World Music Act
Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica
“Exotica” seemed to have been a fad that had passed when Boston polymath percussionist Brian O’Neill — a regular in the Mexican-folk band La Tuza as well as a with the David Wax Museum — picked up the flag again as Mr. Ho. He began with the father of “Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music,” Juan Garcia Esquivel, and the big-band album The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel in 2010 and followed it up with Third River Rangoon (both on the Tiki label), a tribute to the kind of small-ensemble music created by the likes of Martin Denny and proto-smooth jazz guy Cal Tjader. This is “easy listening” from the birth of the stereo era, but undertaken with a combination of fun and utmost seriousness. Adapting classical themes to “lounge” instrumentation, Mr. Ho came up with his own kind of classical-jazz-world-music fusion. And our readers like it.
Runners-up: Debo Band, Zili Misik, Whiskey Barons