Robert Drasnin has had a long and very busy career in Hollywood: he currently teaches film composition at UCLA; before this he had a long tenure as the Director of Music for CBS Entertainment from 1977 into the early ’90s; before that he was well-established as a composer, arranger and musician for a vast array of television and film productions through the ’60s and ’70s. Even earlier in his career, he worked as an arranger for Martin Denny, and he released just one album of his own compositions of Exotica jazz. That 1959 album, Voodoo, is one of the definitive works of the genre, a true classic. For a taste of Mr. Drasnin’s work, you can visit his MySpace page, where you can hear his songs Desiree and Enchantment. The album was re-released by Dionysus Records in 1996.
In 2005, there was a rare performance of Robert Drasnin’s Voodoo at the annual Hukilau event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was there, and it was absolutely otherworldly. The whole room, full of hundreds of people, was hushed in transfixed awe. It was really beautiful to hear music like that in person.
The renewed interest in this fifty-year-old album has had Drasnin excited to create new Exotica works. Ever since that performance in Florida, Mr. Drasnin has been hard at work writing a new album of Exotica: Voodoo 2. So many of the Exotica greats have gone on to that great luau in the sky; the idea of a new album of true classic Exotica is something many of us wouldn’t have even dreamed would be possible.
The project is happening with no corporate backing — Robert Drasnin is responsible funding this effort himself, to the tune of about 15 to 20 thousand dollars. Lush orchestrations like this require a lot of musicians, studio time, and other stuff I know nothing about personally. It just won’t be possible for Mr. Drasnin to do this himself, but he’s doing it anyway, “come hell or high water.” Even though the market for this album is a great big question mark — Exotica jazz is definitely a niche thing — he wants to create this album because he knows there are many people out there who will be excited for it. That’s what life should be all about.
But he doesn’t have to do this alone — all you fans of Exotica music can help make this dream come true, while minimizing the financial hit to Mr. Drasnin. A page has been set up to accept donations towards the recording of the album. There are three levels of donation: the first ($30) gets you a signed copy of the album, the second ($75) gets the signed album, and your name in the Special Thanks of the album’s liner notes, and the third level — now, this is big — for a $250 contribution, you get to sit in on the actual recording session, happening on February 17 in Los Angeles, plus the signed CD and the thanks in the liner notes. Now that would be something else.
To learn more about the project, and to donate, visit Robert Drasnin’s website. Voodoo 2 will be released this spring, by Dionysus Records.