The Waitiki 7: Adventures in Paradise (Pass Out) review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Waitiki 7

Adventures in Paradise

Pass Out

Aug 26, 2009 The Waitiki 7 Bookmark and Share

As summer simmers ever-so gently into autumn and this Hawaiian septet delivers a light tropical breeze through willing speakers (wait for dusk; the effect is awesome), even listeners garbed in season-appropriate attire might find themselves spectacularly underdressed. Adventures in Paradise is a smart and swank affair, the kind that usually hums between the walls of an air-conditioned nightclub.

Released to commemorate the islands’ 50th anniversary as a U.S. state, Paradise effectively marries the cool melodies of 1959 jazz with a contemporary tang that acknowledges the iconic influence (Les Baxter and Martin Denny are among the tunesmiths lovingly acknowledged here) of predecessors while constructing equally timeless originals in a similar spirit.

That aspect’s also present in the band’s own DNA. Bassist and bandleader Randy Wong grew up around Martin Denny through his family’s friendship with Denny’s vibraphonist, Arthur Lyman. Waitiki percussionist Lopaka Colon’s connection runs even deeper: he’s the son of the legendary Augie Colon, whose slaps and trademark bird calls augmented many a Denny groove. Lopaka inherited his father’s prodigious talents, weaving a steady thread through Paradise with his own percussive pats and impressive whoops and cries, the latter of which add a remarkable third dimension to an already exotic instrumental dialogue.

And what a conversation. Listen to how Tim Mayer and Mike Dease interact via soprano sax and trombone, respectively, on “Totem Pole.” They melt into each other, complete each other’s thoughts, and maintain a compelling flow over the distant perpetual cool of Jim Benoit’s vibes, which, like Colon’s calls, dab the canvas with an extra splash of color (can’t imagine “Manila” without those drops) and smooth the edges of Zaccai Curtis’ often-chomping piano (“Left Arm of Buddha”). Benoit and Curtis collaborate to a different end on “Her Majesty’s Pearl,” painting wondrous landscapes over the hushed rush of foamy falls and a lovely interlude from violinist Helen Liu, whose subsequent slide between Benoit’s vibe dots and Wong’s bass jaunt sets up a most astonishing personal showcase on “L’ours Chinois,” where she memorably flaunts her stuff.

As if the music wasn’t enough, The Waitiki 7 remain devoted to making Adventures in Paradise as interactive an experience as possible. Within the booklet, the band thoughtfully includes some choice drink recipes guaranteed to refresh just as effectively as tracks 1-13. “Shake like hell with ice cubes,” advises one. Consider it done. Heck, you don’t need liquor or even a glass for that. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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March 22nd 2011

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