Raymond Scott - On The Air - 1944

Raymond Scott - a man perhaps convicted of wearing too many hats.

Raymond Scott - On The Air - 1944
Raymond Scott – a man perhaps convicted of wearing too many hats.

Raymond Scott and His orchestra – June 22/24, 1944 – Armed Forces Radio Service – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Raymond Scott – a name associated with a lot of genres of music, a seemingly never-ending inventor and innovator and an artist whose contributions to music were largely forgotten about until recently.

Most Jazz aficionados will no doubt look at this post and wonder why it’s being included in a feature almost exclusively devoted to Jazz. And, truths to tell, Jazz critics going back to the 1940s often objected to the music Raymond Scott was contributing being considered Jazz, saying Scott was responsible for “Novelty cartoon music” and not much else.

Problem was – Raymond Scott did a lot of things and was a lot of people, some of them all at once. He was the perfect example of defying pigeonholes or what we would now term as “multi-tasking”.

Raymond Scott was, among so much else, a band leader. In many ways, he was groundbreaking, not only by experimenting with arrangements and orchestration, but also breaking through barriers – most notably, Raymond Scott was one of the first band leaders to break the color barrier as early as 1937. Many of his recordings from the 1940s on consisted of a virtual who’s who of Jazz (i.e. – Ben Webster, Milt Hinton, Billy Taylor, to name only a few).

But because he was known primarily as “the guy from the Warner Bros. Cartoons” it was a label not easily avoided, and he spent a goodly part of his career dodging those insinuations and quietly changing the subject in interviews.

That he was also a ceaseless inventor and innovator in sound recording was cause for confusion – that much of his middle-career was involved in film scoring and creating an indelible niche in Radio (and later TV) advertising jingles only added to it.

By the 1980s, Raymond Scott had become all but a footnote in music history – his big band and Jazz recordings went largely unnoticed and certainly overlooked; he languished in a goodly amount of unnecessary obscurity which was largely rescued just prior to his death in February of 1994.

This broadcast, part of a series Raymond Scott did for CBS Radio during the years of World War 2 heavily leans on Big Band quasi-dance music and hits of the day. He could be misconstrued as a “sweet band” – but again, there is something of a fine-line as to what constitutes “sweet music” in the idiom of Jazz.

So however you feel about it – or are wondering how a page devoted to Jazz can play Eric Dolphy one week and Raymond Scott the next justify the almost whiplash quality to musical changes within a form; it’s an effort to give a wide view to an all-encompassing form of music that is one of Americas truly original art forms. And that’s big stuff.

So keep an open mind and just check it out if you aren’t familiar. Jazz, you will find, is amazing and it goes a whole lot of places with very little effort.

Have a listen and see what you think.

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