Arthur Lyman

The Winner's Circle

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In fairly short order, Arthur Lyman (vibraphone) and his merry band of tropical musicians followed up the classic late-'60s offering Aphrodisia (1968) with Winner's Circle (1968). This 11-track collection incorporates covers that would have been familiar to anyone following the concurrent trends in pop music -- which were often influenced by the silver screen and Great White Way. While Lyman is inevitably steeped in his lasting tradition of isle-inspired exotica, the selections featured here are considerably more reserved and executed in a decidedly jazzier direction. Thomas Crown Affair (1968) was a Faye Dunaway/Steve McQueen vehicle whose original soundtrack had a version of "Windmills of Your Mind" with Noel Harrison on vocals. However, it would take Dusty Springfield -- another U.K.-based diva -- to take it into the Top 40. The electric guitar flourishes are set against a swinging clavinet -- all of which are buoyed by the bandleader's own supportive shimmering runs along the vibes. A frisky safari feel drives through the heart of the Dr. Doolittle (1967) staple "Talk to the Animals." Lyman switches to the more organic marimba to unleash a syncopated and spirited lead. The dark comedy The Graduate (1967) included a pair of chart-toppers from the pen of Paul Simon. First up is the energetically delivered "Mrs. Robinson," that quickly ascends into gear with Lyman laying down some of his finest percussion lines that the effort has to offer. The refined chiming celeste intro for "Love Is Blue" yields to an interminably catchy and slightly samba-fied rhythm, stylishly edging out Paul Mauriat's harpsichord-meets-chorus reading. Lyman is at his vibraphonic best as the instrument extracts an ethereal quality, perfectly suited to the bittersweet melody. Taking the bossa nova to the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" is a stroke of genius that pays off immeasurably by presenting the Fab Four in an unquestionably groovy shadow. The light and supple score ultimately delivers it to a much more interesting place when compared to the majority of the sonic sins that Lennon & McCartney's compositions have been subjected to through the years. To a similar degree, the theme from Camelot -- replete with the regality and majesty of tubular concert bells -- has arguably never been delivered with such a degree of quaint, yet stately charm. On the other hand, the Fiddler on the Roof (1964) staple "Sunrise, Sunset" leans toward the up-scaled sophistication of the Modern Jazz Quartet as Lyman's simple but still exploratory interpretation has the confidence and savoir-faire of the MJQ's Milt Jackson (vibes). Returning to Dusty Springfield's cannon, "The Look of Love" is one of the moodier sides to grace Winner's Circle, living up to Springfield's authoritative take. The ballad "Honey" likewise comes across with much of the earnest and heartfelt empathy of the Bobby Goldsboro ballad. Concluding the album is "Sounds of Silence" -- the second from The Graduate, although in reality it had predated the movie by several years. Once again, Lyman's use of the cold, sharp celesta aurally tethered to the warm tonalities of the vibes reiterate his formidable skills as an arranger. In 2008, Collectors' Choice Music compiled Winner's Circle with Today's Greatest Hits (1968) onto a two-fer CD that makes each available for future generations of Arthur Lyman lovers.

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