Si Zentner/Martin Denny - More/Exotica Suite [Dutton Vocalion - 2013]This recent reissue charts the musical meeting of two of America’s easy listening legends: Martin Denny- composer & key figure in the development of the exotica sound, and Si Zentner- trombonist and jazz big-band leader. This CD release brings togeather a collaborative album from 1962 “Exotica Suite”, & a stand alone Si Zentner release from 1963 “More (Theme From Mondo Cane) ”.
The CD comes in a standard jewel case setting with the colour cover featuring a rather muddled collage of the two albums covers. Inside the four page inlay sleeve is a reproduction of each albums original linear notes, and nothing else!- it would have been great to have had some sort of historical background to the pairs meeting, but alas this is a bare bone reissue. Though both albums have been digital remastered for the first time
First up on the disc we have the stand alone Si Zentner release “More(Theme From Mondo Cane)”. This was original released in 1963 on the Liberty label, and by all accounts came in two versions- a mono & stereo version. The original album featured twelve tracks(and that’s all we get here), and these are a selection of big band easy listening tunes, which of course have Mr Zentner trombone playing a main role in all of them, with supporting big band backing. The tracks move from boyuant & big sounding up-beat tunes, to more mellow easy jazz work-out, onto to more strutting & showy work-outs. The tracks consistent of mostly fairly recognizable tunes, such as “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer”, and of course the lead theme from infamous early Italian exploitation/ shock documentary Mondo Cane. On the whole Zentner & his band are highly polished through-out, and as a entertaining Big Band easy listening it’s fine, though there is nothing really very quirky or mould breaking going on here.
Second up of course we have the collaborative album “Exotica Suite”, and this original appeared in 1962, once again on the Liberty label. The original album featured twelve tracks( and once again that’s all we get here- no extras), and these mixed together Zentner trombone playing & big- band backing, with Denny’s exotic percussion, jaunting piano & vibe textures, with some very slight hints of bird song. The tracks here are by all accounts originals, with another famous easy listening figure Les Baxter composing the tracks. Sadly Zentner & his big band are the main & dominate sound through-out all twelve tracks, with Denny rather left as backing player. A few of the more slow number are more effective, letting Denny shine a bit more, but sadly more often than not these are broken either by large sounding big band runs, or showy over loaded by trombone playing. How much you enjoy this album is really down to what you’re looking for, if your after a blanced big band/ exotica sound- you sadly won’t find that here. But if you’re after a big band album with a few exotica elements & learning’s- you’ll certainly find something to enjoy here.
On the whole this is a fairly sparse reissue, with no extra tracks or new liner notes. But on the plus side the digital remastering is nice, bright & vibrate in it’s feel over both of the albums. I’d say on the whole this reissues is going to be of more interest to fans of Si Zentner, and the big band easy listening sound, as there are only fleeting moments of exotica present here.Roger Batty