If you were to identify the music from Book Of Rhapsodies as cartoon music and asked to name specifically which cartoons, it might be easy to guess your age. The baby-boom generations would call bandleader Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra's music the soundtrack to Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam and might guess Carl Stalling. X-Generation would identify the soundtrack to the show Ren & Stimpy. Older folk would know Stalling adapted much of his music from originator Raymond Scott. But then, we would be identifying listeners of the music from the 1930s.
The 1930s is where Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra begins its journey. Like his debut Hothouse Stomp: The Music of 1920 Chicago and Harlem (Accurate, 2011), the erstwhile can be, err quite wild.
Focusing on four leaders, Carpenter brings to life (maybe back to life) the music of The Alec Wilder Octet, The John Kirby Sextet, The Raymond Scott Quintette, and Reginald Foresythe and His New Music. Each bandleader drew from jazz, but moreover adapted classical music into popular sounds. "Charlie's Prelude" and "Beethoven Riffs On" written by Louis C. Singer for Kirby's Sextet that featured Charlie Shavers (who eventually gained fame with Tommy Dorsey). The music is tightly arranged, it had to be because of the length of 78s, and intricate. Here Carpenter calls upon jazz luminaries saxophonists Petr Cancura and Andy Laster, clarinetist Dennis Lichtman, and drummer Rob Garcia to execute the precise arrangements.
That intersection of jazz and more formal music necessitated skilled musicians. Raymond Scott was known for grueling rehearsals and little tolerance for improvisation. His precision is parodied on "The Happy Farmer" with Brandon Seabrook's banjo swinging over the chorus of the Book Of Rhapsodies Choir. Scott's better known composition "Celebration On Planet Mars" is extended to over nine minutes and Carpenter allows for a re-imagining of the original with some eerie effects and floating solo by trombonist Curtis Hasselbring.
The mostly forgotten music of Alec Wilder is the gem here. His music was discovered on 78s and transcribed by Carpenter. The orchestra covers four pieces, "Dance Man Buys A Farm," "It's Silk. Feel it!," "Children Met the Train," and "Her Old Man Was (at Times) Suspicious." While not familiar with the originals, his music could easily have been the raw materials for Warner Brothers cartoons, if Raymond Scott hadn't come along.
Charlie's Prelude; Beethoven Riffs On; Volcanic (Eruption for Orchestra); Dance Man Buys A
Farm; At an Arabian House Party; It's Silk. Feel it!; Dawn on the Desert; Happy Farmer; Revolt
of the Yes Men; Children Met the Train; Her Old Man Was (at Times) Suspicious; Celebration
on the Planet Mars.
Brian Carpenter: vocals, trumpet, slide trumpet; Andy Laster: flute, alto saxophone; Dennis
Lichtman: clarinet; Petr Cancura: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Curtis Hasselbring: trombone;
Ron Caswell: tuba; Mazz Swift: violin; Tanya Kalmanovitch: viola; Avi Bortnick: guitar;
Michael Bates: double bass; Rob Garcia: drums; Brandon Seabrook: banjo (8); Matt Samolis:
flute (9, 10); Book Of Rhapsodies Choir: Brian Carpneter: soprano; Yolanda Scott: soprano;
Katie Seiler: mezzo soprano; Tomás Cruz: tenor; Mazz Swift : alto; Joe Chappell: bass.
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