Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ROW: Raymond Scott Quintette - Microphone Music (Basta)

How to effectively summarize Raymond Scott? Studio recording wizard, futurist swing composer/pianist, draconian band leader, early electronicist pioneer- all are appellations rightly attached to his name. This double-disc collection of choice air shots and rehearsals covers nearly every major base of his early songbook. Humorous non-sequiturs and playful mash-ups are regular facets of both song titles and charts, among them such rambunctious ditties as “Yesterday’s Ice Cubes”, “Harlem Hillbilly”, “Hypnotist in Hawaii” and “The Girl with the Light Blue Hair”. Scott could rival Spike Jones in terms of frenetic slapstick humor and split-second collaging of instruments would have a far flung influence on bands like the Grand Ole Opry’s Hoosier Hot Shots and cartoon composer Carl Stalling who lifted various Scott melodies for his work with Warner Brothers. Unlike the often anarchic Jones, there was always a palpable discipline balancing the arch comedy in his creations and his band, a six-piece outfitted christened the Quintette comprised crack studio musicians. The arguable ace Scott’s deck was percussionist Johnny Williams (father to the film composer of the same name) whose kit was festooned with all sorts of peripheral devices from wood-blocks to tympani to finger cymbals. Based on his eclectic and driving work on these numbers rivals Sonny Greer and Cie Frazier in the category of crafting convincing "jungle" rhythms. Working with just three horns Scott created the illusion of an orchestra, one hopped up on Mexican jumping beans and spiked sarsaparilla. Folks coming to this stuff fresh are in for an extended treat and even those who’ve heard the sides a dozen times are still all but sure to uncover something new with each encounter.

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