Hope you guys are having a good Thursday as we inch towards the weekend. I've been gluing books, working through reference questions, and filing errant paging slips, but there's one thing that elevates all these activities to the level of glamour and intrigue I've become accustomed to-- it's the sweet, sweet sounds of Arthur Lyman records, ALL OF WHICH it seems like are available on Spotify. Thank you, Jesus; thank you, the Internet... I'm going to make it through this work dredge if it kills me!
Brother, have you heard the good word about Arthur Lyman?
In spite of his poindexter-sounding name, Arthur Lyman actually has solid exotic roots, born in 1932 on the island of Oahu in a pre-statehood Hawaii to native parents. As a child, his father encouraged him to play along with Benny Goodman records on a toy marimba to "learn what good music was", and who could be a better tutor on the in's and out's of the instrument than a Goodman-era Lionel Hampton? An apt pupil, Lyman grew into an accomplished vibraphone and marimba player, working in local bands through high school. His big break came in 1954-- Lyman had hung up his mallets for steady employment as a desk clerk in a hotel when pianist Martin Denny heard him play, and offered him a place in his lounge band. This would lead to a successful run at Don the Beachcomber and the Shell Bar at the Hawaiian Village, as well as the mega hit instrumental album Quiet Village in 1957. Arthur Lyman left the group that same year, missing out on recording another Denny tiki-bar classic, Exotica, but freeing the musician to form his own four piece combo that recorded nine classic albums in the next three years!
I bought Taboo at either an estate sale or Goodwill a few years ago, in the heat of my midcentury Mad Men obsession (which, to be honest, has never really cooled). At the time, I saw the cover and thought, "Oh, neat, this might be a hoot," without realizing what I was getting into. People, this is the MAINLINE DRUG of exotica lovers. Ain't no Sing Along with Mitch. Ain't no Lawrence Welk. No schmaltzy strings or weird choral vocal accompaniments...this is exactly the kind of music I imagine would be playing when going on a clandestine date with Kirk Douglas in a movie like Strangers When We Meet (I am Kim Novak and this and all other hypothetical scenarios). Weird jungle animal sound effects? Check. Dreamy faux-Polynesian type music with unexpected percussion? Check. This is real stuff.
I love thinking of the sixties' hostess who bought this album in 1960 with the full intention of having her guests sample the advertised "jazz sounds" within. I've been reading books on hoarding lately (keep your jokes to yourself, it's a semi-preemptive measure!) and one of the most interesting things I've learned about the psychology of "stuff" and why we want it is the idea of future intentionality. You buy the adorable vintage cocktail caddy because "Won't that be something when people come for dinner and I bring their after-dinner drinks ON A CADDY". Women, especially...myself particularly... shop for the lives they want to have a lot more than the lives they actually have. Who wants to buy paper towels when you could buy fancy playing card sets for canasta lunches you may not ever have (mainly because you nor anyone you know plays canasta). Do you know what I mean? In trying to cut down items in my attic, I've had to be very real with myself about "you may like having a full badminton yard set, but when was the last time you actually set this up? Do you love the idea of it enough to keep it, or wouldn't you rather have the reality of an extra foot of space?". And that's a hard call, kids!
But back to the music...can you see the record buyer in the sixties' with visions of tropical themed dinner parties floating through her head? I hope she got to have them before she gave this record away!
I am cuckoo-go-crazy for almost everything I've listened to on Spotify of Arthur Lyman's group...Taboo and Taboo 2 are probably the best bet for your ad hoc luau, but other good "get a taste of the Lyman sound" records are Love for Sale (see above), Today's Greatest Hits (I am listening to a laid back marimba version of the Hawaii Five O theme song, and I couldn't be happier with it), or even The Shadow of Your Smile, where the man tackles songs like "Yesterday" and "Hang on Sloopy" (I am not kidding, and it's not half bad!!). Every track is a kind of interesting-peaceful, which is not a label I would slap on a lot of music. It's interesting enough that you don't forget you're listening to it (as with a lot of non-vocal jazz of the sixties', sometimes I really do forget it's on), but peaceful enough that it doesn't distract you from whatever else you're doing. Now, is that perfect party music or IS THAT PERFECT PARTY MUSIC?
But don't take my word for it! Start with these albums from Spotify and then branch out if you like what you hear...again, I can vouch for the 60% of his catalog I've listened to so far as five out of five stars.
So! What do you think? Are you a fan of the Polynesian beat? Which of these tracks leaves you THE MOST in the mood for a Zombie or a Mai Tai? When should I start planning my next luau (correct answer: YESTERDAY)? What have you been listening to lately?
That's all for today-- I'm going to hula back to work, but you guys have a great Thursday and I'll see you back here for Photo Friday tomorrow! Take care! Til then.