Island Mele: IntoxiKA shows its Martin Denny influence; Patrick Landeza’s Hawaiian slack key guitar shines
The musical genre known as Exotica was created by Martin Denny in 1956 at what was then Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village, in response to audience requests for the “jungle noises” initially made by toads croaking in a nearby ornamental pond.
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The musical genre known as Exotica was created by Martin Denny in 1956 at what was then Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village, in response to audience requests for the “jungle noises” initially made by toads croaking in a nearby ornamental pond. Denny and his original vibraphonist, Arthur Lyman, both had hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart with Exotica records — and lived long enough to be honored as icons when Exotica was rediscovered in the 1990s. IntoxiKA builds on that legacy with the trio’s self-titled six-song EP and brings it forward as well.
IntoxiKA is Augie Lopaka Colon Jr., son of Denny’s original percussionist; he is also a “jungle noises” specialist, working with Ernie Provencher (bass/effects) and Thomas MacKay (mallet percussion/electronic looping/effects). In addition to having Colon in the group, tradition is honored with the trio’s arrangements of compositions by Denny (“Primitiva”) and Lex Baxter (“Taboo”); scholars of the genre know that Baxter is the composer of “Quiet Village,” the song that became Denny’s biggest hit.
The most instantly recognizable song, in cross-cultural terms, is the trio’s successful reworking Bob Nelson’s hapa-haole signature, “Hanelei Moon.” And not to be overlooked is “Gold Lame,” MacKay’s newly-written contribution to the canon.
The trio goes back to the early 1950s with a beautiful arrangement of jazz pianist George Russell’s composition, “Similau,” and from there to the mid-1930s with an equally memorable take on Nat Simon’s tune, “Poinciana.”
“Slack Key Huaka‘i ‘Elua”
Bay Area resident Patrick Landeza made history in 2013 when his solo slack key album, “Slack Key Huaka‘i,” became the first album by a non-resident to win a Na Hoku Hanohano Award in the slack key category.
This sequel project, released in the final days of 2018, and available download-only at CD Baby and Amazon.com, could make Landeza a two-time winner in the category. Landeza once again displays the nahenahe (sweet, melodious) multi-textured sound of traditional Hawaiian slack key with solo instrumental arrangements of 13 songs he grew up with “through my Mom, teachers and the backyard with the Uncles.”
Landeza does nicely with all of them.
Songs include “Meleana E,” a risque classic about a woman who likes to “massage the fish” and “Makee Ailana,” which hints at the romantic activities that took place on an island that is now part of Kapiolani Park.