Arthur Lyman: Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)

Vibraphone master gives holiday classics an exotica twist

Together with Martin Denny, vibraphonist Arthur Lyman defined the Hawaii-based instrumental style known as “exotica.” After recording the seminal Exotica album with Denny’s combo, Lyman struck out on his own, recording numerous jazz-flavored exotica albums for the Hi-Fi and Life labels, including the classic Taboo in 1958. This holiday entry was originally released in 1964, and features Lyman’s exquisite mallet work on a dozen titles. In Lyman’s hands, these classic Christmas songs take on an island languor you’re unlikely to hear in others’ versions, but it’s not all drifting and dreaming, as Lyman’s combo turns up the tempo on a few stagey romps. If you’ve tired of the crooners and rockers, Lyman’s brand of Polynesian pop-jazz will provide you a sheltered cove for the holidays. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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