Raymond Scott

Picture of Raymond Scott

Raymond Scott, was in my humble opinion, the most unique bandleader of the Big Band Era.  He was also a talented pianist, record producer, and inventor of many electronic instruments.

Scott never scored cartoon soundtracks, but his music may seem familiar to you because Carl Stalling adapted it in over 120 Warner Bros cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck.  Just try to listen to Scott's music and not have visions of famous cartoon scenes that you may remember from your childhood. :)

Scott began his professional career as a pianist for the CBS Radio house band with his older brother. In late 1936, Raymond Scott put together a band with some of his CBS colleagues, calling it the Raymond Scott Quintette.  It was a six-piece group, but he thought "Quintette" (an original spelling created by him) sounded "crisper" and more original.  They made their first recordings in 1937 for Master Records.

The Quintette represented Scott's vision of breathing new life into swing music through tight, busy arrangements and riffs that reduced improvisation. Scott called this style "descriptive jazz." He is also known for his unique and unusual song titles like "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House", "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals" and "Bumpy Weather Over Newark".

Listen to "Powerhouse" by Raymond Scott

Scott believed in composing and playing by ear. He didn't compose on paper at all, which was a complete departure from the norm at that time.  The Quintette's songs derived from Scott humming phrases to his sidemen or by playing riffs and rhythms on his piano and letting the band members interpret his cues. Scott, who was also a very creative sound engineer, recorded the band's rehearsals on discs and used the recordings as references to develop his compositions. He reworked, re-sequenced, and deleted passages, and added themes from other discs to construct the final songs. While creating a song, he let his group members improvise, but once the song had been completed, he regarded the song as "locked". This was also a very different approach at that time.

The Quintette existed from 1937 to 1939 and recorded the popular "Twilight in Turkey", "Minuet in Jazz", "War Dance for Wooden Indians", "Reckless Night on Board an Ocean Liner", "Powerhouse", and "The Penguin."

Listen to "The Penguin" by Raymond Scott

You can hear many of Raymond Scott's recordings right here on Swing City Radio.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.
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