Album:The Best of Martin Denny's Exotica
Today it might surprise people that an easy listening instrumental like Quiet Village was a hit, But for a while back in the 50s, Exotica was all the rage and though pianist Martin Denny didn't create Exotica, he added elements that popularized it. He was born Apr. 10, 1911 in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles. He was a classical piano prodigy. In the 30s, he toured South America with The Don Dean Orchestra and that began his fascination with Latin rhythms and other exotic sounds. After serving in the US Air Force in WWII, Denny moved back to Los Angeles and studied orchestration. In 1954, he went to Hawaii for a two week engagement at Don The Beachcomber's and stayed there. He formed a band to play at a club owned by shipping tycoon Arthur Kaiser and soon signed with Liberty Records. As I said, Denny didn't create Exotica. Most of the songs he recorded including Quiet Village were written and originally recorded by Les Baxter on his 1952 album Ritual of the Savage. Denny's band simply commercialized Baxter's music and added sound effects like bird sounds. Those bird sounds were the work of percussionist Augie Colon. Other band members were Arthur Lyman on vibes and John Kramer on bass. They also used the same model on all their album covers to give an exotic look. Her name was Sandy Warner. Denny moved back to Los Angeles after a dispute with Kaiser. Lyman stayed in Hawaii and started his own band. He was replaced by Julius Wechter who would later work with Herb Alpert. Kramer was replaced by Harvey Ragsdale and second percussionist Harold Chang was added. This is the lineup that appears in the video clip. Quiet Village reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. Though Quiet Village was Denny's only big hit, he continued to record for Liberty until the late 60s. Like a lot of easy listening instrumental artists, his album sales were very consistent. This budget comp is a good intro to Denny's music but I think Capitol messed up by not putting Sandy Warner on the cover. Denny continued to tour until he retired and moved to Hawaii in 1985. But the 90s Exotica revival brought him back to touring with original band members Lyman and Chang. Denny's recordings were featured in the 1999 film Breakfast Of Champions. With his health failing, Martin Denny retired for good in 2005 and died on Mar. 2, 2005 at age 93. Here's Martin Denny performing Quiet Village on the TV show Hawaii Calls hosted by Hawaiian radio personality Webley Edwards.