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The BIG ....FOUR perhaps ????

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When it comes to Tiki Music, everybody seems to mention "The Big Three", ...namely Les Baxter, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. However another artist whose music invariably causes favourable comment in my place is TED AULETTA. Particularly THIS album:

ted auletta

Now I'm more than sure most members of TC will be very familiar with it, but what do you think? Great enough to make Ted a worthy addition to The Big Three"....or not?

rupe33 posted on Thu, Feb 9, 2023 6:37 AM

That's a super question and a fun one to think about with morning coffee today!

With Baxter, Denny, and Lyman... they definitely all explored the genre over multiple releases across years, if not decades. Baxter is particularly diverse in his soundtrack work and the other two got there as their careers continued onward: they eventually were recording movie and Broadway themes that moved quite far from their earlier exotica work.

Looking up Ken Auletta on Discogs - I can only see one other record that's exotica-adjacent, and it's more Hawaiiana than exotica it looks like: "For The Young At Heart."

Feels like "The Big 3" are called that because of their commitment and exploration of exotica music. It also applies since they were essentially establishing the genre in the first place, and years before Ken's "Exotica" was released. Baxter's "Ritual of the Savage" was 1951, and Denny's "Exotica" '57; Ken's release came out 1962.

That said - there are a slew of artists who did explore this area in shorter excursions the way Ken did. A few names that come to mind: Robert Drasnin, Frank Chacksfield, Frank Hunter, Gene Rains... all of whom have records that are fun and worth exploring!

[ Edited by rupe33 on 2023-02-09 06:38:31 ]

I have to agree with Rupe--the Big 3 are so-named because their output absolutely dominated and defined exotica. Gene Rains put out only three original albums, which seems to be the equivalent of a slow month for Denny! Going solely by quality, then Robert Drasnin should be up there but his Voodoo sank without a trace upon release, only to be rediscovered decades later. Lots of talented performers released exotica albums in the 50s and 60s, but most of these were opportunistic efforts to capitalize on a trend. Very few stuck around in the genre long enough to build up a lasting body of work. I wish they had, because as you rightly point out, folks like Ted Auletta brought a fresh and distinctive take to the sound.

I agree with your list of other interesting artists who worked in the Tiki Genre. Well worth exploring as you say. Auletta certainly does not have the catalogue of the other Big 3 but his "Exotica" is probably the one album that gets the most favourable comments here. Baxter as you mention did soundtracks for so many B Grade, (well probably C Grade actually) movies, where his soundtrack is probably the best thing about the whole film .


Tikigiki - on our way to our local tiki joint I played Ken's "Exotica." It holds up very well as a great example of the genre. Had forgotten about the cover of Baxter's "Pool of Love," a low-key favorite of mine. Hadn't thought of it for a while, I have to admit - glad this conversation brought it back to mind. Will have to pull out my LP version this weekend to enjoy further!


So glad to have rekindled your interest in this album rupe33! I think it blends a little elegance into the genre.


I always thought of Yma Sumac #4.

She was possibly the most well-known and biggest-selling of them all. She didn’t play lounges, she played Hollywood Bowl.

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