Arthur Lyman

Bwana A: More Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman

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This is the long-playing follow-up to the multi-million selling platter Taboo (1957) featuring the seminal Arthur Lyman (vibes/marimba/guitar) ensemble with Ethel Azama (vocals), Paul Conrad (piano), Chew Hoon Chang (moon harp), Alan Soares (piano/celeste), John Kramer (bass/bamboo flute), and Harold Chang (percussion). While continuing to be rooted in jazz, they conjure a jungle-like aural atmosphere throughout the dozen selections. Lyman returned to the confines of the aluminum-based Geodesic dome -- created by American industrialist, ship magnate and music lover Henry J. Kaiser -- to document the proceedings. In fact, the title track "Bwana Á" -- which translates as "boss man/friend" -- is dedicated to Kaiser. Among its most endearing traits is the organic three-second delay that gives the sound a natural fullness via its warm, resonate reverberation. The music reflects the seemingly infinite shades and hues of life in the isles. These are comprised of the intimate, unhurried noir phrases that waft and underscore the shimmering "South Pacific Moonlight," as well as the exceedingly mysterious Eastern-influenced "Moon Over a Ruined Castle." The familiar and beguiling "Waikiki Serenade" adopts its stately tune from Franz Schubert's "Serenade." The comparatively robust chorus is contrasted by the airy and syncopated pacing. To a similar end, Lyman and company breathe new life into their breezy interpretation of the gentle and wistfully melodic "La Paloma." The upbeat "Otome Sun" serves up a livelier rhythm that remains ingrained in an Asiatic musical mélange of otherwise peppy exotica. Evolving from a hypnotic bamboo flute introduction, "Canton Rose" develops into a spotlight for Chang's singular -- and at times atonal -- moon harp. The Kaiser Dome reveals its true nature on the Lyman-arranged "Blue Sands" as the congas and other drum percussion are juxtaposed against the bandleaders' marimba with its innate aural aromatics. The Spanish-tinged "Malagueña" is an outlet for Conrad's ivory tickling and Lyman's all-too-infrequent performances on guitar. Also notable are the reserved contributions of Kramer's upright bass as it provides a sturdy grounding for the heady flamenco section. "Vera Cruz" is unusual as the bird calls and other tropical forest ambience are balanced by a moody foreboding. According to the LP's rear jacket liner notes -- the eerie feel can be attributed to the pair of de-tuned pianos that augment the opening and closing. Lyman's musicianship -- particularly when it comes to his considerable vibraphone prowess -- peaks during the enchanting ballad "Pua Carnation." Again, it is worth reiterating the audiophile-like sonic environment as it becomes a presence unto itself. Nowhere is that as aptly demonstrated as the bluesy "Colonel Bogey's March" -- a spin-off of the familiar (and typically whistled) theme to the film Bridge on the River Kwai." In 2008, Collectors Choice Music issued Bwana A onto a double-play CD with Bahia (1959) -- making each available in their original form for the first time in decades.

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