Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Sleepwalker

In 1991 I was passing around cassettes of Raymond Scott 78 rpm transfers, trying to get anyone who would listen interested in the man's music. At the time, Scott was just another entrant in the "Where Are They Now?" sweepstakes. His recordings were out of print; he was obscure, a music history footnote.
Journalist/historian Will Friedwald got the message and collaborated with me on the first CD release of Scott recordings, The Man Who Made Cartoons Swing—Powerhouse: Volume 1 (Stash Records).

A few months later, I received an unsolicited call from a character named Wayne Barker. After gushing eloquently about his discovery of Scott's music via the CD, Barker put the phone down and played a note-perfect rendition of Scott's "The Sleepwalker." He had learned the tune by ear from the CD—he had no sheet music to work with.

Wayne and I became great pals. In 1999 he helped establish the Raymond Scott Orchestrette, an adventurous repertory septet devoted to re-inventing Scott's compositions. Barker served as the group's co-director, co-arranger and pianist.

In 2007, classical pianist Jenny Lin approached me about hiring an arranger for her projected recording of"Sleepwalker." There was one obvious choice.

Lin's recording of Barker's new arrangement is now available on a just-released CD, InsomniMania. The album's program consists of works with a nocturnal mood: dreams and nightmares; sleeplessness; lullabies. Her press kit observes that "some of the works on this recording were even written during that illusive phase somewhere between consciousness and sleep, which some claim to be an extremely creative period." Scott's is the earliest work in the program. A CD release recital is scheduled for July 10 at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street.

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