|From the Nashua Telegraph weekly entertainment guide, December 21, 2001.|
Friday, December 21, 2001
Radio program offers a taste of lounge sounds
By J. JUNIPER O’HARE, Telegraph Correspondent
It was 6 a.m. I was listening to my local NPR station – 92.1 – when a groovy lounge song began playing. I thought it must be one of those cool in-between news story songs they play on NPR, but the song kept playing and then another super-exotica tune followed.It wasn’t long before I realized my NPR show had morphed into another radio station, 91.5, and I was actually enjoying the swinging tunes of the “Martinis with Mancini” show.
The host, Domenic Ciccone, politely introduced himself over the air.
“Good morning and welcome to WJUL-Lowell. This is ‘Martinis with Mancini.’ We like to play a mix of swing, vocals, space-age bachelor pad music, exotica – we like to call it lounge or ‘luxuria’ music.”
You might think it was strange for me, someone in her 20s, to be into this older music – lounge, bossa nova, Rat Pack and even elevator-style music – but the fact is that so much of the cutting edge, groovy music is a complete takeoff of all these retro styles.
Many groups, including “Thievery Corporation” from D.C. and “Stereolab,” sample the cool retro sounds of historical greats, such as Sergio Mendes, Jimmy Smiths and Martin Denny in their ambient pop music. Hip-hop and other electronic musicians sample this retro music as well.
During “Martinis with Mancini,” you can listen to all the legends of lounge and exotica, while also getting a nice taste of the newer bands influenced by these styles, including Ursula 1000, Air and New Seksu Roba.
“I try to keep the program generally centered around popular music created between the mid-’50s to the late ’60s,” Ciccone says. “When I stray – and it’s often – it will be music that I think was created by people who were influenced by that era.”
A typical show will take you on tangents from Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra to the neo-bossa nova Bebel Gilberto to the ultra-suede sounds of the Eighteenth Street Lounge gang.
“Because we’re a college radio station and don’t depend on listeners’ pledges as a means of support, we as DJs have complete creative control of what we want to play. I try to play music that you won’t hear anywhere else,” Ciccone says. “Typically oldies stations and even public radio stations play it safe by broadcasting the same songs over and over.”
The music he plays is as characteristic by its sound as it is by its record covers.
“People are drawn to the record covers,” Ciccone says.
In his collection are spy thriller-type covers, girls in ’50s mod bathing suits and Tiki-style aloha dancer covers.
And these days a good lounge record is not easy to find. “I only started getting into lounge about 3 1/2 years ago, Ciccone says. My interest in lounge music occurred at the tail end of a “lounge revival,” which happened from the mid to late ’90s”.
If he’s lucky, Ciccone says, he finds records mostly in thrift stores.
“Since I didn’t get into this until just after the ‘lounge revival’ much of the selection of lounge records had already been picked over. I’ve been lucky to find the records I have and amazingly some people have just given me records from their collection that they didn’t see valuable. They’re like gold to me.”
The revival may not be as strong as it was few years ago, but the influence of the revival has certainly lingered.
Ciccone started to get into all this “cool and strange” music with the help of a now-defunct Web site, Luxuriamusic.com. “I was very much influenced by Luxuriamusic. They had an audio player on the Web site, which played a sort of who’s who of all the artists I am so influenced by. Much of my show today is directly influenced by the way the Luxuriamusic audio show was performed.”
“I’m sort of trying to re-create what they so geniusly created in the first place,” he said.
The Exotica Mailing List, which is on the Internet and the ‘Cool and Strange Music Magazine’ are other places where Ciccone finds ideas for the show – “How else is a middle-aged dude from the ’burbs going to find out about this stuff?” Ciccone says.
The three-hour show follows a bit of a pattern, although Ciccone likes to keep listeners on their toes. He starts every Friday morning set with “Brief and Breezy” by Henry Mancini. Usually he plays a little jazz and big band, then breaks into bossa nova, mambo and cha cha. About halfway through the show is the Rat Pack set with Sammy Davis Jr., Martin and Sinatra. The last hour of the show is dedicated to newer artists, such as Seksu Roba, Space Age Bachelor Pad music and Exotica. He ends each set with “Moon River” by Mancini.
“The program has a certain ‘predictable unpredictability’ lacking in radio these days,” he says. “There is always something new to discover – even if it (the music) is 40 years old.”
By day, Ciccone is a mechanical engineer. He is also a part-time student at UMass-Lowell, which makes him eligible to have his own radio show. “There weren’t any shows like this on the radio, so I decided to do one myself.”
“This is a type of music that is about having fun. Some listeners and musicians take themselves too seriously, but this is a type of music that people should, I hope, never get snotty about. I think we all like rock ’n’ roll, but we feel over-saturated with it and have made an effort to find other things to listen to,” he says. “The lounge movement really opened the way for new music to be created. This type of music is certainty not dead It’s like classical music which had its ‘golden age’ with Beethoven and Mozart, but new classical music is still being written and performed.”
Where else are you going to hear Spy music, ancient aloha, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, an electric organ version of “Fever,” Sinatra and Elvis all in one radio show?
“Martinis with Mancini” is on the airwaves Fridays from 6-9 a.m.
Archived "Martinis With Mancini" Newspaper Article
This was the feature article on the cover of the Friday entertainment section of the news paper.