Review: Arthur Lyman

Live at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel
October 29, 1999

Exotica legend Arthur Lyman plays solo vibraphone shows at the New Otani around noon on Fridays. There is a little alcove next to the Sunset Lanai just off the main lobby, and here Lyman’s vibes sit waiting for the master to arrive. The lanai is small, but there were a couple dozen people packing the tables and all were anticipating the performance. We had already settled in with our lunch and Mai Tai, and waited with anticipation for the show to start. This particular Friday, Lyman set up his vibes and then mingled about for a hit, finally starting the show at about 12:10.

Lyman is in his mid-sixties, but still looks in great shape and plays in a style that appeared effortless. The first set included his signature hits "Taboo" and "Yellow Bird". "Taboo" was certainly the highlight as he added birdcalls to his vibes and even did a little back and forth with the birdcalls to some of the hotel staff. After about 45 minutes, Lyman called for a time-out and an intermission of perhaps 15-20 minutes to talk with some friends seated in the Lanai.

Soon, Arthur Lyman returned to the vibes for another great 45 minute set of tunes, including "Blue Hawaii" and "Ebb Tide". The gentle breeze from the open-air lobby, the mellow vibes, and the relaxed staff and clientele really made for a great atmosphere (the two Mai Tai’s I had, the best on Oahu, didn’t hurt either). About halfway during this second set, Lyman motioned to some of the audience to ask for requests and posed for the occasional photo.

Being in awe of this particular Tiki God, I did not volunteer a song request, but Lyman soon motioned to me to ask for my request. I decided that if called upon I would request "Love Dance", since Lyman’s version from Taboo 2 is my favorite version of the song. But, when I suggested it, he said that he forgot the melody, and asked how it went. At this point, I could not get it out so I decided to take a pass (since he had already played "Taboo", my second choice). He went on to another request but after the song asked me up to where he was playing. Lyman said that he hasn’t performed that song in many years, not since he had his full group. He said he remembered playing it when he played with Martin Denny (it appears on Denny’s first album, Exotica). I told him I preferred his version and he thanked me graciously. He then autographed my Taboo 2 CD and asked if there was anything else he could play. I said, no that was fine so Lyman shook my hand and I returned to my seat.

What else can we say about the playing of Arthur Lyman? He’s still a great performer and certainly a gentleman. He welcomed the audience into his own exotic world and we revered out time there. If you are anywhere close to Oahu, you really ought to check out Arthur Lyman at the New Otani. You only have some many chances in life to experience the wonders and excitement of this kind of paradise, so don’t miss it.

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