Adventures in Paradise, the debut album by The WAITIKI 7, is a contemporary re-imagining of the classic Exotica sound introduced on the islands in 1959 the year of Hawaiʻi's statehood. Martin Denny, a transplanted mainland pianist who tapped into the tropical zeitgeist, stirred together several disparate elements, and created a whole new sound in the process.“Exotica floats in the zone between soundscapes and an early world music hybrid,” Randy Wong, the bassist, music director and co-founder of The WAITIKI 7, explains.
Which is where The WAITIKI 7 comes in. Although they bow at the altar of Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Juan Garcia Esquivel and other Exotica pioneers, The WAITIKI 7 is a band making music of the moment. The septet retains the essence of Denny-era Exotica and reconstitutes it for contemporary audiences raised on the multitude of musical genres and pop culture images being created today.
The WAITIKI 7 emerged from a quartet formed several years ago by Wong and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr. under the auspices of WAITIKI INTERNATIONAL LLC, an organization dedicated to the revitalization of Exotica and the “tiki” pop culture associated with it. That quartet's success precipitated the formation of The WAITIKI 7, whose other members are pianist Zaccai Curtis (Sean Jones, Donald Harrison, Cindy Blackman), woodwinds player Tim Mayer (Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Danilo Perez), violinist Helen Liu, vibist Jim Benoit and Lopaka Colon, who doubles as percussionist and bird caller (Lopaka’s father, Augie Colon, did the same in Denny’s group). In addition, trombonist and arranger Mike Dease (Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, Charles Tolliver and Roy Hargrove big bands) appears as a special guest on three tracks.
The music on the Adventures In Paradise was either penned or arranged by WAITIKI 7 members specifically for the recording. In particular, the CD features the group's versions of Exotica standards popularized by Denny, Baxter and Arthur Lyman. ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award winners Curtis and Dease contributed "Craving" (an original) and a fantastic arrangement of "Mood Indigo" (Duke Ellington) respectively.
All of the album's performers share a love of the Exotica sound and “tiki” pop culture, which encompasses everything from art and design to painstakingly crafted tropical cocktails to cuisine: The Adventures In Paradise CD booklet includes drink recipes from renowned mixologists Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and John Gertsen, as well as an appetizer recipe from former Cook’s Illustrated editor Sandra Wu.
Adventures in Paradise is co-produced by Randy Wong and Tim Mayer, with production assistance from Brother Cleve (Combustible Edison).