Michael Eck debuted his new musical persona, Ukulele Mike, last week at the Moon and River in Schenectady. Surrounded by friends and family, Eck ran through a number of songs from many genres, all on the ukulele. No, there was no Tiny Tim or Don Ho or even hula dancers. From blues to old timey – and even one of his own from his latest album, “In My Shoes” – he brought the same gusto used for his Maximum Solo Acoustic shows. Maybe it should be called Minimum Solo Acoustic.
Throughout the night, the “big man with a little box” showed the audience what this tiny instrument could dond surprisingly, it could do a lot. The uke is not the novelty instrument it always seemed to be in almost every Hawaiian movie, but instead, a legitimate instrument capable of both rhythm and solos. Like all Eck shows, the audience also came away with more information than they arrived with, as he went into the history of the 10-string tiple – an instrument described as one of the “worst musical ideas,” an instrument that sounds almost impossible to tune, but has a very interesting ringing tone, similar to a mandolin, but fuller. It seemed as if he had a different uke for each song he played during his two set show, from a resonator to the aforementioned tiple. He once quipped about suffering from a condition known as GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome), but it seemed more like UAS to me.
Anyone interested in finding out more about this instrument can go to Ukulele Night at the Moon and River Cafe in Schenectady from 7-9pm on the second Monday of each month. Maybe Mike will show you some of his collection.
Review and photographs by Ed Conway