Friday, December 28, 2007

Minuetto en Jazz

The Herth Trio included legendary keyboardist Willie "The Lion" Smith. The ensemble also recorded Scott's "The Toy Trumpet" in 1938.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Random Raymond

FastRMacR discovers where Soul Coughing lifted the cartoonish sample that yoyos through "Disseminated" on their album Irresistible Bliss.

Dilla's Donuts, which throws a street slouch on Scott's "Lightworks," steers new fans to Raymond.

We'd love Deerhoof even if one of the bandmates didn't claim to be influenced by Scott. Who knew?

And Smooth Harold asks: "Where would dance, hip-hop, Eighties, and electronic music be without Raymond Scott?" (Ed.: A month behind schedule?)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Raymond in the Freak Zone

Mimi, wife of our Bran Flakes buddy Otis Fodder, relays:

"Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone, my favoritest show on BBC 6 (or BBC Radio) will have a small feature on Raymond Scott on Sunday's show (Dec 9). All shows are archived."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Quartet SF earns Grammy nod

Quartet San Francisco's new CD, Whirled Chamber Music, which features seven rocking string quartet arrangements of Raymond Scott compositions, has been nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the Best Classical Crossover category.

The AllMusic Guide calls Whirled "an extraordinary, strings-only counterpart to clarinetist Don Byron's Bug Music -- rapidly spinning, jazzy, contemporary-sounding chamber music."

This is the second consecutive QSF project to achieve the distinction. Their previous CD, Látigo, was nominated in 2006.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


LA WEEKLY: One filing box is marked "Raymond Scott notes," Scott being one of the most important and underappreciated musical minds of the 20th century. [Mark] Mothersbaugh rescued much of the writing and paperwork from Scott’s garage, and though the two only met once, they seem like kindreds. In the 1930s and 1940s, Scott composed wildly imaginative and mathematical big-band music before abruptly changing gears in the late '40s to start building early electronic instruments. He earned his living by using the machines to craft radio commercials for, among others, Vicks Medicated Cough Drops, Bendix ("The Tomorrow People") and Auto-Lite Spark Plugs. Standing majestically in one corner of Mutato's basement is perhaps the Holy Grail of early electronic-music instrumentation: Raymond Scott's legendary Electronium, considered to be the first-ever self-composing synthesizer, which Mothersbaugh purchased in 1996 and has vowed to restore.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Simian Mobile Disco

SMD's new album, Attack Decay Sustain Release, features a track entitled "Scott." The duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw interviewed by Pitchfork:
With "Scott," we were sort of aiming to do a nod to Raymond Scott, who we're massive fans of and we thought it maybe ... not to say it's as good as his stuff, but it sounded a little bit like that kind of, so that was it.

The atmospheric track in the iTunes Store.

Jeff Winner of applauds: "More ambitious than just sampling the real thing."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"like robots or something"

"im about 80% sure that that isnt the correct song... thanks for the effort though... it may have been like a dexter's lab thing though..."

Like. But not.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pearl Zimney Warnow

Pearl Zimney married Harry Warnow (Raymond Scott) in 1935. She was an essential part of Scott's life in the mid-1930s when he first achieved fame and recognition as a musical enfante terrible. She was present during the brief lifespan of his legendary "powerhouse" Quintette (1937-39), and she accompanied Raymond and his Quints to Hollywood in 1938. She was there during his foray into big band leadership (1939), and when he formed his first commercial electronic lab (Manhattan Research, Inc.) in 1946, the same year he composed the score for the hit Broadway musical Lute Song.

Besides being smart, beautiful, and resourceful, Pearl was an audio engineer (mentored by Scott) who in the 1930s occasionally "manned" the console at Scott's Universal Recorders studios in Manhattan.

"It was very interesting," she later recalled. "I remember once the famous jazz trumpeter Bunny Berigan came up with this singer—I forget her name. The two of them were high as a kite. I didn’t know anything about drugs then. But they were loopy."

Pearl and Harry had two children, Carolyn and Stanley. Stan is currently at work on a documentary about his dad.

"You could never make eye contact with Raymond, at least in his early years," Pearl reflected in a May 2000 interview. "His ability to connect with people, to have a real open relationship, it just wasn’t there—with musicians, with me. Raymond was an original, and I guess you could say a genius, but that encompasses a lot of things. He was different and difficult, and withdrawn. He had some very strange feelings and ideas. Though I loved him, I really did."

Pearl was born on this date in 1910. (She passed away on April 28, 2001.) The above quotes are from an extended interview with Pearl that appears in the Raymond Scott Quintette CD Microphone Music.

Pearl and Harry divorced in 1950. Two years later, she married Larry Winters. Pearl spent the rest of her long, productive, and buoyant life in Mamaroneck, NY.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Retro typography

From the back cover of the mid-1950s LP This Time With Strings (Coral), by Raymond Scott and his Orchestra, which will be reissued next year on Basta:

This Time With Strings was a mid-1950s orchestral LP by Scott, containing 11 originals, some dating from his 1937-39 Quintette (e.g., "Powerhouse," "Toy Trumpet"), others from the 1940s and '50s. The arrangements are sweet (lots of strings!). While not as adventurous as Scott's quintets and electronica, the album will have particular appeal to exotica/lounge/smooth orchestral enthusiasts. Back in the late 1980s, Jim Thirlwell (a.k.a. Foetus), recording as Steroid Maximus, turned this LP's "Powerhouse" into piledriving techno-sludge on the album Gondwanaland.

We've just finished remastering the tapes; the package is currently being designed by Piet Schreuders. This Time With Strings's anticipated street date: Spring 2008.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quartet San Francisco in NYC

The Quartet San Francisco, whose new CD (Whirled Chamber Music) contains seven Raymond Scott tunes, will perform in New York on Sunday, October 21. They've got an in-store at Barnes & Noble near Lincoln Center at 2 pm, and a 7 pm concert at Christ & St. Stephen's Church (W. 69th St. between Broadway/Columbus). A busy tour schedule follows.

Update (06 DEC 07): Grammy nomination!

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Ectoplasm, the forthcoming first CD collection of recordings by Raymond Scott's 1948-49 Quintet, features cover art by the late Jim Flora. The work first publicly appeared in a 1951 issue of Mademoiselle magazine illustrating a story by Robert Lowry entitled "The Mammoth Molar." The origins of the art, however, can be traced farther back to Flora's early 1940s sketchbooks:

Does that mean the Ecto-cover actually depicts Kid Ory?

HT: Jeff Winner

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Cartoon Gene reveals:

"Scientists working diligently in a laboratory somewhere recently discovered a DNA strand and have identified it as the Cartoon Gene. This revelation proves the visual link between animation and sound. What they found is that cartoons permanently imprint sounds on your brain, for instance the sound of a character sneaking up stairs is a quickly rising pizzicato violin. That is why exposure to the music of Raymond Scott, adapted for Warner Brothers, brings automatic memories to anyone over forty."

Monday, September 10, 2007

End of the Century

Today marks the 99th anniversary of the birth of Raymond Scott (born Harry Warnow, in Brooklyn). Countdown begins to the centennial.

Photo taken in 1934 by Scott's lifelong friend Paul Gordon. At the time Harry, age 25, was an emerging composer ("Christmas Night in Harlem" was a big hit that year) as well as a hotshot session pianist in the CBS radio network orchestra conducted by his older brother, Mark Warnow. It was around this time that Harry changed his name to "Raymond Scott." He often told interviewers that he lifted the name out of the Manhattan phonebook, and that he liked the name because it was "crisp" and had "good rhythm." Apocryphal? Works for us.

Jeff Winner, who created and maintains and co-produced Manhattan Research, Inc., offers his birthday toast:

Much of my understanding of the 20th century came from Raymond Scott. Over the past decade I've studied his fascinating career and life in great detail; this gave me a greater awareness of the achievements of the past 100 years. The 1900s saw dramatic leaps of human advancement and technological invention. Scott was inspired by the optimistic spirit of this progress, and became a major player in both artistic and technical ways.

On September 9, 1908, Orville Wright made the first experimental flight to catch air for an hour. The following day, coincidentally, Raymond Scott was born. Scott's musical journey started as a kid with a player piano in his dad's music shop. In 1949 Scott wrote music that foresaw "the first experimental rocket express to the moon." Twenty years later, NASA did it. While aviators went from Kitty Hawk to the moon, Scott went from a player piano to synthesizers, sequencers, and homemade drum machines. They were both striving for a celebration on the planet Mars.

Happy birthday, Raymond, and thank you for the history lessons. I'm certain Earthlings will love your work even more in another 99 years. Especially if they're listening during a commute to the moon.

montage by EsoTek

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Puff daddy

Last year, Steve Cloutier directed a short film, The Chimney, about a nicotine addict. It is NOT an anti-smoking jeremiad—it's a humorous take on a popular vice that millions of people find pleasurable. The film also involves bicycles—which have caused countless unnecessary deaths over the last century.

For his frantic soundtrack, Steve used the Raymond Scott Quintette's classic 1937 recording of "Powerhouse."

Steve dropped us a note: "I've just re-posted the movie because I was never satisfied with the quality of the original post. I was able to improve it a bit."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Neal Pollack on Raymond Scott

Writer and "alternadad" Neal Pollack on "Raymond Scott's Loony Tunes" at eMusic Spotlight:

"When you listen to Microphone Music, it's like Daffy Duck is burrowing a tunnel into your mind. Each song contains a perfectly calibrated mix of the whimsy and anarchy that forms the philosophical basis for every great cartoon since the genre's golden age. Scott's compositions are at once fantastical and very cool. The protagonist may be falling off a tall ladder or running from a dog at the moment, the songs say, but soon enough, he'll be taking a nice hot bath or shuffling off into the sunset in the company of a lady rabbit with long eyelashes and plenty of lipstick. The music is fun, trippy, and wholly original. Long may the six-piece Quintette reign."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Whirled Chamber Music

Jazz violinist Jeremy Cohen, leader of the Quartet San Francisco, whose forthcoming album, Whirled Chamber Music, contains seven classic Raymond Scott compositions:

"I was introduced to Raymond Scott by a stagehand pushing a broom. It was 1995, at the Theatre on the Square in San Francisco (now the Post Street Theatre), and I was lead violinist for a 22-month run of Forever Tango. The stagehand was Peter Palermo, now director of the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts in Lebanon, IL. Peter brought me a Scott CD called Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights. It set off in me a Raymond Scott fever that still burns! Now, as 2008 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Raymond Scott’s birth, we have dedicated a large portion of Whirled to this brilliant composer, inventor, bandleader, and pioneer of electronic music."

Samples of Whirled can be heard here.

Over the next few months, the QSF will perform in Los Angeles, Columbus, Pasadena, Louisville, NJ, NYC, Berkeley, Natick, and elsewhere.

Whirled's cover art may not look familiar, but it features details of an uncirculated mid-1960s painting by LP cover illustration icon Jim Flora.

Update (06 DEC 07): Grammy nomination!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Civilization vs. Barbarism

Crazy Ay-rabs, beheaded infidels, insensitive Middle Eastern stereotypes, offensive Muslim cartoons, IEDs, abductions, gratuitous violence, Western imperialism, drugs, burqas, bestiality, and a makeshift Raymond Scott soundtrack.

Now THAT'S entertainment.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Kodachrome (released on Basta in 2002) was, as the subtitle noted, a collection of "Compositions for Orchestra by Raymond Scott." The album was produced by Gert-Jan Blom (founder of The Beau Hunks), and features the Metropole Orchestra conducted by Jan Stulen.

This repertoire reflects a little-known side of Scott: serious orchestral composer with an idiosyncratic flair. Scott was a renowned big band leader in the early 1940s, but the tunes on Kodachrome are not Swing Era chestnuts. Most of the titles were, by Scott standards, obscure; none had been hits for the composer, and none were featured in cartoons or films. Dating from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, some had never been commercially released (e.g., "City of New York," "Minor Prelude," "Dreary Weather on Sixth Avenue," and "The Bullfighter and His Piccolo"); others had been released without fanfare or commercial success (e.g., "Naked City," "Symphony Under the Stars," and "Secret Agent"); and a few were radio rarities (e.g., "Rococo," "Hertz Theme," "Confusion Among a Fleet of Taxicabs Upon Meeting With a Fare"). Scores do not exist for many of these titles; performance transcriptions were made from archival recordings by members of the Metropole.

The magnificent cover was illustrated by Kellie Strøm. Here's a rough sketch from the artist:

Monday, July 23, 2007

At home with Raymond and Dorothy

Grainy Library of Congress reference copy of contact sheet chronicling Scott demonstrating one of his electronic gizmos to then-wife, singer Dorothy Collins, at their Long Island home. Year unknown, but likely mid-1950s. Judging from the slanted ceiling, the monstrous machine appears to be installed in their attic. Whether it was built or hauled up there is an intriguing question. The device could be an early version of the Electronium, Scott's "instantaneous composition-performance machine" which he developed in the 1960s. Whatever it is, the magnificent instrument no longer exists.
Addendum (28 July 07) Jeff Winner of adds: I included another (presumably earlier) version of this device on page 23 of the book accompanying the Manhattan Research CDs. Same room, same piano bench, same shirt & haircut. I have another pic of this instrument, but neither RS nor DC are in the frame. I've been hoping that sooner or later we'd find a photo of this device with some info written on the back, or a caption in an old magazine that would explain more detail, but I've had no luck in that department. Yet.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


"Powerhouse" is arguably one of Raymond Scott's three best-known works, along with "The Toy Trumpet" and "Mountain High, Valley Low" (from the 1946 Broadway musical Lute Song).

First recorded by the Raymond Scott Quintette in 1937, "Powerhouse" was covered by dozens of orchestras and small jazz combos worldwide in the following decade. In 1943, Scott sold his publishing rights to Advanced Music, a division of Warner Brothers, and that year Carl Stalling began peppering his Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoon scores with Scott melodies — "Powerhouse" being the most oft-quoted.

We don't know why Scott sold his publishing, although money is a good place to begin any conjecture. He was probably advised to sell rather than initiating such a transaction on his own. Scott was obsessed with music and engineering (not necessarily in that order) and inclined to leave the paperwork to trusted associates. (Not that such associates deserved to be "trusted." Late in life, explaining his depleted finances, Scott remarked that someone "managed my money until I managed to not have any.")

Once the publishing belonged to WB, Scott had no further involvement with licensing, other than to collect writer's royalties. He surely had nothing to do with the use of his melodies in Looney Tunes. There is no indication that Scott and Stalling ever met, or that Scott was even aware of Stalling, though Stalling was certainly hyper-aware of Scott's music.

There's more info about "Powerhouse" at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Scott by Marc Crisafulli

pen and felt-tip marker on paper (1997)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Good Morning Cephalgia (animation)

Thomas Sebasian Smolenski writes:
"A few years ago I obtained some sheet music from the Raymond Scott archives so I might perform it for the soundtrack of my college senior thesis animation. Unfortunately I was never able to finish the animation or record the music because of the schedule I was on.

"What I finished (basically sans ending ... and a weak middle...) is available on YouTube.

"Recently I've been working in animation in and around Manhattan, and I've really wanted to play Scott's music again — mostly for myself, not so much for a soundtrack."

"Good Morning Cephalgia" contains five Raymond Scott Quintette recordings ("Powerhouse," "The Penguin," "Toy Trumpet," "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals," and "In an 18th Century Drawing Room").

Smolenski is currently working at a studio called Flickerlab and animating a short for Conan O'Brien called "Pale Force."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Raymond Scott meets Jim Flora

In a design sense, anyway. Their professional paths nearly crossed: early in his career Scott recorded for Columbia Records but left the label in 1941, one year before Jim Flora was hired by Columbia's art department. In the late 1940s, Flora (1914-1998) launched a legacy by illustrating quirky, cartoonish jazz album covers for the label. His historical portfolio includes dozens more for RCA Victor during the 1950s.

Through my working relationship with Jim Flora Art LLC, the deceased artist's estate, I've long wanted to revive this tradition by using rare Flora art on new CDs. Seattle's Reptet released Do This! in 2006, the cover bedecked with a Flora three-eyed monster we call a "triclops." Later this year, the first CD collection of the 1948-49 Raymond Scott Quintet will feature a Flora cover (above) designed by the brilliant Dutch art director Piet Schreuders. The 1951 illustration was most likely rendered during Flora's Mexican idyll. Ectoplasm refers to a Scott composition on the CD, which this author is producing for Basta Audio-Visuals.

N.B.: The Lothars album Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas (released in 2000) adapted Flora's 1955 album cover art for This Is Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (RCA Victor).

Friday, June 01, 2007


A Visa check card TV commercial ("Lunch") that runs on high octane "Powerhouse" has aired sporadically since November 2006. In case you still haven't seen it—or need to view it on demand—it's posted on YouTube. The recording of the Scott classic was created for the spot; no existing version was licensed.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Portrait of Scott

Raymond Scott by Jason Beaty, 2002

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Coctails: Raymond Scott medley

One evening in 1992: dinner at Maxwell's, the legendary Hoboken tavern/rock club. A bunch of bands I'd never heard of were booked for the back room. Dinner was first priority. Mid-meal, buddy and fellow WFMU DJ Gaylord Fields came running down the corridor that links restaurant with club, ordered me to drop the fork, and proclaimed, "Come back here. The Coctails are playing 'Powerhouse'!" I zoomed in and caught 2/3 of the band's rambunctious take on the Scott classic. Later I found out it was half of a medley that opened with "The Penguin."

After the set, I found the band in the downstairs dressing room and complimented their arrangement. We became fast friends, which prompted several stayovers at their Chicago loft in the next few years (during which I met their buddy, Chris Ware, the incomparable illustrator).

In 1993, the Coctails invited me to join them in the studio for their first recording of the Scott medley, on which I banged some percussion. The final mix was released on SOL (Singles Only Label—"The little record with the big hole"), a boutique vinyl venture by Nicholas Hill and Bob Mould. The track was subsequently reissued on the group's 3-cd retrospective Popcorn Box (Carrot Top Records).

iTunes Music Store links:
The Penguin/Powerhouse (studio version)
The Penguin/Powerhouse (live at Lounge Ax)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cyclic Bits: The Raymond Scott Variations

Ergo Phizmiz will air his one-hour Raymond Scott remix program "Cyclic Bits" on WFMU Wednesday, May 16, from 7-8 pm (Eastern).

Artists who have contributed remixes and reinventions:

Bebe del Banco
David Fenech
Ego Plum
Felix Kubin
Fireworks Ensemble
4,000,000 Telephones
Automated Acoustics
Listen With Sarah
Martha Moopette
Tracky Birthday
Vernon Lenoir

As previously mentioned, the contributors were given free rein to sample vintage Scott '50s and '60s electronica. An album of the full remixes might be released later.

The program will be archived as streaming audio in the station's memory hole.

photo: Martha Moopette

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Raymond Scott on myspace

I hate myspace. So do you. So do millions of people who use it. I don't use it—I just hate it. Don't send me your myspace link. Thanks. There is a Raymond Scott page on myspace, and it serves many good purposes. It can be updated faster and easier than the Scott website, and it catches the attention of—well, of people who use myspace. Which I don't, because I hate it. Remember? I won't remind you again. Promise. You can find information at the RS myspace page you won't find here or at So can your mother. So can Raymond's—and everybody's—friend Tom. The Raymond Scott page is probably the coolest one in all of myspace, and the only one you need to know. All the rest are bogus. The Scott page was created by Jeff Winner, the same good buddy who operates Nota bene from Jeff: "On the page, I try to make clear it's NOT actually RS doing the page, because lots of people assumed that was the case when it first launched." People, Raymond Scott died in 1994. That's several years before the internet was even invented! Speaking of obituaries, did you know Scott composed "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm"? Neither did we! You won't find that here, at the Scott website, in his Wiki entry, or on his myspace page. The web is just FULL of fascinating information—some of it true!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

In 1993, MTV used to care ...

... about such things:

Not that they made a big deal about it—forty-five seconds or so on MTV News. The hook wasn't Scott's legacy or musical appeal, but the fact that his vintage recordings were being used in the recently launched Ren & Stimpy Show.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"pointless music, horrible remastering"

We warned you. Kimba W. Lion reviews Rock and Roll Symphony on

 "Raymond Scott, so often the quirky innovator, really fell flat on his face with this album. Arranged to please other people rather than himself, the music is blander than bland, failing to evoke the flavor of either rock and roll or symphonic music. A couple of tracks rise to the level of decent MOR, but not really worth the wade through the rest. "The remastering for CD is a pure amateur job. Treble-heavy, with no bass, and a gee-I-can-do-hiss-removal approach to noise reduction that has left a heavy cloud of digital burbles and other artifacts over the music that is far worse than any tape hiss could possibly be. Note to whoever thinks they can remaster for CD: First, buy yourself a decent pair of headphones. Then look for something beyond the first freeware program you find that claims to do noise reduction, and learn how to set the parameters so that the result sounds like music."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Down to Earth—and leaving it

One of my favorite Raymond Scott compositions—and one of his few genuine pop songs—is "Coming Down to Earth." Scott composed it in 1936, before launching his seminal Quintette, but didn't record the tune until 1953, when it was released as a post-WWII orchestral period piece.

Rochester-based musician Dave Cross belatedly introduced me to the virtues of "Earth." Having heard only the nondescript RSO version, I couldn't understand why Cross cared enough to record the tune with his avant-weird band, Coffee, in the mid-1990s. Cross eventually sent a small stack of 7" singles with a skeletal but jaunty slide guitar take of "Coming Down to Earth" slotted between two Coffee originals. The arrangement (which clocked 1:06) was so radically different from Scott's, it was barely recognizable as the same composition. Yet Coffee retained the melody and structure, which gave me a deep appreciation of this pop gem.

The group later recorded a spooky synth cover of another little-known Scott 1950s orchestral work, "Naked City." I loved these recordings because they didn't attempt to recapture Scott's style; they reinvented Scott in a strikingly original way. Because of these imaginative takes, Coffee were invited to perform at the second (and last) multi-artist Scott tribute concert at New York's Bottom Line in 1997. (R. Stevie Moore joined them onstage.)

Several years ago I learned that Cross was undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. Phillip Marshall, one of his Coffee-mates, dropped me a note Saturday evening:
Dave Cross lost his seven year battle with a brain tumor last Friday. He was instrumental in getting "Coming Down to Earth" recorded by Coffee, which was really a duo of Dave and Tim Poland.

Dave wasn't much of a musician per se. However he was wildly creative with sound and with organizing Coffee events. He flagged me down 10 years ago because he had received the sheet music of "Coming Down to Earth" from you. (I had my brush with fame playing guitar with the wonderful Colorblind James Experience.) Neither he nor Tim could read music so they had me figure it out. Dave had the impression that no recording of the song existed. I had no idea of Scott's intentions with the piece, and I heard it as a whimsical yet sentimental ballad.

When Coffee was invited to play at the Bottom Line, they again recruited me for guitar. We played "Down to Earth," "Caterpillar Creep" and "City of New York." The Raymond Scott songs were the only remotely tuneful or melodic music Coffee ever played.

Dave will be missed but his spirit will be present anytime a creative person responds to the urge to reach beyond their own limitations and make something happen.

There will be a memorial service in Penfield, NY on Tuesday, May 1 at 11:00 am in Linear Park where Dave always found fishing quite good.

Our condolences to Dave's family and friends. We hope Coffee's two Scott covers make it to CD release. They were among the first new recordings to demonstrate how Scott's vintage music could be revitalized for the 21st century.

The Happy Farmers (named for a Scott tune) were formed a year ago to support Dave when things were going badly for him. True to form, Dave forged on for another year! L to R: Adam Wilcox, upright; Phil Marshall, guitar; Tim Poland, guitar; Dave Cross, snare and cymbal.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Madrid-based sextet Racalmuto has released a self-titled CD containing six Raymond Scott Quintette tunes: "Powerhouse," "The Penguin," "Happy Farmer," "Moment Musical," "Steeplechase," and "Square Dance for Eight Egyptian Mummies."

The Scott evocations are joyous and brash, mixing nicely with the band's originals and nuggets by Stuff Smith and Charlie Shavers. The Scott covers sizzle with élan. In paying homage to the RSQ tradition, Racalmuto adds inventive touches that surprise and impress. But don't overlook their composer chops: pianist Pascual Piqueras's "¿Quién Quiere un Tornado?" evokes elegant 1930s modernism and classic cartoon jazz (an equally apt description of the original RSQ); and clarinetist Marco Cresci's "Ataque de Celos en Zakopane" conjures a swing-era outer space fantasy.

Update: Here they perform Scott's "Powerhouse" on Spanish TV.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Caveat emptor

Raymond Scott fan Fernando saved an email I'd sent him years ago, in response to his curiosity about future reissues of vintage Scott recordings. He reminded me of this excerpt:
I don't know who owns rights to The Rock 'n Roll Symphony (a.k.a Amor) which I have never inquired about. It's my least favorite RS project. I hope it never gets reissued. I'll put a price on the head of anyone who attempts it.
Well, someone hasn't merely attempted to reissue R&RS—they've done it. Don't know whose idea it was, but a pox on their house, head, and genitals. Just for the record: no one connected with the Scott family or business interests—which includes me and anyone else whose name has been prominently connected with reviving Scott's legacy over the past 15 years—had any involvement with this turkey. All blameless.

I'm not saying that you (by which I mean YOU) won't like R&RS. I'm just saying that if YOU love Raymond Scott recordings which have been reissued on CD since 1992, then YOU won't like R&RS. It isn't "rock and roll," and it's not a "symphony." It contains no Scott compositions. It's a tepid bath of Mantovani-styled orchestral yawners. It's soulless, and its utility can be summed up in one word: landfill.

Of course, we are receptive to being convinced otherwise! Until then, R&RS is not recommended, and we'll post no purchase links. Yes, we could have ignored it rather than bring it to public attention. But it was considered worthy of ridicule.

UPDATE: Jeff Winner of dropped us a note:
I just remembered an email received years ago that read, "I recently bought a scratchy copy of Rock 'n Roll Symphony at a thrift store for 50 cents. Can you tell me how much this album might be worth?" I forwarded it to you, and you replied, "If I give you another 50 cents, would you scratch it up even more?" He came back, "But it has such a snappy cover! Are you saying the 50 cents I paid for it was too much?" And you shot back, "Original editions had a wooden dowel in the spine. Whittled down for toothpicks, they would justify the expenditure."

Friday, April 06, 2007

Nothing so much as the future ...

Scott 'toonsmithery and electronica keep popping up as insta-cachet soundtracks for YouTube uploads. None authorized, some fascinating, a few head-scratchers. We link, you decide:

A series of psychedelic DNA chains—or something—set to Scott's "Cindy Electronium" (from Manhattan Research, Inc.) by, on, or from kuantika tv.

Goyoelpollo (Goyo the Chicken) has produced a nifty audio-visual montage for MRI. Or perhaps someone else did the vid and Goyo posted it. Nuestro español es mediocre—if you can provide a reasonable translation, please share.

"Powerhouse," Scott's legendary Bugs Bunny-propellent, set to original animation by Antonio Linhares for a university project.

"Motion Painting Number Two" by Adam Bruneau set to Scott's electronic "Portofino."

Johnnysmooth ("comedian"—believe it!) uses Scott's "Lightworks" to underscore scenes from the movie Treasure Island. WTF?

HT: Gert-Jan Blom

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Old school goes new school

Raymond Scott's electronic music productions from the 1950s thru the 1980s have achieved greater public recognition since the artist's death in 1994 than they did during his working life. In 1997, his 1964 infant lullabyes, Soothing Sounds for Baby, made their CD debut to wide critical acclaim. Manhattan Research, Inc., a 2-CD set of vintage Scott electronica, received an equally warm welcome upon its release in 2000. MRI's long-awaited sequel, covering the early 1960s thru the late 1970s, is planned. The as-yet untitled collection will be co-produced by Gert-Jan Blom and Jeff Winner. Ergo Phizmiz, who hosts The Phuj Phactory on WFMU radio, is editing together an hour of Scott electronica reinvented by today's DJs, mixologists, and technophiles. The program, entitled "Cyclic Bits: The Raymond Scott Variations," airs Wednesday, May 16, and will feature Frankenscott creations by:

Bebe del Banco (Japan) Felix Kubin (Germany) Margoo (Italy) Satanicpornocultshop (Japan) Orionza (Japan) Credreq (UK) Ego Plum (US) Listen With Sarah (UK) Chief Huri Upa (UK) 4,000,000 Telephones (UK) David Fenech (France) I Love Audrey (UK) Fireworks Ensemble (US) and others ...

The contributors were granted permission to use samples from MRI and SSFB, and the program will be garnished with extracts from Scott's original recordings. An album of the full remixes might be released later. montage by EsoTek

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Raymond Scott composed an electronic commercial jingle for Lightworks cosmetics in the 1960s. Vocal and instrumental versions are featured on the two-CD set Manhattan Research, Inc. (MRI). The Lightworks line was produced by Helena Rubinstein, and included blush, eye shadow, lipstick, and lotions.

The Nashville-based trio Venus Hum recorded a note-perfect cover in 2003. You can download a free mp3 here.

There is some uncertainty about the origins of the Scott jingle. Untitled instrumental versions were discovered by MRI researchers/producers Gert-Jan Blom and Jeff Winner on an analog tape reel dated "1960-63." They also discovered, on another reel, an undated "Lightworks" vocal version. At the time, the singer was presumed (by me) to be Scott's then-wife Dorothy Collins, and was so noted in MRI's liner notes. However, RS and DC's daughter Deb later said the voice was not her mother's.

The Lightworks product line launched around 1967. Winner speculates that Scott adapted an early 1960s instrumental recording for the jingle.

"Some Scott commercials from this period were edited from raw, longer, sometimes rambling 'work-tapes' he'd made years before," Winner recently explained. "It's likely he composed and recorded these 'Lightworks' prototype instrumentals—including versions at different tempos—in the 1960-'63 period. Assuming he got the cosmetics gig later, he may have reached back for inspiration from himself. 'Lightworks' isn't unique in this sense. We included several other examples of this derivative process on the MRI cds. Scott often recycled material. All artists do."

The identity of the vocalist remains a mystery.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Body language

This 1957 LP contained ten recordings made in 1949 by the second Raymond Scott Quintet. Originally released on privately pressed ten-inch 78 rpm discs, the tracks were nicely remastered for the age of microgroove hi-fi.

Five Scott originals (Bird Life in the Bronx, Street Corner in Paris, Ectoplasm, Snake Woman, and Dedicatory Piece to the Crew and Passengers of the First Experimental Rocket Express to the Moon) share platter space with five serenades by Dorothy Collins. It was a strange juxtaposition of lightweight '50s chick-pop and cerebral chamber-jazz.

Collins was Scott's protégée and first sang with his orchestra in 1944 at age 16. Both commenced seven-year star turns on TV's Your Hit Parade in 1950, and they exchanged wedding vows in 1952. The LP cover photo (by Burt Owen) appears contemporaneous with the album release. The often-stormy marriage ended in a 1964 divorce.

In this 1957 photo, for an album on which they are musically paired, husband and wife sit comfortably, holding hands—at arm's length. In the foreground, she gets the fruit, he gets the ashtray.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Raymond Scott Quintet, 1948-49

Coming later this year on
Basta Audio-Visuals:
Ectoplasm: The Raymond Scott Quintet (1948-49)
Recordings by Six—and Sometimes Seven—Musicians

Featuring Raymond Scott, Dorothy Collins, Jerry Winner, Dick Mains,
Joe Palmer, Irving Manning, and 18-year-old drummer Kenny Johns.

RSQ drummer Kenny Johns

It's a different band than the original 1937-39 RSQ, but trademark Scott quirks abound: wit, sophistication, and a touch of eccentricity. Although rowdy bebop was the rage in those days, Scott preferred a more sculpted, controlled approach—jazz with a pop sensibility. His arrangements were spiced with unpredictable twists and his players crafted sharp, tasteful solos. The RSQ was complex and hyperactive, with an undercurrent of wry mischief, befitting the band's namesake.

Projected CD tracks include the following Scott originals:

"Street Corner in Paris"
"Snake Woman"
"Bird Life in the Bronx"
"Happy Farmer"
"Good Listening (Theme)"
"Blizzard Wit"
"Curley Cue"
"The Penguin"
"Question Mark (?)"

... along with parlor-jazz arrangements of the light classics "Humoresque" and "Song of India," and over a dozen idiosyncratic Scott arrangements of Tin Pan Alley wunderwerks. Also making its CD debut, Raymond goes lunar with the visionary opus:

"Dedicatory Piece to the Crew and Passengers of
the First Experimental Rocket Express to the Moon"

Remember: it ain't cartoon-jazz. But stay tooned.