The sophisticated jazz of Cab Calloway – archive, March 1934

8 March 1934: Musical scholars who go to the American bandleader for an explanation of ‘scat’ singing will be sorely disappointed

London
No matter into what ecstasies Mr Cab Calloway urges his audiences at the Palladium he will sorely disappoint the musical scholars who go to him hopefully for an explanation of “scat” singing in terms of aesthetics or musical derivation. When asked today how scat singing came about, and how he devised his “hi-de-his,” “ho-de-hos,” and the other unintelligible sounds, half between a gurgle and a gargle, which he punctuates the rhythm of his “hot” jazz tunes, he shrugged his lean shoulders and said quite modestly that he did not know quite where they came from. They were, he said, improvisations which came into his head as he sang, and he was modest enough to shun the word “inspiration.” Certain sounds suited certain notes, certain rhythmic groups – that was all. And when he was asked how the word scat came about he would only say: “Well, you know, when you say ‘scat,’ meaning ‘get away’ – well it doesn’t mean ‘scat’ in that way,” and discreetly left it at that.

He would not discuss the suggestion that something of the same style of stressing rhythm by uttering meaningless sounds was to be found not so long ago at dances in the Highlands and in the Cumberland hills in farmhouses where no players of instruments could be had and the music for the dancers was supplied by “deedlers.” Mr Calloway wisely talks only about his own art.

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