Martin Denny

Exotica Suite

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Exotica Suite is a highly unusual project with much to recommend it. First and foremost, it is entirely a composition by Les Baxter, the man who came up with the first exotica suite, Ritual of the Savage, and to whom Martin Denny thus owes an incalculable artistic debt. The arranger, Bob Florence, worked closely with Baxter and also arranged most of Denny's later recordings. The good news for Baxter fans is that this is a very impressive, cohesive work nearly on a par with the "exotic crime jazz" sensation, Jungle Jazz. Unfortunately, trombonist Si Zentner has little of the subtlety of Jungle Jazz's star Plas Johnson; subsequently, Exotica Suite earns just a "B+" compared to Jungle Jazz's "A." The bad news for Denny fans is that Martin Denny may as well have sat this one out. Despite the principal credit to him, the most familiar aspect may be the jacket design. But even the jacket is different this time; a flap covered with burlap is attached. The design is effective and is intended to help show off the record's audiophile recording process, Liberty "Premier Poly 120 Sound." The pressings are not appreciably superior to the early, black-label Liberty stereo records, however.