City Paper is not for tourists
Raymond Scott was the composer/arranger/inventor whose inventively arranged compositions provided much inspiration for Carl Stalling’s Warner Bros. cartoon soundtracks. Instead of composing on paper, however, Scott would pick out parts on the piano that his sidemen would then have to mimic. (This disc begins with a recording of Scott leading such a session.) What might be simple on keyboard could be less so for clarinet or trumpet. But nothing about this disc is simple. Scott’s demanding arrangements invariably involve brisk tempos, abrupt rhythmic transitions, and measures crammed to bursting with notes. With a lineup consisting of tenor sax, clarinet, trumpet, piano, celeste, bass, and percussion, and favoring two-beat rhythms, muted trumpets, woodblock, and splash cymbal accents, Scott’s recordings from the late ’30s stylistically fall somewhere between—or beyond—the disciplines of big band and hard bop. Such whimsical titles as “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals” and “Square Dance for Eight Egyptian Mummies” perfectly convey the songs’ respective characters. The insistent “Powerhouse” is probably Scott’s most recognizable tune (both Artie Shaw and GWAR covered it). The Beau Hunks Sextette is an abbreviated version of a Dutch conglomeration led by bassist Gert-Jan Blom that meticulously recreates lost or forgotten music. Their previous musical restoration was Little Rascals Music, a disc of Leroy Shield’s work for the Hal Roach Studio. The group is uncanny in its faithfulness, and here their expert craftsmanship is typically dazzling. But with the exception of a few unreleased transcriptions, most of the songs on Celebration are also available by Scott himself on both the Columbia and Stash labels. Which makes this disc as much a brag as a salute.