Composed by Raymond Scott; arranged by Wayne Barker and Will Holshouser.
Recorded by the Raymond Scott Orchestrette for Evolver in April 2002 in New York.
Wayne Barker, piano, melodica and Farfisa; Brian Dewan, electric zither, koto; Michael Hashim, alto and soprano saxophones; Will Hoshouser, accordion; Rob Thomas, violin; George Rush, bass; Clem Waldmann, drums.
As a special holiday treat, I am trying something a bit different here at swingandbeyond.com. And I am doing it using the music of one of the swing era’s most peculiar musicians, Raymond Scott. Although this post presents and discusses a third version of Raymond Scott’s brooding 1953 composition “Naked City,” this one a masterful rendition by the Raymond Scott Orchestrette, recorded in 2002 (for two other versions, please click on the link below), this post is also an unabashed paean to Manhattan, which of course was the inspiration for Scott’s “Naked City,” as well as for the 1947 Hollywood film having the same name.
As those of you who visit swingandbeyond.com from time to time know, I have a special relationship with New York City, which began in 1968, when I took my first trip there. I have been very fortunate to have returned to the city many times since then, with many different people, and have made some good friends over the years in New York. And, most importantly, my daughter and son have lived there for the last decade. To me New York has come to represent an intoxicating amalgam of natural beauty, architectural marvels, delightful neighborhoods, world-wide cultures, and most of all, dynamic humanity. Whenever I am in New York, I am on a higher emotional stratum.
Events over the last nine-plus months have made it impossible for me to visit the city, and I am having a bit of Manhattan withdrawal as a result. So I think a good way to deal with that is to listen to music that evokes Manhattan, and look at some images of the city. I hope that you agree.
The story: In the late 1980s, Irwin Chusid, the man who over the next decades would prove to be a dynamic producer not only of reissues of Raymond Scott’s classic recordings from the swing era, but also of a number of recordings of Scott’s music by contemporary bands and orchestras, became interested in Scott, the man and his music. Eventually, he was able to meet Scott, who had had a debilitating stroke in 1987 which left him unable to speak or work. (Scott died on February 8, 1994.) With the cooperation of Scott’s wife, Mitzi, Chusid piloted a number of Scott projects that have resulted in making Scott’s music accessible to people today.
One of the most unusual of those projects was the one in 2002 when the band called the Raymond Scott Orchestrette (a very Scott-like moniker) recorded a CD of Scott compositions including a marvelous meditation on Scott’s composition “Naked City.” (Evolver EVL2003-2) Here are a few of Chusid’s words explaining that: “We hope this album demonstrates both the imaginative nature of Scott’s idiosyncratic compositions and the adventurous stylings of the Raymond Scott Orchestrette, who take a decidedly unconventional approach to Scott’s music. The impishness and daredevil colors of the originals remain, but the arrangements don’t sound like vintage artifacts – they resonate with imaginative contemporaneity.” (1)
The music: Mr. Chusid’s use of the word “unconventional” to describe this music is particularly apt. As this performance progresses, we ask: Is this Middle Eastern music? Is it Eastern European music? Is it Klezmer? Or is it just swing, played with some instruments we don’t usuaslly associate with swing? That stylistic ambiguity, in my view, is good. What is perfectly certain however is that this music is performed by highly talented musicians who capture the mood of Raymond Scott’s original recording of “Naked City,” yet at the same time stamp it with their unique interpretation and individuality.
I hope that you enjoy the music as you browse through the “Naked City” gallery of images below. At the bottom of this post are captions/titles.
Captions/titles for images above.
(1) Lower Manhattan looking south from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building.
(2) Mike Zirpolo on the 70th floor terrace of the RCA Building (now 30 Rock), looking south – 1978.
(3) Feast of San Gennaro on the streets of Little Italy.
(4) Looking at the tower of the Empire State Building from street level a few blocks away.
(5) Washington Square and Fifth Avenue looking north – from south of the square and above.
(6) Lolling on the grass at Bryant Park – looking south.
(7) The Dakota in December – looking west from Central Park.
(8) The Chrysler Building from street level – Second Avenue and East 47th.
(9) What was the middle of the legendary 52nd Street jazz district – at Sixth Avenue.
(10) Iconic towers (Chrysler and Empire State Buildings).
(11) Bow Bridge – Central Park.
(12) Neighborhood west 70s, looking west just west of Central Park.
(13) 8 Spruce Street Tower – from the west entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.
(14) The George Washington Bridge from the south wall of the Cloisters.
Notes and links:
Here is a link to two other great performances of Raymond Scott’s “Naked City”: https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/06/07/naked-city-music-of-raymond-scott/
(1) Liner notes to The Raymond Scott Orchestrette – Pushbutton Parfait, Evolver EVL2003-2, (2002) page 3, by Irwin Chusid.
And here is a link to the very worthwhile Raymond Scott website: https://www.raymondscott.net/
Here is a link to some music that has nothing to do with Raymond Scott, but is very noirish, and good for introspection:
The music presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.