Arthur Lyman

Lyman '66

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Arthur Lyman (vibraphone) continued to be a main attraction at the Hilton Hawaiian Village -- a complex crafted by American industrialist, ship magnate and music lover Henry J. Kaiser. In fact -- according to the info on the original LP jacket -- the recording "was done in the acoustically near-perfect Aluminum Dome." This Geodesic structure became a second home to Lyman and his instrumental ensemble as they were likewise the house band in the Village's legendary Shell Bar. Released at the end of 1965, Lyman '66 is an impressive dozen-song anthology infusing a variety of light modern pop, folk, and show tunes with the artist's refined and undeniably stylish tiki-lounge approach. A swinging update of "Lemon Tree" kicks things off with a Polynesian-flavor perfectly suited for the upbeat arrangement. By contrast, "Taste of Honey" is presented as a darker waltz with Lyman reassembling the melody in his own inimitable style. The lines traded between the marimba and vibes emit an ethereal shimmer allowing the chiming resonance to enchant the dome's organic ambience. The theme from "Fiddler on the Roof" comes alive with a frisky pan flute accompanied by hand percussion. The second verse kicks into overdrive as the tempo builds incrementally into a full-blown Kossak dance rave-up guaranteed to leave listeners as breathless as the players must have been. Things slow down considerably on the Henry Mancini co-written title composition to the Oscar-award nominated Delbert Mann film Dear Heart (1964). The prominently featured ukulele blends faultlessly with Lyman's muted mallets giving the entire affair a relaxed and dreamy overtone. Taking elements of several selections from the motion picture, the "Medley from Mary Poppins" contains quotes from a toe-tappin' "Spoonful of Sugar," an introspective "Chim Chim Cheree" and concludes with an interpretation of "Supercalifragalistic" that spins quickly into a frantic finale. The serene "Kon Tiki" recalls sides from Lyman's earliest solo platters that were steeped in the traditional sounds associated with the islands. One part jungle jive and the other upbeat syncopated jazz rhythms, "The (Jungle) Cat" is definitely where it's at and one of Lyman's most memorable entries from this era of his career -- when he was increasingly dependent on outside material. Lyman's tuneful marimba recalls the ultra cool of Cal Tjader circa Soul Sauce (1964). Whimsical and quaint, "The Boy from Laupahoehoe" is an Hawaiian folk song by one of the State's best-loved native composers Irmgard F. Aluli. As legend has it, Aluli was struck while doing housework and the song was literally written on the phone. Three years before Lyman's treatment, it became a regional hit for Bill Kaiwa in 1963. Slack-key guitarist extraordinaire Sonny Chillingworth's classic "Waimea Cowboy" is bestowed with the same sense of mischievous pleasure as the better-known rendering. Just as "Kon Tiki" hearkened back to Lyman's seminal space age bachelor pad days, the remake of Alfred Newman and Ken Darby's "Ports of Paradise" -- replete with bird calls -- offers listeners a perfect example of Lyman at his uncomplicated best. Wrapping up the LP is the mile-a-minute original "Bird Train." The animated arrangement sounds almost as if it were written with cartoonish visuals already supplied thanks to Lyman's fertile imagination. In 2008, Collectors' Choice Music reissued Lyman '66 along with The Shadow of Your Smile (1966) onto a single CD -- making both available for the first time in decades.

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