Who Was Bobby Scott? - JazzWax

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May 29, 2009


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Larry Kart

Don't know the two Bethlehems but used to have a copy of the ABC-Paramount and recall liking it, for the writing and John Murtaugh, an interesting but obviously not that well-known player who IIRC sounded a bit like Jack Montrose. Also, again IIRC, there was something a bit Montrose-like (and/or Jimmy Giuffre-like) about Scotts writing -- a clever, cute (arguably too cute at times), folksy-bluesy, at times programmatic strain. I've ordered the Fresh Sound and will reacquaint myself with the ABC music and hear some Scott that's new to me. Finally, though I don't recall where, I read some Scott reminiscences about working and hanging out with Lester Young that were touching, though I recall thinking as I read them that, as Ira Gitler said, Scott must have been a very tightly wound guy.

Michael Steinman

I think the beautiful prose that Larry remembers -- Bobby hanging out with Pres on a JATP tour -- was first printed in Gene Lees' JAZZLETTER, and it may also have emerged in Frank Buchmann-Moller's irreplaceable biography of Lester, YOU JUST FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE. Bobby Scott saw Pres in a most endearing personal way.

Keep on keeping on! Michael

Jason Crane

Darn it! Now I've got to go buy more music. Knock it off, wouldja?

David Brent Johnson

Scott's remembrance of Pres came to my mind as well when I read this post. I first encountered it in the Robert Gottlieb-edited anthology, READING JAZZ. Beautiful prose indeed.

Arnaldo DeSouteiro

Hi Marc,
Firstly, I must congratulate you for the excellent post about Bobby Scott.
Secondly, I must tell you that Bobby was a dear friend of mine - sadly, mainly during his last years, when we increased our correspondence.

Luiz Bonfá, another close friend I miss so much, introduced us in the mid-80s, when I starting to work as Bonfa's producer. Bonfa and Scott were very close since the early 60s. Bonfa always referred to Scott as a genius. And Scott referred to Bonfa as a... genius!

From 1987 to 1998, Bonfa and I were neighbors at the Barra da Tijuca area in Rio de Janeiro, we used to visit each other at least three times a week.

Many many times when I was at Bonfa's home, he showed me works (songs, albums, arrangements) by Scott. "Listen to this cello passage, listen to this flute detail," he used to say while listening to Bobby's scores. Bonfa always was all smiles. He was particularly fond of Scott's brilliant arrangements for an album titled "Braziliana," which Scott arranged/conducted/produced (besides having played piano too) for Bonfá in New York back in 1965; a CD reissue came out last year on Verve's "Original" series. It's a sublime album, with the most subtle piano backing and the most subtle string arrangements I've ever heard.

Later on, Bobby Scott produced Bonfa's groundbreaking "The Gentle Rain" soundtrack for the Mercury label. Oddly, despite the fact that the film was a big fiasco, its soundtrack became very popular, to the point that its main theme achieved the status of a jazz standard, having received over 200 recordings (from Jimmy Smith to Diana Krall).

Bonfa also loved Scott's orchestrations to his song "Non-Stop To Brazil," recorded on Quincy Jones' "Quincy Plays for Pussycats" (Bobby was the uncredited arranger and piano player throughout the album...)

In the late 80s, Bonfa also introduced to Scott his guitar protegé Carlos Barbosa-Lima, with whom Bobby immediately started a strong musical partnership, writing many guitar pieces for Barbosa-Lima (even beginning a guitar concerto that was never completed and many other solo pieces recorded on the guitarists' albums for the Concord label) and recording many chamber-music sessions with him that remain unreleased. Among them, such fantastic suites like "Solitude Book," "Book of Hours" and a trio masterpiece with Eddie Daniels (playing flute!) titled "All About Amber" aka "Suite Informal."

However, no label showed interest in releasing such material. Not to mention the magnificent works for NY harpist Gloria Agostini, great songs written to (and performed by) Jackie & Roy and so on.

I invited Scott to perform at a jazz festival in Rio, but he politely refused. "I'm not one to be lumped together with others, and my first inclination is to say no to the trip. But I will give the festival some thought and maybe change my mind. I have had a very different type career than have most of the players you know. I have avoided being part of such affairs in the past, including even the Newport Festivals. And I do not have much interest in the other players on a bill, frankly. I had something entirely different in mind. I had desired to play a few concerts with Carlos, a couple even with strings if possible, to show the breadth of what we've been doing over the last few years. Its hard to explain, Arnaldo, but if I had my own way it would not be as it looks like it may be..." he wrote me in a letter dated October 1st, 1989.

One of the dozens (maybe over one hundred) letters we exchanged for years. Attached, please find scans of some of them.

In another letter, he suggested me: "What about a Scott/Bonfa album as well? To play/sing in a nightclub with Brazilian musicians of a jazz bent would also be something worth doing for myself. It isn't for monetary reasons I suggest all these things, Arnaldo. Its just that its a long way to Rio, and it seems like I should do more than a concert."

When I was finally able to prepare "the big plan," a big tour, Bobby was beginning to lose his battle against cancer. He was not allowed to travel anymore.
But he kept sending me many private tapes of new (and still unreleased) recordings I treasure, as well as copies of two of his books unpublished, "Not By Sail" and "Retrospect." Both are very haunting.

On April 29, 1990, he wrote me a letter to thank for a review I had published about his latest CD, "For Sentimental Reasons," and he added: "Fifteen years ago I wanted to record an album and call it 'The Last Bobby Scott Album'! I was so tired of being avoided by the critics, and tired of the companies not working to sell my efforts. So, I wanted just one more swing at the bat, and then I'd call it a day, and go back to purely composing and forget entertaining the club. But life is odd. The people from Musicmasters now want a new album, plus two more, one of all my comps, and a totally 'blues' album, of whatever I deem ought to go into it! And they're working on my albums, so things, like life, can change, and DO change for the better, I happily report."

Still referring to "For Sentimental Reasons," he mentioned about the superb version of the standard "That's All":
"I am indeed proud of my faith, and proud I am a Catholic. And most of all I am enriched by the gift of Belief God Himself has instilled within me from my birth. So, Arnaldo, there is what is in the album. The joy of pleasing God with the gifts He has given me... The lyrics of 'That's All' have always been to me the voice of Christ speaking to life from the Cross. If you listen to it again, and note ecah word you'll see what I am driving at. He is in everything, wheter we hear Him or not!"

I've mentioned all of that and have enclosed copies of such letters because I felt I should share such meaningful and insightful commeents with people like you and Ira Gitler, who are not only jazz historians, but above all jazz lovers. Music lovers!

Last but least, a curious detail: I was the one who told Creed Taylor that Bobby had passed away. It happened when Creed invited me for lunch, back in October 1990, at a restaurant near the CTI office - the Gotham, at 12th Street, between University Place and 5th Ave. As you certainly know, Creed and Bobby worked together many times, even on a Wes Montgomery album ("Movin' Wes") for Verve.
Woosh, 'nuff said.
Take care,
Arnaldo DeSouteiro (heading to NY for Diana Krall's concerts at Carnegie Hall)

joey Altruda

Does anyone out there know of his Verve single with Gene Krupa's trio of "She's Funny That Way" and "Danny Boy" ?
It's incredible and I've never seen another copy other than mine (on 78 rpm).
I'm wondering if he cut more material from this session. I have seen no mention of it in my net search so far.

Anthony Virgilio

Bobby Scott was one of my heroes. I am fortunate to have in my library two of his LPs, My Heart In My Hands and Star. They're almost impossible to find and show off his singing and arranging for big band and strings in a style uniquely his own. There is so much to listen for in his work it would take forever to realize every nuance.
Unfortunately, I never saw him perform in front of a live audience,
I do have some albums and all of his work released on CD and that will have to suffice. Thanks to all who posted and related their experience and friendship with Bobby. All of my life I wanted to be an composer/arranger, in my sixties that came to fruition, but nothing like Bobby Scott.

D. J, Then

I am trying to find a copy of Bobby Scott's recording of The Young Years....if you have a copy or can tape a copy for me, please let me know; [email protected]

Ray Murray

I was a radio DJ in the 70's when I met Bobby. We became fast friends - I even served as his manager for a moment. He was as sweet as he was brilliant. One fond memory is when he took me into St Pats bought me a holy ring and had it blessed.
Ray Murray

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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