Les Baxter (March 14, 1922 – January 15, 1996) was an American musician and composer.
Baxter studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory before moving to Los Angeles for further studies at Pepperdine College. From 1943 on he was playing tenor and baritone saxophone for the Freddie Slack big band. Abandoning a concert career as a pianist, he turned to popular music as a singer. At the age of 23 he joined Mel Tormé’s Mel-Tones, singing on Artie Shaw records such as “What Is This Thing Called Love?”.
Baxter then turned to arranging and conducting for Capitol Records in 1950, and conducted the orchestra of two early Nat King Cole hits, “Mona Lisa” and “Too Young”. In 1953 he scored his first movie, the sailing travelogue Tanga Tika. With his own orchestra, he released a number of hits including “Ruby” (1953), “Unchained Melody” (1955), “The Poor People of Paris” (1956) and is remembered for a version of “Sinner Man” (1956) definitively setting the sound with varying tempos, orchestral flourishes, and wailing background vocals. He also achieved success with concept albums of his own orchestral suites: Le Sacre Du Sauvage, Festival Of The Gnomes, Ports Of Pleasure, and Brazil Now, the first three for Capitol and the fourth on Gene Norman’s Crescendo label. The list of musicians on these recordings includes Plas Johnson and Clare Fischer. Baxter also wrote the “Whistle” theme from the TV show Lassie.
In the 1960s, he formed the Balladeers, a conservative folk group in suits that at one time featured a young David Crosby. Later he used some of the same singers from that group for a studio project called The Forum. They had a minor hit in 1967 with a rendition of “River is Wide” which implemented the Wall of Sound technique originally developed by Phil Spector. He worked in radio as musical director of The Halls of Ivy and the Bob Hope and Abbott and Costello shows.
Like his counterparts Henry Mancini and Lalo Schifrin, Baxter later worked for the film industry in the 1960s and 1970s. He worked on movie soundtracks for B-movie studio American International Pictures where he composed and conducted scores for Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films and other horror stories and teenage musicals, including The Pit and the Pendulum, The Comedy of Terrors, Muscle Beach Party, The Dunwich Horror, and Frogs. Howard W. Koch recalled that Baxter composed, orchestrated and recorded the entire score of The Yellow Tomahawk (1954) in a total of three hours for $5,000.
When soundtrack work fell off in the 1980s, he scored music for theme parks such as SeaWorld.
Baxter, alongside Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman, is celebrated as one of the progenitors of exotica music. In his 1996 appreciation for Wired magazine, writer David Toop wrote that Baxter “offered package tours in sound, selling tickets to sedentary tourists who wanted to stroll around some taboo emotions before lunch, view a pagan ceremony, go wild in the sun or conjure a demon, all without leaving home hi-fi comforts in the white suburbs.”
Baxter was buried at Pacific View Memorial Park, in Corona del Mar, California. He has a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6314 Hollywood Blvd. He was survived by his daughter Leslie, she and her father were a “Team”. (by wikipedia)
And here´s an early album:
Kaleidoscope is one of Les Baxter’s earliest 12″ albums, an instrumental platter that contains the hits “Blue Tango,” “Ruby,” “Gigi,” “The High and the Mighty,” and one of his biggest, “April in Portugal.” Even though Baxter’s Tamboo! and “Quiet Village” were yet to come, Kaleidoscope shows his abiding interest in international music and instrumentation that contributed to the exotica craze. Most of the songs are drawn from international sources with the exception of four Hollywood film themes. “Atlantis” foreshadows Baxter’s 1957 album Skins! with its emphasis on percussion, while “Julie” is straight orchestral pop with a wordless chorus. Kaleidoscope lacks the cohesion of his thematic albums because of its wide mixture of styles, but that is not surprising since most of these songs are taken from previously released singles. (by Greg Adams)
Okay, boys and girls … let´s take a trip into the past … another sentimental journey …
Les Baxter Orchestra
01. Tropicana (Wayne) 2.07
02. April In Portugal (Ferrao) 2.44
03. Julie (Tiomkin/Wolcott) 2.55
04. Cornflakes (Norman) 2.38
05. Elaine (Gitane) (Lopez) 2.47
06. Invitation (Kaper) 2.50
07. Blue Tango (Anderson) 2.59
08. Festival Hop (Strauss) 1.49
09. Ruby (Roemheld/Parish) 2.54
10. Gigi (Véran/Thoreau) 2.43
11. Atlantis (Rouzaud/Bourdin) 2.16
12. The High And The Mighty (Tiomkin/Washington) 2.47