Arthur Lyman

Aphrodisia

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By the mid- to late '60s, Arthur Lyman (vibraphone/marimba) had carved himself a comfortable musical niche that typically yielded several new long-players a year. Each inevitably contained a mixture of concurrent pop chart hits, folk songs from around the globe, numbers from the stage and screen, as well as a few cuts steeped in sheer and unadulterated exotica. It is fairly obvious the contents were aimed squarely at the liberated, hip, and otherwise swinging denizens of the burgeoning sexual revolution -- right down to the sensually enticing LP jacket artwork. Opening the platter and setting the affable tenor is the woozy and romantic title piece "Aphrodisia." Lyman's leads glisten over the steady, unhurried refrain. All the while, the sparse percussive Polynesian ambience surrenders to the occasional bird call and jungle whistle. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the frolicking update of the familiar melody "Billy Boy." The brisk tempo -- rivaling the likes of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels' take of "C.C. Rider" -- allows Lyman in particular to reveal his formidable jazz chops. Nowhere is that as evident as the excellent syncopated improvisation that occurs right after the first verse when the entire ensemble let loose. Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" became a touchstone for instrumentalists who -- like Lyman and company -- were looking for modern material to adapt and include in their repertoire. They lift the number into a playful fusion of their own singular sound rooted in a freewheeling rhythm & blues. The reflective "Old Plantation" goes deeper to capture a pensive and expressive side to the band's performance style. Likewise in doing so, they exemplify Lyman's oft uncredited less is more approach. "Mexico" is imbued with not only a hearty and tuneful joie de vivre, but the sturdy marching cadence suggests a feeling of a rich heritage. Followers and enthusiasts of exotica should take note of the outstanding "Mas Que Nada." While the inspiration is clearly rooted in Sergio Mendes' better-known rendering, Lyman is able to take it into the realm of post-bop jazz via his tastefully liberating arrangement. The quaint "One Paddle -- Two Paddle" stands out for its rare use of vocals in an organic tropical esthetic, while "O O" is a return to the visceral and carnal world. A slinky and syncopated introduction yields to a seductive and charming piano and woodwind combination taking full advantage of the juicy jungle jive. Indigenous music of North America via the simple and lovely "All My Trials" and the Asian-informed "Kyoto" offer an interesting juxtaposition of styles, each of which Lyman and crew impeccably execute. Meanwhile, back on the isles, the intricate Hawaiian ode "Kuu Ipo Ika Hee" resounds with the opulence of an unspoiled beach and sunset. Aphrodisia dips back into the contemporary scene, concluding with an infectiously rousing reading of "Goin' Out of My Head." In 2008, Collectors' Choice Music paired up the Arthur Lyman platters Latitude 20 (1967) and Aphrodisia onto a single CD -- making both titles available for the first time in decades.

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