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Appreciating Schmaltz: Les Baxter's Jungle Flower

Our schmaltzy genius today is Les Baxter, a legendary composer who became a major figure in a subgenre of lounge music known as exotica. This arcane type of music goes hand in hand with the tiki cocktail culture popular at the time. At its core, it is schmaltzy lounge music, but with tribal drums and xylophones overlaid to add a decided island feel to the music. Jungle Flower is a great example of the marriage of lounge and exotica, with the first two-thirds of the song as a fairly standard loungey instrumental (with maybe a hint of an evening ocean breeze in the tropics) and then breaks into overt jungle drums. Baxter also contributed to the seminal exotica album by his colleague, fellow lounge musician Martin Denny, for his album (appropriately titled) Exotica. That masterpiece takes the South Pacific island theme even further, with the musicians providing the sounds of tropical birds to the songs. The effect of the songs taken overall is akin to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon; the album is meant to be taken as a whole and takes the listener on an album-length journey.

Topics in this Post: Blogpost, Stuff You Should Know, appreciating schmaltz, schmaltz