Thursday, August 9, 2007

Someday You'll Be Sorry

Recorded June 10, 1947
Written by Louis Armstrong
Recorded in New York City
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Bobby Hackett, cornet; Jack Teagarden, trombone; Peanuts Hucko, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Ernie Caceres, clarinet, baritone saxophone; Johnny Guarnieri, piano, celeste; Al Casey, guitar; Al Hall, bass; Cozy Cole, drums
Originally released as “Some Day” on Victor 20-2530
Currently available on CD: It’s on about a million CDs. The original can be found on Falling In Love With Louis Armstrong RCA Victor 63623-2
Available on Itunes? There are over 30 versions of this song on Itunes (though, yes, many are duplicates)

Well, it took long enough, but after over a month of keeping up this blog, my Itunes shuffle finally caught a track that became a staple of the All Stars’s regular repertoire. If you don’t mind, I’d like to talk about how the song evolved in different performances from the last 24 years of Armstrong’s life (and if you do mind, quit now because this might take a while!). Armstrong wrote, “Someday You’ll Be Sorry,” though the melody is very, very similar to a pop song, “Goodnight Angel,” written by Herb Magidson and Allie Wrubel and recorded by Mantovani, Artie Shaw and even Armstrong himself on the 1957 Decca album Louis and the Angels. But Armstrong always liked telling the story about how he wrote the song. Here’s his telling from a U.S. News & World Report feature on Armstrong from 1955: “We was in North Dakota or South Dakota, or somewhere. It was cold and this thing kept runnin’ ‘cross my mind, like dreamin’ a musical comedy. And this ‘Someday’ was the theme of this show. So, we was asleep. Lucille was sound asleep. But I got up in my pajamas and got me a piece of paper and pencil out. I say, ‘I’m gonna lose it if I don’t write it down.’ And she wakes up and say, ‘Are you all right?’ I said, ‘I’m all right.’ But the next day I had it, and we looked at it…and everybody liked the tune.” Armstrong would also say he wrote the lyrics with his third wife, Alpha Smith, in mind.

On May 17, 1947, Armstrong headlined the famous concert at Town Hall where the All Stars would be born. On June 10, Armstrong made a session for Victor under the “All Stars” banner, even though the official band hadn’t debuted yet (and wouldn’t until an August stay at Billy Berg’s in California). Held over from Town Hall were Bobby Hackett on cornet, Jack Teagarden on trombone and Peanuts Hucko on clarinet and tenor saxophone. Armstrong also obviously had fond memories of a V-Disc session he did in 1944. In addition to Teagarden and Hackett, that session also featured Ernie Caceres on clarinet, Johnny Guarieri on piano, Al Hall on bass and Cozy Cole on drums, four musicians recruited for the Victor session (with Caceres sticking mostly to baritone this time around). A hot “Jack-Armstrong Blues” and a version of “Rockin’ Chair” were already in the can when Armstrong recorded “Some Day.” It must rate as one of the most delicate recorded performances of Armstrong’s career, made moreso thanks to the elegant touch of Guarieri’s celeste. Even Down Beat magazine described “Some Day” as “a pretty thing not in the usual Satchmo groove.”

Armstrong’s horn plays the melody fairly straightforward with emphatic support by the rhythm section. This performance has the feel of a ballad but actually has a nice walking swing to it, coming in around 100 beats per minute. The horns come in with the vocal, playing a tightly arranged obbligato that sounds like something Armstrong would have played. His vocal is very tender and heartfelt without a trace of joking around or scatting. Teagarden’s up next with a beautiful trombone solo that remained in all of the live performances of the number. Armstrong doesn’t play any more trumpet but he doesn’t have to as the vocal is beautiful enough.

Nine days later, another pre-All Stars concert was held at the Winter Garden Theater in New York at the premiere of the movie New Orleans. Once again, Armstrong was joined by Hackett, Teagarden, Hucko and Caceres, while, from the Town Hall concert, Dick Cary now played the piano and George Wettling and Sid Catlett split the drum duties (Jack Lesberg, a future All Star, was on bass). Fred Robbins introduces it as Armstrong’s newest composition and talks about how it came to Armstrong in his sleep. Then Teagarden begins playing the melody in what sounds like the wrong key! Naturally, being Teagarden, he creates a gorgeous 12-bar introduction that sticks with the listener after he or she hears it, but soon Armstrong enters with a modulation and plays his melody in the correct key. The tempo is a shade slower than the studio record and this time the horn harmonize behind the trumpet lead (with a typically lovely Hackett obbligato peaking around the sunshine). Unlike the record, the band doesn’t play the arranged lines behind the vocal; instead, snippets of cornet and clarinet can be heard softly in the background. Teagarden phrases the melody beautifully in his eight-bar spot before Armstrong finishes it vocally. (This version is available on the Storyville CD Live at Winter Garden, New York and Blue Note, Chicago, also on Itunes.)

Flash forward to March of 1948. The All Stars are officially a band with Teagarden, Barney Bigard on clarinet, Arvell Shaw on bass, Sid Catlett on drums and new member Earl “Fatha” Hines on piano. The band was recorded performing it in Paris and from the outset, things are swinging. From 100 beats a minute, we’re now around 130. Hines’s introduction is a little off and he seems to hit a few wrong notes around the ways, but he manages to stay busy, as usual. Bigard stays in the chalumeau register of the clarinet during the opening ensemble and it’s lovely. Together, Bigard and Teagarden continue to play ensemble roles behind the Armstrong’s vocal “lead.” I love Sid Catlett, but his accents don’t sound totally appropriate…slowly the delicacy of the original recording is wearing off! Teagarden’s trombone solo, complete with playing the melody higher in the second half, is becoming set. Sadly, this version isn’t available on disc and that’s a crime (wake up, Europe, the copyright ran out nine years ago!).

Hines has a better grip on the song by the time of a broadcast from Ciro’s in Philadelphia on June 5, 1948. The tempo’s almost the same, maybe a shade slower and Catlett’s drumming fits better than it did in France. Teagarden improvises a completely different beginning to his solo before playing with the melody in the second half. The performance is much tighter had gelled very nicely in the year since the original recording. This is how Armstrong would continue to record it for some time but on August 27, 1949, Armstrong appeared on The Eddie Condon Floor Show where he performed “Someday” with vocal backing by Helen Cherell and The Swan-Tones. So used to playing the melody straight with the All Stars, Armstrong’s enters by playing the melody at the same time the Swan-Tones start singing it. Realizing it clashes (and that he’s master of the obbligato), Armstrong begins improvising a perfect obbligato around the vocal group, the first time his trumpet has played anything but straight melody since the original recording. The tempo is still in a medium groove and Teagarden responds well with an almost completely new, improvised solo. Armstrong’s vocal takes it out as usual but it’s a worthy performance to hear the trumpet obbligato in the beginning (this one is available on some cheapie discs, including a disc on Itunes, The Early Years, Recorded Live 1938-1949).

By 1951, Sid Catlett had moved on (and then passed on, incidentally) and he was replaced by the somewhat dry Cozy Cole. This edition of the band played “Someday” at a Pasadena concert in January 1951, recorded by Decca and currently available on The California Concerts. Interestingly, the tune seems to have gone backwards in tempo at this point. Armstrong sounds like he tells Hines, “Nice and easy” in the introduction and now the tempo is around 120 beats per minutes instead of 130. In this performance, delicacy is back in a big way. Cole’s brushes simply beat the time with few accents. Arvell Shaw’s bass plays a two-beat pattern and Bigard once again sticks to his lower register. Teagarden’s busy but Hines is almost lost in the mix…they sound like they’re trying not to wake up the neighbors in the opening chorus. But then Bigard seems to perk up before the vocal, while Arvell starts walking. Armstrong sounds completely joyous as the vocal and even exhorts Teagarden to “Play it pretty, Jack,” which Big T naturally does. This is a lovely version, one that has been included on a few Armstrong compilations but it serves as one of the last times Armstrong played “Someday You’ll Be Sorry” so softly.

Why? Because on October 22, 1953, Armstrong entered the Decca recording studios make one of the best sessions of his later years, fronting a Toots Camarata led studio band dubbed “The Commanders.” Armstrong’s chops were in phenomenal shape on this date but he really outdid himself on the majestically swinging version of “Someday.” Never mind not waking the neighbors; this version sounds like they’re trying to break a lease! The tempo’s now around 138 beats per minutes, not much faster than where it was in the late 40s, but the rhythm section gives it a little more oomph, led by Ed Grady’s explosive drumming. As with the All Stars, Armstrong takes his own melody in the beginning, playing with a soft mute in his horn and now answering his melody statements with some nifty improvised phrases. The band ushers in the vocal with a literal explosion and it’s a fine vocal, as always. But instead of getting eight bars of trombone, the listener is treated to over a minute of pure Pops blowing. The tension begins to build as you can hear drummer Grady switch from brushes to sticks towards the end of the vocal. A perfect four-bar setup by the band leads to one of my favorite Armstrong solos of the 50s. Forgetting the melody, he begins low, playing a nice, tumbling low phrase towards the beginning of his solo (what rhythm this man had). The use of space is effective as well. Sufficiently warmed up, Armstrong begins climbing high at 2:17 in, playing the melody up and infusing it with more blues than customary. The band rushes in like a tidal wave but Armstrong blows them back into the background, ripping off four high concert Bbs before deciding to play the melody an octave higher, a favorite trick of his he adopted after hearing B.A. Rolfe in the late 20s. It’s one of those, “He’s not going to make it moments” but of course he does, topping out at a dramatic high concert C that shakes this listener to his soul (and he ends the record with a high Db!). This version seemed to stay under the radar for years but Decca included it on one compilation a few years back and all of a sudden, it’s on a ton of best-ofs and definitive collections. As well it should be as it’s, I think, one of Armstrong’s best solos of the 1950s, even if the pretty, soft feeling of the original performances of “Someday” is obliterated.

With a brand new way of approaching the song, it was time to update the All Stars’s treatment of “Someday.” As I said, the Decca big band version was from October 1953 and the next recorded All Stars version of it is from a broadcast from New York’s Basin Street club in August of 1954. It’s a fine performance, but it’s clear that some kinks have to be worked out. Barney has no problem as he basically plays the same part he always has. But Pops now takes a second trumpet chorus in the beginning where he incorporates some of his improvisations from the Decca record. He sounds stiff at a few points and he’s still in the formation stage of working out his solo, but it’s still nice to hear him improvise on the tune’s great changes. Having already doubled the length of his trumpet solo, Armstrong also sings two choruses, the second one filled with scats, little asides and even a well-placed “Mama.” It swings like mad but again, the tenderness of his early vocals is pretty much gone, but you can’t argue when presented with such swinging joy. Armstrong also worked out a routine where he would say as an aside, “Broken record,” then start chanting, “Take it, Trummy, take it, Trummy,” much like, well, much like a broken record. Young’s solo would become pretty set in due time so it’s interesting to hear him work out his ideas. In his obbligato behind the vocal, he hints at a quote from “Can’t We Be Friends” (the first line, “I thought I found the man of my dreams”). Obviously seeing it fits, he places it at the start of his second eight bars and it fits like a glove, remaining there until Young left at the end of 1963.

Just five months later, in January of 1955, the All Stars recorded it live for Decca during a long concert at Hollywood’s Crescendo Club (also available on The California Concerts). The tempo, around 140 beats per minute is absolutely ideal (kudos to the swinging rhythm section, now with Barrett Deems’s tasteful brushes) and Pops sounds much surer of himself in the opening trumpet choruses. Trummy and Barney still improvise quiet obbligatos behind the vocals but Trummy’s muted solo is now explosive, Deems switching to sticks behind him. This might be my favorite live version by the All Stars.

Less than a year later, in December 1955, the All Stars found themselves in a movie theater in Milan, Italy, where they recorded a batch of numbers for inclusion on the album Ambassador Satch. One of the numbers was “Someday You’ll Be Sorry” and though it wasn’t released until the year 2000, it’s a damn good version. Edmond Hall is now on clarinet and though he follows Barney’s low register blueprint, his choice of notes and overall grittier sound fit the ensemble better. Pops’s second trumpet chorus (still muted) now has a little more juice, shooting out a couple of remarkably high concert Dbs towards the end. Differences: the tempo is now around 150 bpm and to compensate, Arvell Shaw plays two-beat patterns until the vocal, at which point he begins to walk. Also new is the nifty little riff behind the vocal. After years of soft improvising by the other horns, Trummy, Edmond and Billy Kyle team up on a catchy riff (it’s been used by others but the one example to leaps to my mind is the opening of Hal Singer’s “Cornbread”). This would be the pattern Armstrong would follow quite some time, though the tempo never again was quite as fast as in Italy: Shaw continued the two-beat, Trummy was told to “take it” like a broken record and responded by quoting, “Can’t We Be Friends,” the horns riffed behind the vocal and everything swung happily. It was the kind of song that Armstrong didn’t play at every concert and by the late 50s, he seemed to be phasing it out, saving it for movies (The Beat Generation) and TV appearances…ASCAP royalties always helped out! Dale Jones joined on bass in 1956 and dispensed with the two-beat playing in the opening ensembles. Also, Armstrong stopped going for the Dbs, and instead smoothed out a tricky quick-fingered phrase he first worked out on the Basin Street and Crescendo Club appearances. By June 1956, the horns had another riff to place after the “Cornbread” riff. The All Stars were no “Dixieland” band and hearing the smoothness of the background riffs is a testament to the solid swing and updated sensibility of the group.

Speaking of Dixieland, Armstrong recorded “Someday” with the Dukes of Dixieland in 1959, giving the opening melody to Dukes trumpeter Frank Assunto, played over two-beat rhythm before Armstrong enters with his set solo over a more swinging backdrop. Not using a mute, Armstrong wails a bit more towards the end, hitting the high Db and glissing down to an F…very impressive playing for a guy who newspapers were reporting to have died just three months earlier! The Dukes really swing out on Armstrong’s second vocal chorus, coming up with a different, simple riff that really seems to spur Armstrong on. On an alternate take, Armstrong’s trumpet enters very unsteadily but the rest of his solo is fine. Why Armstrong’s complete recordings with the Dukes aren’t available on CD is another crime and would make a perfect project for a Mosaic Select box set. Anyway, if you go on Itunes and look up the different Armstrong versions of “Someday,” there’s a bunch that clock in between 4:08 and 4:10…those are the versions with the Dukes, even though none is labeled that way. Definitely worth checking out.

In 1962, Armstrong performed “Someday” for a film made by Goodyear. The tempo is perfect and the rhythm section anchored by Danny Barcelona’s drums and Billy Kronk’s bass really swings (no brushes or two-beat here!). And Pops’s chops are in A-1 shape, nailing those Dbs he didn’t always go for in the second chorus. The background riffs are tighter than ever (though the second riff debuted in 1956 is gone). Enough words from me, thanks to the power of YouTube, enjoy it for yourself!

I’m telling you, if you don’t feel it when Armstrong launches into that second vocal chorus with “Lookee here, mama” and when Trummy bounces to his own solo, you’re not living!

Still, perhaps the tightest version of “Someday” Armstrong ever performed with the All Stars was done for the Hello, Dolly album. By this point, the band knew the routine so well, they could probably play it in their sleep. But again, the rhythm section does wonders (aided by the Freddie Green-style guitar by Glen Thompson) and new trombonist Russell “Big Chief” Moore fits perfectly (he always claimed this was one of his favorite songs). Armstrong only plays one chorus of trumpet but he conveys all he needs to in it, splitting the chorus between melody and improvisation. The Hello, Dolly album is sometimes shrugged off as an album of showtunes and remakes but I love the remakes of this one, “Blueberry Hill” and “A Kiss to Build a Dream On,” three songs that the All Stars became so tight on as the years passed. Compilations always choose the original studio versions, and there’s obviously nothing wrong with them, but these tight, swinging studio remakes are wonderful in their own right.

“Someday” disappeared for the most of the rest of the 60s but did return at the very end. Returning after his long illness in 1968 and 1969, Armstrong made a number of TV appearances in 1970, usually playing his own compositions, “Someday” and “Pretty Little Missy.” One of the most poignant moments of Armstrong’s career came on the Dick Cavett Show on January 13, 1970. It was Armstrong’s first day back on TV since the illness (earlier that day, he had performed “Someday” on the Today Show) and feeling strong, he decided to bring his trumpet along, against doctor’s wishes. I haven’t heard the Today Show version but I know it was done with Doc Severinsen’s orchestra and that Armstrong played trumpet on it. Maybe he burned himself out, but by the time he performed it on the Cavett show, his chops were tired. What’s worse is that instead of taking a short solo, the arrangement forces Armstrong to take two full choruses in the beginning AND a solo after the vocal AND a final trumpet break! In 1960, it would be been a great arrangement but in 1970, it’s just a little too much for the ailing Armstrong to handle. He starts off with his usual melody chorus but the tone isn’t as bright as it used to be. Where he once went up in the second eight bars, he’s forced to go down. He plays the melody well but it sounds like he’s blowing with all he’s got and it’s still hard to even produce this much volume. Still, he soldiers on to a second chorus, which he always used to begin with three Dbs leading up to an F. Playing it safe, he sticks to four low Dbs, though his phrase still epitomizes swing. When he tries to hit a simple Eb, it cracks a bit. As he goes on, he gets stronger, still not hitting anything above a Db but there’s a melancholy feeling to the solo that works, especially when he reverts back to the melody a few times. Fortunately, his voice is in fine shape and he sings his customary two choruses. And then it’s time for another trumpet solo. There’s a very delayed entrance as he obviously makes sure his chops are ready to blow. Again, the tone is tired and the sound is smaller than ever but the solo still has dignity and he even hits an F above the Db he couldn’t get past in his first two choruses. After a half-chorus, he starts sounding more comfortable, when all of a sudden he remembers he’s supposed to come back with the vocal, which he does, reprising the old “Broken record” line and listening carefully as the band goes into a extended coda. The arrangement ends with a spot for a perfect Armstrong trumpet break but he only gets five notes out, cracking the last one, before he rips the horn from his mouth to sing a final, “Someday!”

When I first heard this version of “Someday” on an obscure Italian CD on the Moon label, tears welled in my eyes. It’s so sad to hear him so diminished but as I’ve listened to it more and more, I’ve learned to look past the sadness of it and embrace the dignity of the solo. Playing the trumpet was his life and he was going out doing what he loved. He put down the trumpet for a while and when he returned to the Cavett show on July 29 of 1970, Armstrong once again performed “Someday” but stuck purely to singing, leaving the trumpet at home. The arrangement is the same, minus the trumpet spots and Armstrong fills in the break at the end with some very exuberant scatting.

But don’t cry for Louis Armstrong. By the end of 1970, he was once again playing the trumpet, if not as much as he used to (for a fantastic example of what he could still do, search YouTube for the clip of Armstrong on the Johnny Cash Show in October 1970….it’s 1924 all over again!). Armstrong even returned to the Cavett show in February 1971 and played trumpet on “Ole Miss.” Lucille Armstrong told Cavett’s announcer Jack Barry, “You know, Louie’s been quite sick. I’m so happy to see him back there. All he was worried about, would he ever blow that horn again.”

[Note: I’m getting my Cavett information from the private tapes at the Armstrong Archives at Queens College. DVDs of Cavett’s shows are starting to pop up, including one whole volume devoted to Ray Charles’s appearances. Armstrong should get the same treatment as these are some of the last testaments of the greatest jazzman of all.]

Well, that’s all I have for “Someday You’ll Be Sorry,” one of my favorite Armstrong songs and a song that works well at all tempos (check out Eddie Condon’s group tearing it up on Columbia in the 50s). Hopefully, the next time I hit shuffle, it’ll be a singular track so I don’t find myself writing a term paper again, but I hope this stuff is interesting to somebody, anybody, out there. It keeps me listening closely to Armstrong and even on a song on which I have about 20 versions in my collection, I’ll always keep hearing new things. Til next time….Red beans and ricely yours,

1 comment:

Sandor_Clegane said...

Just wanted to say these posts are written with intelligence, interest and an infectious love for music.

As a musician and all-around music nut myself, I enjoyed several of these articles greatly, and walk away with a far greater appreciation of the music, and the artist too. Cheers!