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!



Anonymous mosemeister said...

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6:14 PM  

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