Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I Get Ideas (Adios Muchachos)

It’s YouTube time again, folks, and today I’ve chosen a song that many people associate with Louis Armstrong but it’s one that unfortunately never maintained a steady presence in his live shows with the All Stars: “I Get Ideas.” The song itself was originally an Argentinian tango titled “Adios Muchachos” and was written by Julio Cesar Sanders with Spanish lyrics by Cesar Felipe Verdini in 1927. The tune remained popular on the tango scene throughout the 30s and 40s but didn’t have English lyrics fitted to it until Dorchas Cochran wrote them in 1951. Tony Martin was the first to record the English lyrics in April of that year and by May, he had a hit that would stay on the charts for 30 weeks, peaking at number three according to Joel Whitburn’s somewhat dubious Pop Memories book. Peggy Lee was next, recording it for Capitol in May while Decca finally presented Armstrong with it on July 24, a seminal session that also produced the most famous version of “A Kiss To Build A Dream On.”

On the Decca record, Armstrong was backed by Sy Oliver studio group that included trombonist Cutty Cutshall and future All Star Billy Kyle. The record opens quietly with a lovely clarinet trio, even though discographies list Milt Yaner as the only clarinet play on the date. Clearly, at least one of the other reeds was doubling, at least to my ears. It’s a lovely introduction, very atmospheric, a feel that Pops keeps up with his tender, straight muted reading of eight bars of melody. Billy Kyle, about to embark on a few years of Broadway piano playing for Guys and Dolls, turns in a commercial-sounding transition leading to an absolutely charming vocal. Armstrong’s voice is almost completely without gravel and he approaches the lovely tenor sound of his 1930s Decca recordings. The bridge is tailor-made for Armstrong’s voice and when he reaches the final high C (vocally speaking), you can practically hear him smiling. Eddy Duchin, er, I mean, Kyle plays another transition and Pops takes off on his horn, the band backing him with some oomph after playing so politely for the first 2:20. I know I’ve written it before but it’s worth repeating: the Decca studio held some kind of magic spell over Armstrong’s horn. He never had a single bad day for Decca in the 50s and even on the silliest commercial trifle (which “I Get Ideas” was not), he always managed to turn in a peak solo. He does so again on “I Get Ideas,” not so much with super high notes, but rather with passionate held notes and typically slippery rhythmic phrasing. He reprises the last four bars, throwing in a classic “Babe” for good measure and can’t help laughing at the very end of the record. Again, according to Whitburn, Armstrong had a hit that lasted for 16 weeks on the Billboard charts and peaked at #13.

He soon performed it on Bing Crosby’s Chesterfield radio show in November (recently reissued on a Storyville two-C.D. set of Armstrong’s appearances on Crosby’s show from 1949-1951), selling certain lines with a winking tone to his voice, breaking up the audience every time. Remember, by this time audiences had been saturated with Tony Martin’s straight version so to hear Armstrong “Satch-urating” it with his own special gifts must have been quite a treat. A few weeks later, Armstrong reprised it at a concert at Pasadena’s Civic Auditorium, performing it with Les Brown’s big band backing him. Even Brown’s piano player plays Billy Kyle’s lines verbatim, so they might have been written into the arrangement. Some rowdy fans in the crowd yell out at the start the vocal but Armstrong gets through his vocal (sending a “Yeah, man” their way early on) and still gets his laughs with his slurred rendering of the title phrase. Armstrong’s trumpet is particularly fierce on this version, worth checking out on the Itunes release of Louis and His Friends.

Unfortunately, there are no versions of “I Get Ideas” with the All Stars during this period. It did crop up during a live broadcast in 1953, but otherwise, it seemed to disappear for quite some time, unlike it’s sessionmate, “A Kiss To Build a Dream On,” which became a staple of almost every show. However, in November 1957, Armstrong dusted off “I Get Ideas” at a very appropriate time: a tour of South America, broadcasting it from a series of concerts in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It then disappeared again, but it made one last stand during Armstrong’s long European tour of 1959. By this point, he was ending the song by singing the original title, “Adios Muchachos,” something that probably started during the Buenos Aires concerts. Numerous versions exist from the 1959 and they’re all terrific, including the one on volume three of Storyville’s In Scandinavia series.

On February 15, 1959, the All Stars recorded a high-octane short set at live concert in Stuttgart, Germany. The six songs were broadcast on the SDR network and thanks to the friendly online world, all six are available on YouTube. My favorite is “I Get Ideas,” which is listed on the original title card as “Adios Muchachos.” Here ‘tis:

The All Stars—with Trummy Young, Peanuts Hucko, Billy Kyle, Mort Herbert and Danny Barcelona—give Pops very sympathetic support. Young and Hucko harmonize nicely behind Pops and the rhythm section manages to swing very effectively at such a slow, slow tempo. Kyle’s tango-like piano flourishes are fun but it’s Pops’s show throughout. He sings the vocal with such affection and I think the trumpet solo is stronger than the one from the original 1951 record. I get the chills when he begins blowing, slowly striding away from the rest of the band as the camera cuts to that shot of Pops standing at the front of the stage, horn held high, dispensing that sound that has never been duplicated.

Alas, after Pops’s heart episode later that year, “I Get Ideas” became one of many All Stars numbers that did not survive into the 1950s, though according to Jos Willems’s All of Me, Pops did dust it off during another European concert in 1962, probably as a request. Thus, though we don’t have a hundred versions to choose from, the handful of “I Get Ideas” that do survive are all wonderful and the 1959 video especially gives a glimpse into the genius of Louis Armstrong’s later years. I’m still playing catch up, so if you haven’t checked in in awhile, this is my third entry in three days and I hope to have another one for tomorrow. Til then!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Piece of art!