Monday, June 20, 2011
A Perfect Exotic Dream Of A Beautiful Pangaea: David Carroll- Percussion Orientale (1960)
This record is a pure Exotica delight. The cover may undersell it as something of a belly-dance cash-in, but let me tell you: it is something special. Ostensibly focusing on some concept of "Middle Eastern" music, Carroll lends it something of a mildly unique focus among its peers, not that it needs it. The conceit is immediately either betrayed, or revealed as abstract at best, by its opening number, "Caravan". "Caravan" is welcome almost anytime, anywhere-- and scarcely has there been a weak version, the composition itself is so strong. But the fact is, no matter how "exotic" it sounds, it is a prime, perfect and prototypical example of Latin Jazz. No matter-- it is played here in an "Eastern"-sounding manner, and so the "Oriental" theme remains, more or less, intact.
Exotica as a genre sometimes props up all the disparate "exotic" lands as being part of some loosely unified Pangaea or island chain-- building, in its creators' laziness or indifference to geographical responsibility, a sort of musical Esperanto for a homogenous pangaea of abstract exotic "foreign lands". There's almost a kind of progressiveness to be found in this loose concept of cultural and national boundaries-- all are part of the artificial whole, including the white world and its appropriation of Black American jazz, and the classical composers of Europe and elsewhere (many of whom were themselves borrowing from more "ethnic" traditions, such as Ravel, Stravinski, and Dvorak, not to mention someone like Lecuona, a Cuban working partially in European tradition). As I have said before, this is not World Music-- no one culture would recognize it as its own, so muddied are the waters-- this is Music for the World, a fantasy for all to share. Anyway, I digress.
This is one of those perfect Exotica records. Richly evocative. Rousing and gorgeous. In terms of traditions and styles appropriated, it's wildly all over the map, but the sound and concept are somehow kept consistent. As for the production and recording quality, bragged about such as it is by Mercury on the label, it's beyond excellent (and the rip is 320). This is good good stuff. A masterpiece.