Quintette 7 Plays the Music of Raymond Scott – Presented by the West Point Band

by | Oct 21, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews

Quintette 7 Plays the Music of Raymond Scott – Presented by the West Point Band (no #) [www.westpoint.edu/band] *****: 
A number of excellent classical, jazz and pop CDs have been released under the auspices of the West Point Band, and they also have some great music videos to stream at their site. They have a clarinet quartet, the Jazz Knights big band, a saxophone quartet, and a concert band. I don’t know how the seven band members at West Point got into the unique music of Raymond Scott, but they play it to a T and the 21 tracks here are all a fun listen. They worked with the director of the Raymond Scott Archives to get the scores.  Perhaps it was the popularity of Scott’s “The Toy Trumpet” that tied in with the West Point Band, I don’t know. The quirky pieces of the late composer/musician/sound engineer also included one about Boy Scouts, but that’s not included in the 21 here.
Scott’s music has been called both chamber jazz and “kittenish-screwy pseudo-jazz” by critics. You can’t really categorize his unusual little pieces. One of the musicians who played clarinet in the original quintet said Scott’s music was very hard to perform though it sounded fun and light-hearted. He wrote it at the piano keyboard and didn’t care if it was hard on the clarinet or sax—he didn’t write music that was idiosyncratic to the instrument you played, but luckily had great musicians who could play most anything. The West Pointers here are also great. They pretty much follow the original transcriptions of Scott’s recordings, but make some modifications—such as substituting the tuba in place of the original doublebass, and adding auxiliary percussion in some tunes.  Some of the pieces almost cry out for sound effects, so the West Pointers add them.
Scott’s most famous piece is Powerhouse, which opens this CD (There’s a great video of it on YouTube). It has two unrelated sections: a running chromatic line and a very metronomic, menacing line. The tune has been much-used with cartoon soundtracks, as have many of Scott’s pieces—though he had never envisioned such use of them.  Since Carl Stalling first used Scott’s “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals” for some Warner Bros. cartoons in 1943, Scott’s music has been heard on all sorts of Warner Bros. cartoons and many other cartoons, including Ren and Stimpy.  That’s Scott and his musicians on the CD cover. See our review of a  Scott documentary here.  Maybe I’ll create some more Scott fans… (Don’t click on the underlined ones below because West Point removed the links.)
1 | Powerhouse
2| Siberian Sleighride
3| Devil Drums
4| The Quintet Goes to a Dance
5| In an 18th Century Drawing Room
6| Snake Woman
7| Toy Trumpet
8| Oil Gusher
9| Bird Life in the Bronx
10| Egyptian Barn Dance
11| Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals
12| A Little Bit of Rigoletto
13| War Dance for Wooden Indians
14| The Penguin
15| New Year’s Even in a Haunted House
16| Manhattan Minuet
17| The Quintet Plays Carmen
18| Reckless Night on Board an Ocean Liner
19| Dedicatory Piece to the Crew & Passengers of the First        Experimental Rocket Express to the Moon
20| Peter Tambourine
21| Sleepwalker
—John Sunier

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