Martin Denny

A Taste of Honey!

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Taking a tip from George Shearing, Martin Denny cruised through most of the '60s with a slew of bossa nova and jazz cocktail albums. Denny's late-'50s exotica records had established him as a name to reckon with in bachelor pad circles, but were only good for a limited stretch. Denny didn't forsake this period completely, though, when he turned to jazz; on this release at least, one hears bits of his earlier South Seas and Hawaiian backdrops in the bongo accompaniment and occasional leftfield percussion accent. Other factors to consider are Cal Tjader and Dave Brubeck, both of whom Denny pays homage to by covering their respective numbers "Black Orchid" and "Take Five." As both Tjader and Shearing did on many recordings, Denny and company raise these cuts and their version of "A Taste of Honey" beyond the confines of kitsch by way of some top-notch ensemble playing. The whole album, for that matter, is well played, but things do go south a bit towards the end as the band slips into background music mode. This is not to say that versions of war horses like "Exodus" and "Claire de Lune" aren't enjoyable, or even tailored made for entertaining guests, but they don't offer much in the way of exotic thrills or rarefied touches. Still, A Taste of Honey should resonate with dedicated Denny fans; and since there has to be at least a few gems on each of the several lounge jazz records Denny released, someone should put together a compilation covering this period as a compliment to Rhino's exotica-era collection.

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