Exotica

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Exotica can range from silly campy novelty records for 'swingin bachelor pads' to more serious experimental blends of jazz, Latin rhythms, studio technology and modern orchestration. The JMA exotica genre excludes the former but welcomes the latter. Good examples of the more artistic practitioners of the Exotica genre include Martin Denny and Les Baxter. Both Denny and Baxter were accomplished jazz musicians who also drew on a wealth of other musical influences including French impressionistic composers, Afro-Cuban jazz and Polynesian percussion to create highly original and creative musical landscapes.

Other jazz influenced artists that might be found in the Exotica genre include: artists who record creative versions of well known pop songs, artists who juxtapose in-congruent styles in an ironic fashion, artists who have an anachronistic presentation and musical style, and artists who create unique recordings that do not fit easily into any standard genre. A final common element of many exotica artists is a sense of ironic kitsch, this element is easily recognized by fans of the genre, but may be too subtle for outsiders to recognize.

exotica top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm

MARTIN DENNY Exotica Album Cover Exotica
MARTIN DENNY
4.94 | 5 ratings
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HERB ALPERT Whipped Cream & Other Delights Album Cover Whipped Cream & Other Delights
HERB ALPERT
4.93 | 3 ratings
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JANKO NILOVIC Rythmes Contemporains Album Cover Rythmes Contemporains
JANKO NILOVIC
4.98 | 2 ratings
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GABOR SZABO Belsta River Album Cover Belsta River
GABOR SZABO
4.95 | 2 ratings
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MARTIN DENNY Primitiva Album Cover Primitiva
MARTIN DENNY
4.95 | 2 ratings
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MARTIN DENNY Another Taste of Honey Album Cover Another Taste of Honey
MARTIN DENNY
4.95 | 2 ratings
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MARTIN DENNY A Taste of India Album Cover A Taste of India
MARTIN DENNY
4.90 | 2 ratings
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MARTIN DENNY A Taste of Honey Album Cover A Taste of Honey
MARTIN DENNY
4.90 | 2 ratings
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FRANKIE LAINE Hell Bent For Leather Album Cover Hell Bent For Leather
FRANKIE LAINE
4.90 | 2 ratings
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ANANDA SHANKAR Ananda Shankar Album Cover Ananda Shankar
ANANDA SHANKAR
4.71 | 4 ratings
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LALO SCHIFRIN There's a Whole Lalo Schifrin Goin' On (aka Experience) Album Cover There's a Whole Lalo Schifrin Goin' On (aka Experience)
LALO SCHIFRIN
5.00 | 1 ratings
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DAZIE MAE Dazie Mae Album Cover Dazie Mae
DAZIE MAE
5.00 | 1 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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exotica Music Reviews

LAURINDO ALMEIDA Viva Bossa Nova!

Album · 1962 · Exotica
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js
Although Laurindo Almeida was involved in many top notch authentic Bossa Nova albums, he was hardly a purist and didn’t mind mixing pop elements with Bossa Nova with the intent of reaching a broader audience. Such is the case with “Viva Bossa Nova!” from 1962, the rhythms are pure Bossa Nova, and they are expertly played, but the melodies come from popular movies and TV shows. Adding to the early 60s pop appeal is Jimmy Rowles playing a beautifully cheezy electric organ, the ultimate in ‘lounge cool’ in this pre-hippie era. It all adds up, real Bossa Nova fans may not dig this, but its perfect for fans of exotica and 60s bachelor pad mystique.

Although this was mostly meant to be a pop album, none of these excellent musicians checked their creativity and talent at the door. All of the arrangements are varied and interesting and almost every tune provides a solo or two. Some top tune honors go to “Maria”, with a great sax solo from Bob Cooper, and “Petite Le Fleur” with a beautiful bass flute melody from Justin Gordon. “Mr Lucky” and “Theme from Route 66” are also successes in arrangement and execution. Throughout this album, Almeida and his producers stay away from overplayed tunes and the kind of super corny songs that can often drag these kind of records down. “Moon River” is probably the only song close to that category, everything else on here sounds fairly fresh.

Although the choice of songs pushes this album more in a pop/exotica type direction, the high musicianship and general good-taste in presentation might make this appealing to fans of real Bossa Nova too.

BO HANSSON Mellanväsen (aka Attic Thoughts)

Album · 1975 · Exotica
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js
Because he scored a cult hit early in his career with an album of music “inspired by The Lord of the Rings”, Bo Hanson has always been lumped in with the art rock crowd, which is unfortunate because the people who would probably appreciate his music more are fans of incidental music, soundtracks, adverts and things like that. "Mellanvasm" aka “Attic Thoughts”, like Hanson’s other albums, consists of short instrumentals on which he plays most of the instruments via multi-tracking creating a very personal sound. As mentioned earlier, soundtrack music makes for a good reference to Hanson’s sound, you could also include the exotic pop instrumentals of Brian Wilson and George Martin. Some cuts also recall 60s lounge pop-jazz, the sort of sound that had a revival during the initial acid jazz phase.

Hanson creates his personal sound stories using a plethora of analog keyboards (as well as guitars etc) making this album a good one for those who enjoy the sound of 70s instrumental keyboard based exotic albums such as Augustas Pablo’s “East of the River Nile’ or Les McCann’s "Layers". I have heard Hanson’s music used in acid jazz mixes, so there are some out there who recognize where Hanson’s music might find a good fit. Hopefully more soundtrack and exotica fans will discover this unique and 'charming' music.

RAYMOND SCOTT The Music of Raymond Scott: Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights

Boxset / Compilation · 1992 · Exotica
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siLLy puPPy
RAYMOND SCOTT is known as the man who made cartoons swing and although he is hardly a household name, his music has most likely been heard by everyone in one form or another. This compilation RECKLESS NIGHTS AND TURKISH TWILIGHTS showcases the earliest stage of his career when he lead his band the RAYMOND SCOTT QUINTETTE. It is this period where he composed some of his biggest hits which proved to be big sellers in their time and immortalized forever after he sold his music publishing to Warner Bros in 1943. The music director Carl Stalling would then adapt his music to the extensive Loonie Tunes catalog. Over the years his unique brand of exotic jazz has become a staple for that cartoony feel and his music has found its way into the likes of The Simpsons, Ren And Stimpy, The Oblongs, Batfink and Duckman as well as the never-ending reboots of Looney Tunes cartoons themselves. All the compositions on this compilation were recorded from 1937 to 1940.

RAYMOND SCOTT's intent was to lead his Quintette in order to revitalize the swing in jazz music. He was unorthodox in his approach and irritated many a jazz purist for his disregard of what was thought to be “proper” jazz. His compositions are energetic, busy and complex yet always catchy and although improvisation went into the creation of his music, once finished, the music remained exactly as completed. SCOTT had an affinity for incorporating classical music into his mix as well. No other track is this as obvious as his version of Mozart's “Rondo Alla Turca” which finds itself adapted into a jazz context and titled “In An 18th Century Drawing Room.” Another attribute that set SCOTT apart from most other jazz musicians of the day was the fact that although he was the leader of the band, he rarely took the limelight of performing solos himself and left that to the other members of the band. SCOTT was a pianist and the focus is mostly directed on the brass.

To my ears, RAYMOND SCOTT's music has many diverse influences ranging from the classic dixieland jazz, to the early piano jazz of Art Tatum with other sounds being borrowed from Western classical music, Klezmer and Middle Eastern music. The brilliance is in how well it is woven together seamlessly into a cohesive whole and despite the complexities of the music always comes across as a gleeful sonic stomp throughout imaginary lands which lends itself perfectly to the cartoon world in which it has been used the most. This cartoon swing sound in the RAYMOND SCOTT QUINTETTE would not persist though as in the beginning of the 40s he would take on new projects including collaborating with Les Paul and Mary Ford to record pop songs and would eventually take on the entirely different musical world of electronic music in its infancy.

The true legacy of SCOTT won't be from the scant few recordings that he would release but from the influence he laid down leading to a wealth of samplings, reinterpretations and covers finding its way into the disparate artistic arenas of film, television, theater and countless different musical genres. For example, samples can be found on albums by the trip hop group Gorillaz, the progressive rock band Rush, hip hop acts such as J Dilla, indie rock acts such as TV On The Radio and even in ska by the the band Save Ferris. A truly underrated jazz icon who may not have found the biggest success under his own name but achieved it in a rather strange roundabout under-the-radar way. On this compilation you can hear his own version of his own music as originally released.

KORLA PANDIT The Universal Language Of Music, Volume 1

Album · 1954 · Exotica
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js
Our review today involves a talented young African-American jazz pianist from the US south who decided to boost his fledgling career by fabricating for himself a far away exotic birthplace, and an equally exotic new name and attire to go with that alleged birthplace. Now you may be thinking this must be Sonny Blount aka Sun Ra, but instead it is the lesser known John Roland Redd, otherwise known as Korla Pandit from ‘New Delhi‘. Redd was a promising young piano player who was actually from Hannibal Missouri before he decided to move to Los Angelas, first re-naming himself Juan Rolando, and then settling on becoming Korla Pandit, an ‘Indian’ man complete with jeweled turban and all. In the early 50s, Pandit would appear on TV in LA playing a mix of classical excerpts, jazz standards and exotic originals on the Hammond organ while staring directly at the camera without saying a word. For the US in the early 50s, this was unique to say the least. Some credit Pandit with being the creator of the strange genre that became known as exotica and certainly his records, along with the first records by Les Baxter, are some of the earliest recordings in this style.

“The Universal Language of Music Volume 1” is typical of an early Pandit record as it contains some classical excerpts (Clare de Lune" etc), a couple standards ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow" etc) and a few supposed “Indian” tunes composed by Pandit. The alleged Indian tunes don’t sound much like music from India, but more like cheezy belly dancing music from a 50s LA nightclub. Korla often accompanies these exotic melodies by playing the lower keyboard on the Hammond with an open palm producing a sort of electronic bongo drum beat. No matter what Pandit plays, he provides the sort of melodramatic swoops and swells that were common to lounge organ players during that time period. In between the tunes, an unidentified dramatic voice recites corny poetry and trite stories that pre-date new age snake oil 'gurus'.

Getting back to our Sun Ra comparison, I would not be surprised if Sonny pulled some influence from Pandit. For example, on the track “Stormy Weather”, Korla precedes the tune with his idea of a chaotic storm on the keyboard with lots swelling dissonant chords, its avant-garde music gone dramatically cornball and its just humorously excessive enough to sound like Ra himself.

I am sure you have already determined that this record is not for everyone, even some exotica fans may be disappointed in the murky recorded sound, but to some collectors of odd music, that murky sound can only add to this record’s strange appeal. No doubt Pandit’s playing is not a joke, he was an extremely talented performer who could have played whatever he wanted, he’s just one of those quirky individuals who took the path less traveled.

GABOR SZABO 1969

Album · 1969 · Exotica
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Sean Trane
Having left the Impulse! label, Szabo signed for the more obscure Blue Thumb label to release a fairly uninteresting string of albums, including the present 1969, which you guessed it, was released that very same year. Despite the exuberant turning of the decade era, Gabor seemed to miss out on the power and demented freedom of the times. Despite a promising almost-Folon inner sleeve artwork, it seems that the west-coast soft-jazz spirit had overwhelmed him, and musicians like bassist Kabok and drummer Keltner seemed to dominate the potential power of the organ, played by Melvoin.

Yes, we’re definitely in a west-coast jazz, not too far from what the CTI label would make its bread and bitter in the following years. Little wonder that Gabor would also release albums for that label a few years later. But for the present, we’re dealing with low-energy jazz-pop, sometimes reminiscent of rearranged Beatles tunes (doh!!!) that would fit supermarket or elevator background music. The only time the album comes alive, is in the album-closing raga-esque and aptly-titled Somewhere I Belong. Indeed Gabor, too bad it took you a whole album to return to your natural grounds. A real snoozefest and IMHO, best avoided, though its main merit is that it won’t irritate more your eardrums than your discernment.

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