IF YOU see characters dressed as Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck converging on that solidly Edinburgh New Town watering hole, Whigham’s Wine Bar, on the evening of 31 March, fear not: you haven’t somehow tumbled into the plot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The bar’s regular Sunday night jazz club is celebrating its fourth anniversary with a gig that promises to be “animated” in more ways than one.
The guest band is drummer Stu Brown’s Raymond Scott Project, which plays the cheerfully manic music of the American bandleader, composer and inventor, whose compositions are most widely known for their use in Warner brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons. In 2008, by way of celebrating the centenary of Scott’s birth, Brown and his sextet, including such familiar Scottish jazz figures as pianist Tom Gibbs, Martin Kershaw on clarinet and trumpeter T om MacNiven, made a critically acclaimed album, Twisted Toons: The Music of Raymond Scott.
With such wilfully eccentric titles as Square Dance for Eight Egyptian Mummies, Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals and War Dance for Wooden Indians, Scott’s compositions may come over as breezily anarchic, but in fact they constitute some of the most demanding music Brown and his colleagues have tackled. “Quite a lot of it is written in a way that doesn’t necessarily suit the instrument it’s played on,” Brown explains, “because Scott wrote from the piano and just played the music to his musicians and they learned it all by ear.”
Which meant that when Brown and his band tackled Scott’s music, he had to transcribe much of it from original 1930s recordings.
The Glasgow-based drummer first became acquainted with Scott’s music in the 90s, when he heard a radio programme about the music that accompanied Warner Brothers’ cartoons: “Although I’d seen the cartoons before then, it was the first time I’d knowingly heard Scott’s music.
“It sounded like nothing else I’d ever heard. Although it was made in the 30s and there’s an element of that in the piano and rhythm section, there’s also something about it that sounds really out of context and out of its time – so much fun but also almost otherworldly-sounding. Scott’s been described as the Frank Zappa of his day.”
During the 1950s, the Brooklyn-born Scott (real name Harry Warnow), who died in 1994, led the band for the popular CBS radio show Your Hit Parade, but he also experimented with electronic music, devising an early form of synthesizer. The 36-year-old Brown also juggles numerous musical hats. Quite apart from the Raymond Scott Project, which embarks on a Hebridean tour in May and June, he can be found in such diverse company as pianist Chick Lyall, classical guitarist Simon Thacker’s Camerata Ritmata fusion outfit and an improvising drum quartet with Tom Bancroft, Chris Wallace and Fritz Welch, not to mention performing Brazilian music with Mario Caribe at Glasgow’s Boteco do Brasil. He has a long-standing Sunday night rendezvous at Glasgow’s 78 with bassist Euan Burton and pianist Tom Gibbs, tomorrow night he plays the city’s Stereo club with his own trio, while on the afternoon before his Whigham’s gig, he’ll be in Livingstone’s Howden Park Centre in the ranks of clarinettist Dick Lee’s enjoyably unclassifiable Dr Lee’s Prescription.
Back at Whigham’s, celebrating its fourth year of delivering Sunday night jazz, April’s programme sees 20s and 30s blues and jazz specialist Liz Dicks, appear on the 7 April, the Perthshire based Alabama singer Maria Speight performs on the 14th, and on the 21st Alison Affleck, another champion of vintage jazz, launches her new album Vieux Carré at the club.
It’s safe to say, however, that only at the Raymond Scott Project gig can you enjoy genuine Looney Tunes cartoons being screened along with the music. You are advised to dress accordingly.
• For further details see www.whighams.com and www.raymondscottproject.com
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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