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Oct. 12: Pulp Superhero Doc Savage Inspires Scott Robinson Doctette's "Bronze Nemesis"

SOURCE: Published:
Scott Robinson Bronze Nemesis (Doc-Tone Records DT-01), featuring Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
Scott Robinson
b.1959
reeds
, Randy Sandke, Ted Rosenthal, Dennis Irwin, Pat O’Leary & Dennis Mackrel


Twelve fantastic musical adventures inspired by the amazing worlds of Doc Savage, pulp novel hero of the thirties and forties. Join composer/saxophonist Scott Robinson and his co-adventurers Ted Rosenthal, Randy Sandke, Dennis Irwin, Pat O'Leary and Dennis Mackrel as they investigate The Secret in the Sky, The Man Who Shook the Earth, Weird Valley and nine more astonishing mysteries. An ambitious musical undertaking, ten years in the making, featuring the giant contrabass sax, theremin and other amazing sounds. Endorsed by original Bantam paperback artist James Bama, and featuring his iconic pose of Doc on the front cover.

Ever wonder what a person could become, what one could be capable of, if all of their mental and physical potential were fully and completely realized? What if a regimen of intensive, scientific training and physical exercise were undertaken from childhood, overseen by a team of specialists dedicated to raising every capability of the human body and mind to the highest possible level of development? What if not one day, one moment, were wasted in the relentless pursuit of such a goal?

Most would probably snap under the strain. But perhaps one in a million would become a great scientist, inventor, and thinker, possessing phenomenal strength and iron determination, with an unmatched keenness of perception and an astonishing memory for the smallest detail. Add to that a strong moral character, unwavering courage combined with an essentially gentle nature, and an intense drive to be of service to humanity, and you would have someone capable of incredible accomplishments—someone able to help humanity on a grand scale. You would have Doc Savage.

Known as the Man of Bronze, a physical giant whose “strangely compelling eyes" are like “pools of flake gold stirred by something invisible... as if small whirlwinds of thought were mirrored in them," Doc Savage—aka “bronze nemesis," “man of tomorrow" and “being of mystery" — was the archetypal pulp adventure hero. Doc's bronze-hued body is “like metal in more than looks," yet his physique - though striking - is actually the least interesting thing about him. Trained from the cradle by a team of top scientists, Doc became a leader in the fields of chemistry, electrical engineering, and brain surgery... a prolific inventor whose well-equipped laboratories produce a stream of startling scientific devices... an expert pilot whose Hudson River hangars (disguised as decrepit warehouses) house an eye-popping collection of airplanes, dirigibles, and autogyros of his own design... even a jazz clarinetist and noted composer whose performance credits include Carnegie Hall! But, above all, it is the perilous and unselfish work of saving lives and “righting wrongs" that demands the utmost of Doc's remarkable abilities.

In nearly 200 pulp novels published in the thirties and forties, Doc matches wits with a succession of ominously named villains such as Ool, Mandroff, and “the fiendish Var," and invariably spoils their party. He has saved hidden civilizations from destruction, prevented evil gangs from toppling world governments, and even fended off an invasion of floating aliens armed with a deadly melody—a succession of tones that no human brain could withstand.

Far-fetched? Sure. The books were products of their time, and were aimed at a young audience. But these stories are also prophetic in many ways. In a 1933 episode, Doc has a “robotic answering device"—we would say “answering machine"—which records phone calls on a piece of wire. In 1937, he flies what is clearly a jet aircraft, although the term had not yet been invented. Doc also served as a prototype for many later characters who borrowed shamelessly from his ideas, such as James Bond (all those amazing gadgets), Superman (the Arctic laboratory retreat known as the “Fortress of Solitude"), and Mr. Spock of Star Trek (the paralyzing neck pinch). Doc was, in many ways, ahead of his time.

As a kid, I amassed a large collection of the Bantam paperback reprints of these stories, and became fascinated with them. The evocative titles and the striking cover art of James Bama certainly helped. Many years later, I began to think about Doc Savage again, and it struck me that many of the titles were very suggestive of music. When Ben Allison of the Jazz Composers Collective in New York City invited me to mount a concert of original music for their series, I decided to go with the idea, and began work on a series of compositions based on the titles of Doc Savage adventures. I selected nine titles for the premiere performance, carefully considered the musical implications of each, and then, as I wrote, chose sounds that I felt would bring the both the titles and the music to life. The result was a crowded and somewhat treacherous stage for our first performance in March of 2001, with the giant contrabass sax nearly toppling over at one point! Thanks to my wife Sharon's sharp wits and quick reflexes, springing into action from the front row with a determination worthy of Doc himself, disaster was averted and the show was a success. I was encouraged when Loren Schoenberg, reviewing it for his NYC column in Jazz UK, called it “without exaggeration... one of the best jazz concerts I have ever attended."

It took me some years to get around to recording all of this material (by then I had added a couple more pieces to the suite), and then, following the completion of the master, it took another three years to round up all of the permissions needed to legally use Doc's name and likeness on the CD. There were some discouraging moments when it appeared that I would not succeed... but I was unwilling to put the recording out without the cover scheme I envisioned. The Doc Savage character was the raison d'etre for the whole project. No Doc, no music! Ultimately my patience paid off, and with the gracious cooperation of Condé Nast, Random House, and cover artist James Bama, all the required pieces fell into place. Here at last, some ten years after the premiere, is the realization of my most ambitious project to date: Bronze Nemesis.

I should point out that I am not the first musician from the jazz sphere to have been fascinated by Doc Savage. The great Ruby Braff used to chat with me on the phone about Doc. I still have an answering machine message left by arranger Bill Finegan, asking if I remembered a particular episode in which Doc made a miraculous escape after being encased in a block of ice. And I recently learned that John Coltrane was an avid reader of the original Doc Savage pulps as a very young man. It is interesting to speculate how much Coltrane, famous for his long hours of diligent practice, might have been inspired by the intensive exercise regimen Doc undertook every day in which he exercised not only every muscle in his body but also his mental faculties, his hearing... even his sense of smell!

Music is always ready for inspiration to come from any source, and Doc Savage, the very idea of Doc Savage, provides all the inspiration one could hope for. And how can one not hear music when contemplating such titles as “The Man Who Shook the Earth" and “The Secret in the Sky"? Here, then, is music inspired by the amazing worlds of Doc Savage. – Adapted from the liner notes by Scott Robinson

About Scott Robinson

One of today's most wide-ranging instrumentalists, Scott Robinson has been heard on tenor sax with Buck Clayton's band, on trumpet with Lionel Hampton's quintet, on alto clarinet with Paquito D'Rivera's clarinet quartet, and on bass sax with the New York City Opera. On these and other instruments including theremin and ophicleide, he has been heard with a cross-section of jazz's greats representing nearly every imaginable style of the music, from Braff to Braxton. Scott has been heard numerous times on film, radio, and television, and his discography now includes more than 200 recordings.

A busy traveller, Scott has performed in some forty nations, once completing tours on five continents in a three-month period. He has performed in such diverse and prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, the Library of Congress, and the Vienna Opera House. His performances for dignitaries worldwide have included a U.S. Presidential Inauguration and a command performance honoring the birthday of the king of Thailand. Scott's group was selected to be the closing act at the Knitting Factory's Sun Ra Festival in New York City. Scott has also written magazine articles and liner notes, and was an invited speaker at the Congressional Black Caucus Jazz Forum in Washington, D.C.

Scott has been a staunch advocate for creative music around the world. He was selected by the US State Department to be a Jazz Ambassador for 2001, completing an eight-week, eleven-country tour of West Africa performing his arrangements of the compositions of Louis Armstrong (later featured on his CD Jazz Ambassador). In 2012, Scott served as artist-in-residence at the weeklong Ancona Summer Jazz Festival in Italy. He is currently serving as musical host of the Annual Louis Armstrong Jazz Festival in Hungary.

Scott's many works as a composer cover a very wide range, from solo performance pieces, jazz tunes and songs, a suite for jazz quintet based on the titles of Doc Savage pulp novels of the thirties and forties, and chamber works such as his Immensities for Large Instruments, on up to large-scale compositions for wind band, symphony orchestra, and even combined orchestras.

The son of a piano teacher and a National Geographic writer/editor, Scott Robinson was born on April 27, 1959 in New Jersey, and grew up in an eighteenth century Virginia farmhouse. While in high school, he received the “Louis Armstrong Award", and the “Best Soloist Award" from the National Association of Jazz Educators. In 1981, he graduated from Boston's Berklee College of Music, and a year later became, at 22, Berklee's youngest faculty member.

Since moving to New York in 1984, Scott has been awarded four fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, and participated in a number of Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning recordings. Now a resident of Teaneck, NJ, Scott has constructed a studio/laboratory for sonic research, containing an astonishing assortment of instruments and devices. His first solo and collaborative recordings from this facility have begun to appear under his own ScienSonic Laboratories imprint, including Nucleus, and Live at Space Farms with longtime Sun Ra saxophonist Marshall Allen. Forthcoming projects include a duo session with pianist Frank Kimbrough, and Creative Music for 3 Bass Saxophones.

A respected performer in all areas of jazz, from traditional to avant-garde, Scott Robinson has arrived at his own unique musical voice which, as once described in a Northsea Jazz Festival program, “combines solid foundations with great daring".

Doc-Tone Records is a subsidiary of ScienSonic Laboratories LLC, a home for adventurous and far-reaching music.

Note: The October 12 release date of BRONZE NEMESIS coincides with the birthday of Lester Dent (1904-1959), creator of the Doc Savage character and the primary author (under the pen name Kenneth Robeson) of the Doc Savage pulp fiction novels published in the ‘30s and ‘40s.


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