, naturally, inspires the track titled “The Crook,” with a gypsy-flamenco, spy flick-inspired riff.
The historical figures not only lend their quotes, but their images too. The disc’s cover art features the heads of each attached to aloha-shirt and boxer-clad forms around a table, sharing shots of Jack Daniels while John F. Kennedy and a pack of Zig Zags roll one up on what appears to be the Constitution.
Inside, are 12 Commandments, “The New American Commandments as of January 1st, 2007.”
It begins with (I.) “Thou shalt not be a hyphenated-American,” (Azad is vehement about the irrelevance of being anything other than just American), and rounds out the middle with warm stuff like (VII.) “Thou shalt take care of teachers,” and (VIII.) “Thou shalt take care of police officers and nurses too,” (he’s generous with his fare for those public servants).
But it is in the final few commandments—(X.) “Thou shalt not be scared into submission by the loss of our soldiers in any war,” and (XI.) “Thou shalt not be afraid of the draft”—as well as with the final track, “America”—where the very tangible-sounding voices of soldiers who have benefited from the program are dubbed alongside John Wayne reciting the Pledge of Allegiance—that the essence of the CD and its goals crystallize.
The issues we face as a country are amorphous, and our responses—artistic and otherwise—should be, too. Birthed of a place like Java Jazz, Azad’s CD and “Soldier Appreciation Vacation” are fine examples of this enduring truth. – MauiTime, Anu Yagi
Renee Alonso plays Thursdays, Farzad Azad on Saturdays; Java Jazz is located at 3350 Lower Honoapiilani Rd., Lahaina; for more info on the restaurant, music and the Soldier Appreciation program, call 667-0787 or visit javajazz.net.