1. (00:03:10) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - A Taste of Honey
2. (00:01:56) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - America
3. (00:02:58) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Black Orchid
4. (00:01:56) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Clair de Lune
5. (00:02:29) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Exodus
6. (00:02:33) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Im in a Dancing Mood
7. (00:02:18) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Route 66
8. (00:01:52) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Stranger on the Shore
9. (00:02:43) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Take Five
10. (00:01:45) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - The Wild One
11. (00:02:25) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Violetta
12. (00:03:42) - (CBR 192 kbit/s) Martin Denny - Walk on the Wild Side
Playing Time.........: 00:29:46
Total Size...........: 40.99 MB
NFO generated on.....: 8/12/2007 3:29:42 AM
The man who brought the name "exotica" to this genre. The King of the Tiki
Hut. Denny not only brought exotica its biggest hit of all time with his #2
single of Les Baxter's "Quiet Village,", he gave two other key figures in
exotica--Arthur Lyman and Julius Wechter--their starts, and influenced
several generations of lounge performers.
Denny studied classical piano as a child in New York City. He began working
professionally at a young age and spent four years touring South America
with the Don Dean Orchestra before serving in the Air Force in World War II.
Afterward, he attended at the Los Angeles Conservatory and studied
composition with Wesley La Violette, who influenced many West Coast jazz
composers and arrangers. He continued to work in clubs with small combos
when he was hired to play at Don the Beachcomber's, the most popular club
in Honolulu, in January 1954. Soon, he was hired by steel and shipping
magnate Henry J. Kaiser to play in the Shell Bar, the night club of his new
resort on Oahu, the Hawaiian Village.
At first, Denny was heavily influenced by the piano/vibes combo sound of
George Shearing, particularly Shearing's highly successful MGM album, You're
Hearing George Shearing. Other than the Waikiki setting, there wasn't much
exotic about it. But bandmate Augie Colon introduced him to Les Baxter's
landmark album, Ritual of the Savage, and Denny adapted several
numbers--most famously, "Quiet Village." Over the course of his career,
Denny would record over two dozen Baxter tunes.
Denny came across the trademark of his recordings--animal noises in the
background--quite by accident while performing at the Shell Bar. As Denny
related with an interview in Re/Search magazine's Incredibly Strange Music,
The Hawaiian Village was a beautiful open-air tropical setting. There was a
pond with some very large bullfrogs right next to the bandstand. One night
we were playing a certain song and I could hear the frogs going [deep voice]
"Rivet! Rivet! Rivet!" When we stopped playing, the frogs stopped croaking.
I thought, "Hmm--is that a coincidence?" So a little while later I said, "Let's
repeat that tune," and sure enough the frogs started croaking again. And as
a gag, some of the guys started spontaneously doing these bird calls.
Afterwards we all had a good laugh: Hey, that was fun!" But the following
day one of the guests came up and said, "Mr. Denny, you know that song
you did with the birds and the frogs? Can you do that again?" I said, "What
are you talking about?" -- then it dawned on me he'd thought that was part
of the arrangement.
Denny broke with Kaiser in 1956 over a contractual dispute, and toured the
West Coast before taking extended bookings with the Sands and Flamingo
Hotels in Las Vegas. He also won a recording contract with Liberty Records,
then just starting out in Los Angeles. Denny recorded a set of his Shell Bar
favorites, including "Quiet Village," in mono for Liberty, but the
album--"Exotica"--had little success.
As attention in the rest of the U.S. began to turn to Hawaii as it neared its
induction as the 50th state in 1959, Liberty brought Denny back into the
studio to re-record "Exotica" in stereo. This time, the record found a
receptive audience and became a huge favorite among "sophisticated"
listeners. "Quiet Village" was released as a single and reached #4 on the
Billboard Top 40 pop chart.
Not everyone appreciated Denny's approach, though. R.D. Darrell, a
reviewer for Hi Fi magazine groused about Denny's album, "Quiet Village,"
Denny's little ensemble ... has been so successful with a whole series of
exotic pops divertissements that mine must be a crabbed minority opinion of
his particular blend of cocktail-hour sentimentality with a liberal spiking of
pseudojungle sound effects. But except for the leader's own vivacious
originals, "Firecracker" and "Sake Rock," the present examples strike me as
merely innocuously dull or ridiculously fancy, despite the bright purity with
which every jingle-jangle and bird-of-paradise yawp has been recorded.
(August, 1959 issue)
Time magazine also noted the noisy nature of Denny's records, commenting
that Augie Colon could "caterwaul like a turkey buzzard., croak like a frog, or
shriek like a cheetah." But it also observed that, "Blended with Buddhist bells,
Burmese cymbals and the West Indian guiro, these noises so far this year
have helped sell 60,000 Denny albums, all labeled like bargain-counter
perfumes —Exotica, Hypnotique, Afro-Desia."
Soon after the first release of "Exotica," Kaiser hired Denny's vibes player,
Arthur Lyman, to take over his old gig at the Shell Bar. After Denny's single of
"Quiet Village" started its climb up the Top 40 charts, Lyman was hired by
another fledling LA label, Hi Fi Records, and began recording his own string of
albums, all heavily influenced by Denny's sound. Denny replaced Lyman with
percussionist Julius Wechter, who stayed with him until 1964, when he quit to
form the Baja Marimba Band for Herb Alpert's new label, A&M.
Although Denny only placed a few singles in the pop charts as he rode the
wave of popularity of the exotica sound and interest in the new state of
Hawaii, he continued to record for Liberty until 1969. He moved back to Oahu
but toured in the States and appeared on a number of network television
variety shows throughout the 1960s.
Most of Denny's recordings feature his trademark animal sounds and exotic
percussion instruments, but a number of his mid-1960s albums featured what
Liberty termed his "honey" sound. These are standard easy-listening fare and
are likely to disappoint those seeking that special Tiki Hut sound.
Although Denny often used authentic musical instruments of indigenous
people in his recordings, he was never too concerned about the authenticity
of his material or interpretation. As he told one interviewer, "My music has
always been like fiction, no authenticity; I didn't want to make African
music--I only wanted to suggest how African music might sound."
Denny continued to perform for decades after the initial exotica fad passed.
He announced his retirement in 1985 but then reunited with Lyman, Colon,
and Chang for a short club tour. In 1990, he toured Japan and recorded a
live CD, Exotica 90, and soon after, he was recognized by the Hawaiian
Association of Music's Hoku Award for lifetime achievement. Indeed, he
survived long enough to see a revival in the mid-1990s that brought an
extensive CD reissue of his original albums by Scamp Records.
He continued to perform on occasion and was a tremendous supporter of the
younger generation of musicians inspired by his music. Kit Ebersbach and
Lloyd Kandell created Don Tiki, one of the better lounge music groups in his
honor, and Denny played on several tracks of their 1997 CD, The Forbidden
Sounds of Don Tiki. He appeared at Arthur Lyman's memorial service. When
Jimmy Buffett stopped in Honolulu on his 2004 tour, he asked to meet Denny,
remarking, "His music captured the magic of adventure and escapades. My
own dreams used that music as a backdrop." Denny's final public
performance, for a tsunami fundraiser at the Hawaii School for Girls, came
less than three weeks before his death.
So mix yourself a Mai Tai, drop a little umbrella into your glass, kick off your
shoes, and put a Martin Denny album on the turntable. Take a trip to the
Hawaii of your mind. Aloha!
A selection of Denny's performances on his early hits are available in
transcriptions for piano: The Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny
Martin Denny: Piano Solos from his Liberty Recordings
Publisher: Criterion Music Corporation
6124 Selma Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90028
For more information, check out www.martindenny.com and The Temple of
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