A few years ago, a buddy of mine got HEAVILY into "tiki culture", and it was through him that I revivified a long unused interest in the music of Martin Denny, Cal Tjader, Esquivel, and others, delighted to discover there was a hell of a lot more in those cats than I'd first understood to be the case. I'd long been into the art of Shag and his antecedents as way hip expressions of cartooning-cum-abstract-Impressionism, but the musics I first took to be just a smidge too similar to 101 Strings, Mantovani, and boring others proved quite wrong. Thus, when I was able to catch some snippets of Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica Quartet and Where Here Meets There, I was ensorcelled not only by its affinities to tiki groove but also what was very obviously well beyond the baseline.
The central unit is indeed a quartet and is founded in Brian O'Neill's vibes, then Geni Skenoo's flutes, with Jason Davis taking up the bass and Shane Shanahan manning the percussives, the latter two as rhythm section, though, really, O'Neill and Skenoo also fade back into that segment between solos. Tev Stevig (reviewed here) and Noriko Terada guest on tanpur & oud and percussion respectively, and everyone's as versed in World and modern classical musics as in jazz and EZ Listening. This means you get Stravinsky, Takemitsu, Gershwin, and Nyman along with everything else. In fact, if you'll glance at the song credits below, you'll see precisely just how intimate the association is. The result, then, is a lot more sophisticated than what was normally heard at Trader Vic's (an established tiki lounge in SoCal decades ago) on a Saturday night…but not so much that any aspect of the island trade or aesthetic is neglected, submerged, or lost.
Never for a moment does the listener feel other than in an exotic jungle/rain forest locale, sipping cocktails with umbrellas in them and dancing alongside the indigenes while discussing world politics, philosophy, and that particularly hot waitress on the other side of the tree canvas clearing. Execs and sophisticated ditch-diggers alike congregate with college profs and bohemians in this music, everyone looking to sidle away from brick and mortars, get a buzz on, and just generally go native once more…for perhaps the first time in their lives. And the humor running through much of this even provokes the erudite listener to expect Monsieur Hulot to enter through the side door and start dancing a tango where the samba dwells.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles