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Martin Denny

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New York City, NY, United States (1957 – 2005)

Martin Denny (born April 10, 1911 in New York City, NY, United States - died March 2, 2005 in Honolulu, Hawaii) was an American musician. He was universally known as the founder and reigning king of music, a type of big band music with Latin rhythms and overtones of Pacific Ocean culture that is largely scorned by critics but was extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

Martin Denny’s breakthrough album, Exotica, Denny described the music his combo plays as “window dressing, a background”. It is the perfect complement to the exotic setting of Hawaii. “A lot of what I’m doing”, he stated in Incredibly Strange Music Volume 1, “is just window dressing familiar tunes. I can take a tune like “Flamingo” and give it a tropical feel, in my style. In my arrangement of a Japanese farewell song, “Sayonara”, I include a Japanese three stringed instrument, the shamisen. We distinguished each song by a different ethnic instrument, usually on top of a semi-jazz or Latin beat. Even though it remained familiar, each song would take on a strange, exotic character.” Denny built a collection of strange and exotic instruments with the help of several airline friends. They would bring Denny back these instruments and he would build arrangements around them. His music was a combination of ethnic styles: South Pacific, the Orient and Latin rhythms. It is the music a lot of people believed came from the islands: a musical fantasy created by Denny.

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