Monday, September 26, 2005

Raymond Scott, Part 7: Alec Wilder, again

"Then there was Alec Wilder’s Octet. Extraordinarily advanced for its time. He wrote things like The Neurotic Goldfish and Debutante’s Diary."--Spike Milligan.

"He was too pop for the classical world and too longhair for pop; in Europe he would have found a niche, but in the USA Wilder was not marketable."--MusicWeb Encyclopedia of Popular Music.

"In essence, Wilder's music was so original that it didn't fit in any of the preordained musical slots and stylistic pigeonholes. His music was never out of vogue because, in effect, it was never in vogue, its non-stereotypical character virtually precluding any widespread acceptance."--G. Schirmer, Inc.

"Wilder's music is the music of the universe. Its sound waves bounce off of every planet and star and asteroid, and will continue to do so for eternity until the universe becomes nothing but sound waves. At which point, sound will be All, and All will be sound."--Count Cookula.

"Drinking is sophisticated."--Beyond the Roots of Lounge.

"You can shay that again!!"--Street wino.

"There are only two kinds of music: interesting and uninteresting."--Attributed to nearly every musician of the 20th century.

"Boy, this is complicated. We can't even tap along to it. Shit, you actually have to listen to this stuff. The melodies and chords, and all of those musical details. Don't you have any Raymond Scott?"--New York Times.

"Alec who?"--Fresh Air, NPR.

And here are three gorgeous late-1930s tracks by the Alec Wilder Octet: Neurotic Goldfish; Sea Fugue, Mama; and Concerning Etchings. Gorgeous, sophisticated concert jazz for those weary of the more cartoony variety. We boomers and post-boomers have been weaned away from adult music, but the stuff makes for a refreshing change. An occasional dose is good for us.

Neurotic Goldfish (Wilder), Alec Wilder Octet, 1938.

Sea Fugue, Mama (Wilder); Alec Wilder Octet, 1939.

Concerning Etchings (Wilder), Alec Wilder Octet, 1938.



Thursday, September 22, 2005

Raymond Scott in Perspective, Part 5 (Simulpost)

You'll notice that I change the title of this thread every post or so. I've noticed that, too. Odd.

Anyway, in post number one, I said: "A lot of fairly outrageous claims have been made for the music of Raymond Scott. This time, we'll deal with an assertion made at 'Regardless of what you thought of the man's technique, there was nothing like it.' That is, in spite of what some of Scott's harsher critics thought of his music back in the day, the stuff was unique."

I thought we'd deal with that assertion again. It had occurred to me that swing music, early in its evolution, had a Scott sound in terms of fast tempo and fast figurations, to name two features. Which is to say, Scott's brand of swing was decidedly not modern (ditto for Gould's and Alec Templeton's, though no one has ever claimed otherwise, to my knowledge). We present proof in the form of Red Nichols' 1930 recording of China Boy, which was most likely arranged by Glenn Miller (a swing pioneer, though I don't think he often gets the credit):

China Boy, Red Nichols and His Five Pennies, 1930. Arr: probably Glenn Miller.

Miller did most of Nichols' arrangements at this time, and it sounds very Miller-esque. So, I'm betting it was he. If I'm the first person to compare Scott to Miller, then... cool. The Internet needs an occasional original observation to shake things up a bit.

And I may be the first person to make the unbelievably obvious comparison between Scott's sound and that of Duke Ellington, a once-famous name who has apparently been forgotten in all of the Scott hype. We present Ellington's Daybreak Express of 1933, which out-Scotts Scott at every turn and in every regard (dig the "Hold that tiger" section from Tiger Rag!), and Ellington's brilliant 1937 version of Caravan, which was co-written by orchestra member Juan Tizol. You'll recall the claim that Scott had been performing exotica before it even existed. Right. Reality check coming up....

Daybreak Express (Duke Ellington), Duke Ellington and His Orch. (1933)

Caravan (Ellington-Tizol-Mills), Duke Ellington and His Orch., 1937.

If Scott's program-music miniatures, with their rapid tempos and colorful instrumental combinations, were "eccentric," then Ellington's descriptive jazz was just plain nuts. And if Scott's compositions were "idiosyncratic," then how do we explain Daybreak Express? Idiosyncratic to whom?

And while not especially Scott-esque, Bob Haggart and Ray Bauduc's 1938 bass-and-drums duet The Big Noise from Winnetka is an example of very innovative big-band-era jazz that sounds nothing like Scott. (Coincidence?) Interesting--according to Google, a number of NPR stations have played this piece in one version or another. Wow! I guess the local NPR folks occasionally run out of "World Beat" (i.e. international New Age) and are forced to resort to music. I hope no one has ever gotten fired for playing this.

The Big Noise from Winnetka (Haggart-Bauduc), Bob Haggart and Ray Bauduc (of Bob Crosby's Orchestra), 1938.

I'm not trying to turn anyone off to Raymond Scott, though, if you do feel turned off to Raymond Scott by this point, I won't feel that I've accomplished nothing. Scott Collage No. 2 is forming as we speak....

And I'd love to post a photo of The Duke, but's photo feature is down at this time. Wah!


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fred Waring, Part 3: Two glee-club-less classics

Here are two early-'40s Waring sides featuring the orchestra by itself--both are superb examples of WWII-era easy listening. We'll Always Be Apart is based on Dark Eyes, and Scheherazade is based on... Scheherazade. (That was easy.) Waring in Whiteman mode, with the kind of lavish easy this blogger lives to hear.

I have no idea, by the way, what I just typed. Anyway, here's a Ray Harrington arrangement to weep over. I mean, die over. I mean, to die for. Not likely to show up on any Happy Hits-type compilations now or in the future.

We'll Always Be Apart, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, 1942. (Arr: Ray Harrington)

And here's Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, as skillfully scored by Harry (The Little Drummer Boy) Simeone.

Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov), Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, 1942. (Arr: Harry Simeone)

Spell Check had a fit with this entry. Sorry, S.C....


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Blues in the Night and That Old Black Magic

Two Harold Arlen classics by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. These are "right out of the Great American songbook" (Cliche Alert, beeeeep, beeeep), which apparently is now called the "American songbook." Nobody informed me of this change, and I'm sick of it. Of not being informed, I mean. (Um, let me rephrase that....)

I love both songs, especially Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol' Me). And, while the words (by Johnny Mercer) are very artfully written, I wonder why people shy away from pointing out the racist, black-dialect nature of them. I mean, really. Johnny Mercer wrote a lot of, frankly, minstrel-style lyrics that are never acknowledged as such--Lazy Bones, Rockin' Chair, I Never Has Seen Snow, and Fare Thee Well to Harlem among them. By 20th-century standards, they's not tha' much better'n some o' them ol' Stephen Foster words, ya know. Yet, who catches hell? Foster, of course, who was black-dialecting it in the 19th century, after all, and not the 20th. But that's the difference. We're too close to the American-songbook era, probably, to admit that many of the "great" tunes were lyrically in a class with Mississippi Mud.

Personally, I think we can enjoy Mercer's lyrics and the tunes that went with them while being more honest about things. Racism was alive and well in popular music until not all that long ago.

In American Popular Song, Alec Wilder notes the twelve-bar blues structure of BITN's A section but fails to note that the B section is also in that form. I've always considered it an AABA blues, with only the bridge departing from the classic twelve-bar form, but that's just me.

Let's listen to Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians in superb contemporary performances of Harold Arlen's Blues in the Night and That Old Black Magic.

Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol' Me) (Arlen-Mercer), Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, Paul Owens, soloist, 1942.

That Old Black Magic (Arlen-Mercer), Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, 1944.

These remarkable arrangements were written by Roy Ringwald. I suspect that the Pennsylvanian's treatment of BITN is closer to what Arlen wanted than the treatments by, say, Benny Goodman (with Peggy Lee) and Tommy Dorsey (with Jo Stafford), both of which were, well, blusier. Keep in mind that Arlen wrote a Blues Opera Suite for middlebrow-music Maestro Andre Kostelanetz.

These were rescued from a fairly trashed LP... so, sorry about the somewhat muffled sound.
Please save, rather than open, for best results. Unless you choose to play the file at, which works well, too!


Monday, September 12, 2005

A Roots-of-Raymond-Scott simulpost.

History is being made. Right now. On this very blog. My first simulpost.

The subject of this post--the roots of Raymond Scott--straddles both blogs. (That doesn't sound right....) Straddles the subjects of both. Something like that. The Scott-esque examples I have to offer are, simultaneously, Music You Possibly Won't Hear Anyplace Else material and Vintage Lounge material. So, why not simulpost them? ("Good idea, Lee.") Thanks.

Who said that??

Anyway, I thought "simulpost" was pretty clever when I thought of it, but the word is all over the Net, so I guess it didn't start with me. That would be the safest conclusion.

We start with an example of "symphonic jazz" from 1927, a clever work that belongs to the same light-concert/jazz-miniature school as Scott's stuff, only earlier. If you don't believe me, well... listen. This is Rube Bloom's Soliloquy, from 1927, performed by Paul Whiteman's Concert Orchestra:

Soliloquy (Rube Bloom), Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra, 1927. From 12" Victor 78.

I'm almost sure that Ferde Grofe was the arranger, because 1) I remember reading it someplace and 2) it sure sounds like Grofe. But I can't prove it. Rube Bloom wrote pop songs like The Man from the South, Fools Rush In, and Good for Nothin' Joe, and was very highly regarded by Alec Wilder.

The brilliant, blind Welsh pianist and composer Alec Templeton used titles that were goofier and funnier than Scott's, and--judging by the following movements from his Insect Suite--wrote music not unlike Scott's. I find Templeton's music to be a more skillful blend of "serious" and popular, but that's just me. These are 1944 radio recordings by Paul Whiteman, but no telling when this stinging, biting suite was actually written.

Ode to a Bumble Bee's Bottom (Templeton), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1944.

June Bug Jive (Templeton), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1944.

The Flea Fugue (Templeton), Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, 1944.

Again, it may just be me, but I find this material far more interesting and progressive-sounding for its time than Scott's movie-theatre-style agitatos.

Written in the early-Scott-era year of 1938, Parade of the Visiting Firemen is the closing movement of J. Clarence Chambers' "satirical suite" All American. More than a little like Erik Satie's four-hand piano works, this piece nevertheless was quite edgy for its day. According to the liner notes for Jose Iturbi and Amparo Iturbi Play Music for Two Pianos, the Iturbis recorded All American shortly after it was written. So, this may be that recording. Or it may be a later one, from 1948. If none of his is making any sense, I blame the sinus-med combo I'm taking at the moment (Sudafed and Claritin). We are, after all, in the middle of a major national Pass-the-Blame-athon.

Parade of the Visiting Firemen (A Satirical Suite for Two Pianos, J. Clarence Chambers, 1938). Jose and Amparo Itrubi, from 1948 12" 78 album on RCA Victor.

Detail overload. Must... take break. Must....


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Oops--Pepsi, not Coke

Goofed up again. Dad-nab-it.


Hugo Winterhalter, Part 2--Apologies due

I've got two apologies to make here. The first "apology" is to the folks at Beyond the Roots of Lounge, whom I criticized for their let's-head-for-the-bars response to the Katrina tragedy. Little could anyone know that their posts were prescient: the mayor of New Orleans just announced that he is sending 60 percent of his police force to Las Vegas for rest and recuperation. "Asked if it was appropriate to party in these circumstances, he responded: 'New Orleans is a party town. Get over it.'" (Source: Charles Krauthammer.) Mayor Nagin, meet BTROL. BTROL, meet Mayor Nagin. You two are one of a mind.

(Spell Check doesn't recognize "prescient." And I thought I were illiterate.)

My second apology (no quotes) is for promising to present Hugo Winterhalter sides that anticipate the sound of Ray Conniff's singers by six or seven years. This is embarrassing, but I was really thinking of Norman Luboff and/or Ray Charles (not the Coca Cola spokesman). How to explain?

You see, I never listened much to Conniff's late-'50s "bop-da-bah" stuff--it must not have ever interested me. So, my knowledge of Conniff comes from his 1970s LPs (his version of My Sweet Lord, for example) and from the backgrounds he provided for Columbia singers in the 1950s. And it's hard to tell those things apart, sometimes--I thought Conniff had backed Desi Arnaz on the 1953 I Love Lucy, for example, but it was Norman Luboff. To make a long and sad story short, I had confused Conniff's sound with that of Luboff and Ray Charles (not the Coca Cola spokesinger). Oops.

I suppose I could go back and delete a couple sentences from my Winterhalter post, but that would be dishonest. Plus, someone would probably spot it.

To err is human. To lie about it is neo-con. So... I screwed up. My Lounge Historian permit is in an envelope, ready to go back to the Lounge Historian Home Study Course® headquarters. I'll never live this down.

Anyway, here are two excellent examples of the Winterhalter chorus sound, which anticipated the NORMAN LUBOFF CHOIR and RAY CHARLES SINGERS sound(s) of a few years later. Note that I said nothing about Ray Conniff. In fact, I never, at any time, made any connection between 9/11 and Columbia vocal backings. If anyone did, it was an underling. Who will be chewed out and punished with a promotion.

Blueberry Hill, Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra and Chorus, 1949 or 1950. Dedicated to Fats, who, thank God, was found alive.

I'll See You in My Dreams (Isham Jones), Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra and Chorus, 1951. By the greatest pop songwriter ever, and you may quote me.

I'm one of the probably few people (in my generation, at least) who loves the Winterhalter/Luboff sound. Statistically speaking, anyway. It was the choral sound that changed pop music, whereas Conniff's "bop-bah-dah" sound, however entertaining, lead nowhere in an evolutionary sense. Yet, which of the two gets all of the press? The one that lounge/space-age/exotica historians find to their liking, not the one that made infinitely more difference in the scheme of things. And what else is new....


Friday, September 09, 2005

The Utter Limits

I hope that my Scott Collage was interesting and even eye-opening. (Ear-opening?) Of course, it was made in response to the epidemic of over-the-top praise for Raymond Scott--who was talented, yes, but not the 20th century's answer to Mozart, sorry. Then again, as an e-friend just pointed out to me, Scott did not manufacture his own legend--rather, his fans are responsible. And select journalists. My collage was especially dedicated to those two demographics.

I love that word--"demographics." Not to sound like that rant-aholic NPR linguist, Geoff Whatsishame, but nowadays we replace normal words with official-sounding ones that don't really apply directly to the subject, and just for the sake of sounding official. I doubt that "demographic" is really a replacement for "group." Any more than "learning curve" is a replacement for "learning."

And, sure enough, my dictionary identifies "demographic" as an adjective, not a noun: "Of or pertaining to demography." Not that the average bureaucrat even knows what a dictionary is. In other words, if "demographic" is even a noun, it didn't become one until recently, AND because of idiots who don't know how to use words. I can't think of a better or more noble reason for our language to change.

I should point out that my dictionary is not current. If it were, "demographic" would be in there as a noun. I just know it. Facing it is another matter.

Well, I've had my little tizzy episode. And I feel better. Me, me, me. People say, "It's all about you, isn't it?" and I say, "Now you're catching on!" Then I run for my life.

My favorite business-memo misuse of English is "commensurate with," allegedly meaning "in accordance with." I once asked someone if "commensurate with the guidelines" means that we're supposed to shrink ourselves to the size of our computer screen. To be commensurate with the guidelines. I don't remember what she said.

And we had a higher-up who talked about "learnings." As in, things he had learned. "I had some really good learnings at the meeting, Jim!" "Great. Now maybe you can learn some basic grammar!"

At Beyond the Roots of Lounge, the topic is drinking. As in, drinking a lot. Heigh-ohhhhh!!!! Judging by the punctuation in the following sentence, I think those folks are well on the way: "We could use some levity...and a nice stiff one...right about now, couldn't you?"

Speaking of beyond, it's beyond me how anyone could write something like that. It really is.

Meanwhile, the White House is trying to recreate the past. In their version of Katrina Week One, George W. Bush was on the phone to Louisiana the night before the event, begging the governor to please, please get an emergency evacuation going. This act of leadership must have drained him, because it was, what? Four more days before he went to N.O.? And two more days after that until he had the sense to stop cracking jokes in front of flattened homes?

This is the guy who was begging Louisiana to please evacuate. To quote Daffy Duck, "Ahhhhhhhhh... yeah."


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Scott Collage No. 1

A Raymond Scott sound "collage," that is. A collage made up of cross-faded sound clips, all of them Scott-esque but none of them (Irony Alert) by Scott. Most were recorded prior to Scott's quintet recordings, save for one (and, possibly, two--I have yet to establish the year for an Alec Templeton clip).

Scott, of course, was "One of The Most Influential Musicians of The 20th Century," at least according to the yellow sticker on the CD case of Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights, a remastered version of a 1992 Scott quintet comp. To the right of the yellow sticker is a blue paste-on with red lettering that reads, "Best Value." So, maybe Scott was a best value, as well as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. We can't be sure.

Actually, I should be typing stuff like, "If you don't know who Raymond Scott is, you've been living on (name of other planet)." If I wanted to be like everyone else. However, I know people on Earth who haven't heard of the guy, so I won't say that. Anyway, Scott was a writer of "descriptive jazz" that sounded uncannily like much of the other light concert stuff that composers like Ferde Grofe, Alec Templeton, Morton Gould, and Duke Ellington were producing. You probably won't hear that anywhere else, because the extollers of Scott, as a rule, spend little time on musical perspective, preferring instead to focus on who-did-and-said-what details. It's a common music-journalism ploy: claim special, unique status for someone's art, then spend the rest of one's essay focusing on the artist and his work and nothing but. Such an approach creates the illusion that a point has been made and supported, when, in fact, nothing has been proven. Asserted, yes, but not proven.

I refer not to the idea that Scott was a great composer--this is an opinion, after all, and therefore neither true nor false. However, the assertion that Scott's quintet music was utterly unlike anyone else's is quite specific, in that it is either historically accurate or historically incorrect. Scott Collage No. 1 should aid us in testing that claim:

Scott Collage No. 1 (Cross-faded sound clips dating from the early 1920s to circa 1940.)

More Scott-related posts at my Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else blog, including a sound file of Morton Gould's 1938 piano novelty, Deserted Ballroom.


Friday, September 02, 2005

The Roots of Ferrante and Teicher, Part 4: The Neurotic Goldfish

I hope the folks at the hip-a-roony hepster haven Beyond the Roots of Lounge™ are O.K.--they haven't posted a peep since their eight-line "beyond: retro" offering of a few days ago. We hope that no harm has befallen them.

Of course, here at Vintage Lounge, we don't care about hep. We care about music. But we're kind of odd that way. Imagine--the music coming first. So un-lounge-like.

And today's music has been provided by Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, duo-pianists who were tearing up their keyboards in 1960 Ferrante-and-Teicher fashion as early as 1944. The selections are Alec Wilder's 1938 miniature, The Neurotic Goldfish, and Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed's 1933 Misirlou-style classic, Temptation (a massive hit for Perry Como in 1945). The Neurotic Goldfish (Alec Wilder, arr. by Whittemore and Lowe), Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, duo-pianists, 1944 (from Victor 78). Temptation (Freed-Brown, arr. by Whittemore and Lowe), Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, duo-pianists, 1944 (from Victor 78).