Arthur Lyman

Isle of Enchantment

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By the time of Arthur Lyman's Isle of Enchantment (1964), the multi-faceted musician/arranger/instrumentalist was a staple -- if not an outright tourist destination -- in and around the Hawaii tiki circuit. For the dozen selections on this LP, Lyman (vibes/marimba/guitar) is once again accompanied by his longtime bandmates Harold Chang (percussion), John Kramer (bass/bamboo flute), and Alan Soares (piano/celeste). As usual, the chosen material reflects a balance of entries that are equally inspired by traditional ethnic folk origins -- Polynesian, American, et al -- pre-rock & roll pop standards, and the occasional remake of familiar tunes from both the Great White Way and Silver Screen. The opening title track "Isle of Enchantment" immediately creates an ambiance with the blend of Kramer's moody woodwinds and Chang's jungle-imbibed percussive interjections -- which are fused with Lyman's rich shimmering overtones. To a similar degree are the tranquil and meditative "Lei Aloha Lei Makami" and equally sublime "Isa Lei" -- which bears a lolloping rhythm that lies somewhere between the cowboy-esque "Happy Trails" and the familiar pattern used by the Ink Spots on practically every track the vocal group ever recorded. The comparatively Eastern-informed "Sho Joji" and pleasant "Koko Ni Sachiari" are likewise outstanding examples of the Arthur Lyman Group at their most sonically and emotively affective. Also highlighting Isle of Enchantment are a pair of Henry Mancini-related numbers from his score to the Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn cinematic vehicle Charade (1963). While the film's main theme is wistful and mysterious, "Orange Tamore" (sic) is a rousing uptempo treasure that ably combines Lyman and crew's tropical sensibilities with composer Mancini's masterful melody. The effervescent and appropriately monikered "Swingin' Shepherd Blues" as well as the album's closer "Et Maintenant" -- which may be better-known under its translated designation "What Now My Love" -- are evidence of the combo's roots as accomplished interpreters of modern post-bop jazz. As part of Collectors' Choice Music's thorough reassessment of Arthur Lyman's Hi-Fi Records catalog, in 2008 they combined the contents of Isle of Enchantment with Polynesia (1965) onto a two-fer CD, making both long-players once again available after decades out of print.

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