It was April 2019. Jake Shimabukuro leaned back on stage at UCSB Storke Plaza, closed his eyes, bent his knees, swayed his hips and tapped his foot.
He was rocking out on a cloudy day with Storke Tower behind him.
In fact, Mr. Shimabukuro was playing everything from Queen’s complex “Bohemian Rhapsody” to George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” but that wasn’t a guitar in his hands.
It was a ukulele.
And Mr. Shimabukuro knew how to make his four-string instrument sing.
Audiences will see him do that again when he performs his “Christmas in Hawai’i” concert at 7 p.m. Thursday at The Granada, 1214 State St., Santa Barbara.
Mr. Shimabukuro will play a mix of his signature favorites, holiday classics and selections from his recent “Jake & Friends” album during the UCSB Arts & Lectures concert.
The ukulele virtuoso has demonstrated he can play anything on his four strings — everything from jazz to rock, blues, bluegrass, folk and classical music.
In fact, when he played earlier on that day in 2019 before a thousand or so fourth through sixth graders at The Granada, he played a famous guitar riff. It was from the 1967 Cream song “Sunshine of Your Love,” and his ukulele seemed to have the power of a guitar.
It’s no wonder many have called the Honolulu native the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele.
“It’s an instrument you can pick up and start playing right away, very quickly, which is nice,” Mr. Shimabukuro told the News-Press after his 2019 UCSB concert. “If you like rock music, you can learn rock riffs. If you like the blues, the same thing. If you like jazz standards, it’s the perfect instrument for all of that.”
In addition to playing Thursday night at The Granada, Mr. Shimabukuro will perform earlier that day before a Granada packed again with fourth through sixth graders — 1,500 of them during a UCSB Arts & Lectures program.
The kids will see, thanks to Mr. Shimabukuro, that anything’s possible on the ukulele.