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Monktail Creative Music Concernís Raymond Scott Project


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#1 Johnny E

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Posted 24 October 2006 - 05:39 PM

Saturday, October 28th
Monktail Creative Music Concern's Raymond Scott Project
Part of the 2006 Earshot Jazz Festival
On The Boards
100 W Roy St
Seattle, WA 98119
www.ontheboards.org


Monktail Creative Music Concern Tributes an Early-Movie Great
By Josie Holtzman


Who was Raymond Scott?

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For some, his cultural significance derives from his contribution to early electronic music. A colleague of Robert Moog, Scott is credited with inventing some of the earliest and most sophisticated electronic musical devices such as the Clavivox, one of the earliest synthesizers, and the Electronium, the "instantaneous composer-performance machine."

Or perhaps Scott's most significant legacy stems from his commercial success: Warner Brothers bought his Merry Melodies in 1943 to provide the soundtrack for America's favorite irreverently wacky cartoon characters, such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

But Scott's contributions to the jazz idiom, which were far more enigmatic and ambiguous, have generally been overlooked. A notorious eccentric and perfectionist, Scott, who lived from 1908 to 1994 and graduated from the Julliard School of Music in 1931, may have been lauded as a worthy composer of modern music, but he also has been dismissed for composing "silly pseudo-jazz." In 1939 Rhythm magazine declared: "I don't think that those Scott compositions are sincerely jazz vehicles. Only occasionally do they swing."

Ironically, Scott's goal was to revitalize swing, although his methodology seemed counterintuitive: It required that his quintet adhere strictly to the notes and structure of his compositions in a way that straight-jacketed improvisation.
The complexly quirky melodies and rhythms of Scott's pieces, which he obsessively and meticulously rehearsed, were performed and recorded by his quintet between 1937 and 1939. His style introduced a new creative perspective, what he called "descriptive jazz," that departed from the jazz norms of the time.

So, what would lead the members of The Monktail Creative Music Concern, a growing cadre of Seattle jazz progressivists comprising several bands, to select this supposedly unimprovisable repertoire for their latest project?
The Raymond Scott Project came about as a result of the chance encounter between John Ewing, Collective member and founder of the improvised music group, Reptet, and Irwin Chusid, the foremost living Raymond Scott scholar. Ewing detailed that meeting over the animated syncopations of his fellow Monktail comrades as they diligently practiced the demanding Scott tunes inside Capitol Hill's cramped Gallery 1412: "I wanted to use the artwork of the late jazz artist Jim Flora for the cover art for the latest Reptet album, so I got in touch with the guy who was the director of the Flora Archive and Estate. That turned out to be Irwin Chusid."

Chusid, an eccentric from New York City was not only the archivist for Jim Flora, but also a locally famous radio personality with his long-running free-form radio show on WFMU, and, as Ewing soon discovered, the reigning expert and guardian of the Raymond Scott archives, which included Scott's musical charts.

After Chusid and Ewing worked together on the Reptet artwork, Chusid broached the topic of a Raymond Scott tribute, for which he proposed that Ewing assemble a band and Chusid fly out to Seattle to speak about Scott and his legacy. Chusid also volunteered to provide Scott's charts, which, though never notated by Scott himself, were transcribed at the request of his publicist in the 1940s, and had come to rest solely in the hands of Mr. Chusid.

"This is living music," Chusid told Ewing as he handed over the charts only a few months ago. "Irwin was very adamant about us taking the charts and arranging them and taking liberties with them. He wants it to live in the present time," Ewing explained. "We could have taken the tunes and played them exactly as they were played on the records in the '30s and '40s, but instead we assigned each tune to the different members of the collective who did their own personalized arrangements."

In this way, Monktail was able to put its own creative stamp on the original songs, composing and arranging more improvised solo sections and even adding some new sections and instrumental parts. They are taking some liberties, but John Seman, who co-founded the Monktail Collective about a decade ago, explains: "In the beginning one of the foremost concerns was remaining true to the composer. But he didn't have all of this free stuff in the middle of a section; so, is that ok?" Chusid's relaxed attitude about the music reassured them that it was, so the collective moved forward with the project, diligently practicing the complex charts, internalizing the music, and using new elements to inform their own interpretations of the pieces. As Seman says, "This is the way we can put what we do inside of that music of Raymond Scott."

Scott's music lends itself well to this approach in part because, as Ewing says, "people know the melodies because they grew up watching Warner Brothers cartoons. It's almost part of the soundtrack of people's lives." The project even has a compelling predecessor. A few years ago, clarinetist Don Byron, in his "Bug Music" album and performances, featured Scott prominently in his celebration-by-adaptation of the music of early composers for film and television cartoons.

If the success of Byron's project was not encouragement enough, the Monktail collective has the further impetus of being able to look forward to performing this music in the presence of the catalyst for the project and reigning Scott expert, Irwin Chusid. He will deliver a lecture on Raymond Scott at Cornish College in conjunction with Monktail's project. [Note: this lecture has been cancelled.]

From the history, to the coincidence, to the concept, Monktail's Raymond Scott Project has evolved from a quirky series of events that seem, now, rather a propos for such an unconventional man of American music. Further, for a group that describes itself as thriving on "the atypical and the exigent; the real weirdo stuff," performing the work of a man of such unconventional musical genius, with a legacy so memorable yet contestable, will doubtlessly produce an evening of nostalgia, entertainment, and inventive interpretation.

Followed by:

John Hollenbeckís Claudia Quintet

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The innovative percussionist, John Hollenbeck, whom Meredith Monk calls "one of the most brilliant musicians" she has worked with, brings together a huge knowledge of musical forms from around the world, from jazz to chamber music to varied folk forms. The result is an intricate blend that defies categories "Innovative jazz does not have to be harsh, angry, loud, shrill, or grating; it can be delicate, witty, ethereal and radiantly lyrical, as the Claudia Quintet pointed out," concluded Howard Reich (Chicago Tribune) after hearing the band. As demonstrated on the group's self-titled, 2002 CD, and in earlier recordings with his Quartet Lucy, Hollenbeck orchestrates compelling, idiosyncratic, ambitious music. Down Beat wrote: "Drummer John Hollenbeck has traveled among jazz, contemporary classical, and pan-ethnic folk music with the agility of a seasoned commuter on the New York City subway."

He has ideal fellow travelers in this quintet.

Matt Moran is a vibraphonist with a revolutionary approach to the instrument, and experience in everything from the songs of Charles Ives, to the microtonality of Joe and Mat Maneri, to Balkan music (which he plays and teaches).

Seattle-raised saxophonist Chris Speed, performing with the likes of Tim Berne, Dave Douglas, and Myra Melford, and leading his own Pachora and other bands, is one of the leading saxophonists on the New York scene.

Ted Reichman, on accordion, has demonstrated his range and imagination working with everyone from avant-gardist Anthony Braxton, to klezmer artist David Krakauer, to pop star Paul Simon.

Drew Gress (who appears later in this festival with his own project) is a first-call New York bassist who works with Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Don Byron, Fred Hersch, and others. He, Reichman, Speed, and Moran also form the Balkan-swing band, Slavic Soul Party, while Speed and Gress have teamed in the bands of Dave Douglas and others.

To capitalize on his quintet members' familiarity with one another, Hollenbeck's compositions display, as Howard Reich of the Tribune put it, "substance and ingenuity," while the quintet elegantly "delved into neo-baroque fugal writing, African and Middle Eastern melody and classical chamber music techniques."

#2 Johnny E

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 05:58 PM

We had our final rehearsal today. Man these tunes are fucking hard. It's gonna be good...NorthWest jazz fans be advised.

#3 RDK

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 06:16 PM

Wish I could be there, John. I love Scott and would be very interested in hearing your interpretation of his tunes. You guys thinking of recording?

btw, what's a "Monktail?"

#4 Chuck Nessa

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 06:22 PM

Can you get Dorothy Collins to do vocals?

A pic of Snooky Lanson on the cover would be great. :)

#5 Johnny E

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Posted 27 October 2006 - 07:36 PM

Wish I could be there, John. I love Scott and would be very interested in hearing your interpretation of his tunes. You guys thinking of recording?


Yes. There will be a pro video team recording it as well.

btw, what's a "Monktail?"


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Edited by Johnny E, 27 October 2006 - 07:37 PM.


#6 chewy

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 01:31 AM

JOHNNY E'S BAND WAS FUCKING FANTASTIC. IT WAS THE BEST JAZZ SHOW IVE SEEN IN A MILLION BILLION YEARS. IT WAS COMPLETELY INTENSE BUT ALSO FUN. JOHNNY E WILL U EVER PLAY THE R. SCOTT CHARTS AGAIN AT ANY OF YOUR CLUB GIGS? IF SO I WILL NOT MISS IT!!!! TOO BAD YOU DIDNT GET TO "CLOSE" THE SHOW: THE BAND AFTER YOU MADE WE WANNA VOMIT, WITH THEIR MEANDERING 'ECM' STYLE JAZZ. YOU GUYS FAR AND AWAY STOLE THE SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!


CAN U RECCOMEND SOME EARLY SCOTT CDS FOR ME AND US HERE; IVE HEARD SOOTHING SOUNDS FOR BABY AND ALL THE SYNTH STUFF BUT THE JAZZ IN ****INCREADIBLE***, AND YOUR ARRANGEMENTS WERE AMAZING


I REMEMBER IN THE EARLY 90S, MAYBE WHEN HE DIED, BACK B4 MTV WENT COMPLETELY DOWN THE TOILET, KURT LODER DID A QUICK PIECE ON SCOTT AND HOW HIS MUSIC IS USED IN REN N STIMPY. I LIKED THE 1ST REN N STIMPY ONE U DID AND U ALSO DID A 2ND TOWARDS THE END, THE REALLY FAMOUS ONE, WHATS THAT ONE CALLED? U KNOW THE ONE W/ THE ATONAL BASS LINE. THE ONE THATS USED IN REN N STIMPY WHEN REN N STIMPY ARE IN THE GAS CHAMBER TRYING TO HOLD THEIR BREATH, IN THE ARMY?

I GOT THEIR 1 SEC B4 U WENT ON AND I AM --------SO------ HAPPY I WENT- IT WAS TRULY AMAZING

#7 chewy

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 08:06 AM

I CANNNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW GOOD THIS CONCERT WAS--IT IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANIY THEY DIDNT BOOK YOU DOING THAT TWICE DURING THE FEST

#8 chewy

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 05:14 PM

hi everybody: chewy-chew-chew back reporting here--


I STILL CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW GOOD THIS CONCERT WAS. IT IS A SHAME YOU HAD TO SUPPORT THAT 2ND ACT. IF YOU WERE TO OPEN FOR ANYONE AT THE JAZZ FEST IT SHOULD OF BEEN BOOBY HUTCHERSON OR ANDREW HILL.


FORGOT TO TELL U JOHNNY E: THE 2 DRUMMER THING WAS VERY GOOD. YOU WERE THE PRINCIPAL DRUMMER AND THE OTHER GUY DID AXUILLARY STUFF, RIGHT? IT SOUNDED FANTASTIC.

IT WAS HARD TO REALLY GAUGE THE BAND MEMBERS TALENTS @ THE SEAMONSTER WITH IT BEING SO DRUNK N CRAZY AND LATE BUT I WAS SERIOUSLY IMPRESSED W/ YOU GUYS PLAYING THIS MUSIC. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.

NEXT TIME U DO IT THOUGH U SHOULD RUN REN N STIMPY CARTOONS, SILENT, IN THE BACKGROUND!!! OH HELL YEAH!

#9 chewy

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Posted 29 October 2006 - 05:20 PM

oh yea oh yeah johnny e i dont think u were there but 1/4 way thru the 2nd set, w/ the other band: they band member asked the audience, CAN ANYONE NAME THE TUNE WE SNUCK INTO THAT LAST NUMBER?

and 1st one old chick suggested they played a segment of "the peanut vendor"-- and he said 'nope'- then someone else said was it {x-dont remember(?)} then since other people were already talking, Chewy proclaimed:

"I DUNNO, BUT WHATEVER IT WAS, IT PROBABLY WAS ON "ECM"!!"


and a few of the bearded jazz fans in the aud. got it and laughed- i totally called them out on their meandering, pointless brand of "ECM" style composition

#10 Johnny E

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 01:25 PM

FORGOT TO TELL U JOHNNY E: THE 2 DRUMMER THING WAS VERY GOOD. YOU WERE THE PRINCIPAL DRUMMER AND THE OTHER GUY DID AXUILLARY STUFF, RIGHT? IT SOUNDED FANTASTIC.


Yes, I played mainly kit (I was in command of the only bass drum after all) and Mark Ostrowski played auxillary percussion (i.e. bells, whistles, woodblocks, cowbells, wooden cracker and rachet, sleigh bells, etc.)
Thanks man, you were not the only one who liked it. The entire crowd seemed to really dig it. How many would you say were ther, 200, 250? We sold every Monktail disc we brought that night. I only brought 10 Reptet discs and they were all gone before the Claudia Quintet started...shoulda brought more.

#11 Johnny E

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 01:27 PM

oh yea oh yeah johnny e i dont think u were there but 1/4 way thru the 2nd set, w/ the other band: they band member asked the audience, CAN ANYONE NAME THE TUNE WE SNUCK INTO THAT LAST NUMBER?

and 1st one old chick suggested they played a segment of "the peanut vendor"-- and he said 'nope'- then someone else said was it {x-dont remember(?)} then since other people were already talking, Chewy proclaimed:

"I DUNNO, BUT WHATEVER IT WAS, IT PROBABLY WAS ON "ECM"!!"


and a few of the bearded jazz fans in the aud. got it and laughed- i totally called them out on their meandering, pointless brand of "ECM" style composition



Ah, man. I thought that John Hollenbeck was cool. Some of that stuff they were doing is very difficult to execute. Not neccesarily my cup of tea per se, but they we damn good.

#12 chewy

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 05:05 PM

r u going 2 andrew hill tonight?

#13 Johnny E

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:09 PM

r u going 2 andrew hill tonight?


Can't. No babysitter.

#14 Guy

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 11:09 PM


r u going 2 andrew hill tonight?


Can't. No babysitter.


Have you thought of hiring Aric as your babysitter? :crazy:

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#15 Johnny E

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 02:26 AM



r u going 2 andrew hill tonight?


Can't. No babysitter.


Have you thought of hiring Aric as your babysitter? :crazy:


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#16 chewy

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 03:05 AM

woudlnt that mean then *I* would miss the concert?

#17 Johnny E

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 02:54 PM

woudlnt that mean then *I* would miss the concert?


No, because your chew chew Chewy, Aric evil twin.

#18 Johnny E

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 06:15 PM

If you missed it the first time, well we're doing it again! Voted The Best Northwest Jazz Performance of the Year by Earshot Jazz Magazine Readers Poll...

Earshot's Art of Jazz Series Presents
The Monktail Creative Music Concern's Raymond Scott Project
Thursday, November 8th at the Seattle Art Museum

5:30PM-7:30PM
Free w/ museum admission

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Read more about it in this months Earshot Jazz Magazine (pages 9 & 10)

Edited by Johnny E, 07 November 2007 - 06:16 PM.


#19 Johnny E

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 02:23 PM

Great show folks! I don't think any board members were there...not even Chewy. :(
BUT....Jim Wilke of NPR's Jazz After Hours was there to record it and he said he will be playing excerpts on his show on 11/18. I'll try to get more details and post them in a bit.

#20 Johnny E

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 02:54 PM

Jim Wilke was there at the Seattle Art Museum and recorded it for broadcast on his "Jazz NW" radio program. It aired yesterday and is now available online here. Check it out. It was fun. And we may be coming to a town near you!

#21 Joe G

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Posted 19 November 2007 - 02:57 PM

I'll be sure to give it a listen - congrats on all the good stuff going on!



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