Louis Armstrong and His Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra
Recorded July 21, 1930
Track Time 3:19
Written by Joseph McCarthy and James F. Hanley
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Leon Elkins, trumpet, conductor; Unknown, trumpet; Lawrence Brown, trombone; Leon Herriford, Willie Stark, alto saxophone; William Franz, trombone; L.Z. Cooper, piano; Ceele Burke, steel guitar; Reggie Jones, tuba; Lionel Hampton, drums
Originally released on OKeh 41442
Currently available on CD: It’s on the recently reissued JSP two-disc set The Big Band Sides, 1930-1932, as well as about a hundred other discs
Available on Itunes? Yes
Today’s entry will be dedicated to Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, AIG, Lehman Brothers and all the other suspects involved in creating this economic crisis we’re currently suffering through: “I’m in the Market for You.”
I was going to spin the ol’ Itunes shuffle today and write about something fresh but while riding back from New York last night, this track came on my Ipod and I figured there would never be a better time to give this Armstrong classic an in-depth, Capitol Hill-like interrogation.
In 1929, the stock market was riding high and all of America was prospering. So Fox decided to make a film to capitalize on the Wall Street phenomenon in America. The film was High Society Blues and though I’ve never seen it, I did find this synopsis of it on the Turner Classic Movies website:
“After selling his business in Iowa, Eli Granger and his family move to an exclusive Scarsdale area in New York, where by chance he occupies a house adjacent to Horace Divine, a wealthy businessman with whom he made his business transaction. Although the Divines scorn their nouveaux riches neighbors, the children, Eleanor Divine and Eddie Granger, meet when Eleanor aspires to learn to play the ukelele under Eddie's tuition. Eleanor's mother is arranging to marry her to a foreign count, but she falls in love with Eddie; and while their fathers are warring on Wall Street, the children elope and in the end bring peace and prosperity to both families.”
Now doesn’t that sound like a happy film? Edwin M. Bradley described it as a “silly mix of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’” in his book The First Hollywood Musicals. Unfortunately, while filming it, Wall Street laid its famous egg in October 1929. Somehow, they continued onward with the filming, releasing it to mediocre reviews in March 1930. Star Janet Gaynor “hated” the film and let it be known that she couldn’t sing and didn’t want to appear in musicals. The film disappeared and has never been released on DVD or even VHS, as far as I can tell.
Because it was a musical, the film naturally featured a few new songs, everyone of which is forgotten except for “I’m in the Market for You,” which must go down as having one of the most ironic meaning changes in the history of music. The publishers of “I’m in the Market for You” deserved a helluva lot of money in their Christmas bonuses for even having the nerve to push this song and get it recorded by so many popular artists. But that’s just what happened in 1930. Sheet music was even published with the stars of the film, Gaynor and Charles Farrell, on the cover, as can be seen in this poor quality image:
From a recording standpoint, the biggest hit was done on Victor by George Olsen complete with a vocal by one of Olsen’s saxophonists, Fred McMurray! Dig it:
I’ll never look at Walter Neff the same way again! That’s some cheery stuff, a nice happy love song comparing found love to the recently-plummeted stock market. In case you couldn’t make them out, here are the original lyrics:
I'll have to see my broker
Find out what he can do.
'Cause I'm in the market for you.
There won't be any joker,
With margin I'm all through.
'Cause I want you outright it's true.
You're going up, up, up in my estimation.
I want a thousand shares of your caresses too.
We'll count the hugs and kisses,
When dividends are due,
'Cause I'm in the market for you.
Charming, huh? I don't even know if many in the population could even afford shares of caressing back then (I think they're still available on the NYSE, though, listed as CRS for about 86 cents a share). Olsen had the hit record but naturally he wasn’t the only one to take a crack at it. The song crossed the pond for this very nice version by the popular British dance band Ambrose and His Orchestra, featuring trumpet by Sylvester Ahola and clarinet by Danny Polo to keep the early jazz enthusiasts in the crowd enthused. According to the knowledgeable YouTube commentators, the tenor solo is by Joe Jeannette and Eric Siday plays the violin at the end of this hot Lew Stone arrangement. Enjoy!
I rather like that one myself (please pronounce “rather” in a terrible British accent to get the full effect). Here’s the Cunard Dance Band, which, according to the web, might be a pseudonym for the California Ramblers, though I can’t prove it. The trumpet/accordion dialogue is interesting. But for Armstrong purposes, please listen to the vocal, especially the touch of falsetto at the end. This is how we sang before Pops, people!
So with that out of the way, let’s turn to Pops. This was the second tune recorded on the same session with Vernon Elkins’s band that also begat “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas).” For the official particulars on the band and Armstrong himself during this California period, please check out that entry, posted in June. Hell, while you’re at it, listen to “Ding Dong Daddy” to see just what kind of shape he was in that summer day. And with the fireworks of that tune finally over, it was time for “I’m in the Market for You.”’ Listen along by clicking
As can be heard, the tempo is slower than any of the other previous versions, but it’s not quite a ballad, as some others later treated it (Earl Hines recorded a version that barely has a tempo). The very first sound of the record is a steel guitar--quick, someone get Gunther Schuller off that ledge! Ceele Burke, a California mainstay, is the plectrist in question and though he also played regular guitar and banjo (as he did on “Ding Dong Daddy”), he is best known in early jazz circles for the steel guitar contributions he made to various Armstrong records of the period as well as making a few sessions with the likes of Duke Ellington (“Lazy Man’s Shuffle”) and Fats Waller (“Am I in Another World?”) records in the 30s.
There’s a lot going on in the beginning of this record and though it might seem a little sloppy, the combination of the bouncy tuba, Lionel Hampton’s swinging drums, Burke’s steel guitar arpeggios and some static harmonies from the horns is very atmospheric. The melody is tailor-made for Armstrong and he dispenses with any formalities by playing it an octave higher right off the bat, nailing a high concert D before playing a singing high Eb, one of the highest notes of his range (he hit a high F at the end of “You’re Lucky to Me” in this period...but barely). After four bars of mystifying melody, he plays a favorite chromatic phrase of his that would be used for years by Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as a host of other trumpeters (Jon-Erik Kellso used it last night at Birdland).
The record is 14 seconds old and already, it’s a classic. To prove he was feeling good, Armstrong doesn’t change a note of the melody in the second eight bars, once again hitting the high D and Eb without any trouble. The bridge is beautifully played the by the young Lawrence Brown, his light, singing tone already something to marvel at. Maybe I’m nuts, but I like Burke’s guitar peaking through the cracks. The Elkins reed section takes the last eight and though it’s not exactly a Benny Carter group, they don’t hurt anyone.
After a short piano interlude, Armstrong contributes one of his most touching vocals of the period. Just minutes earlier, he was scatting like a madman on “Ding Dong Daddy” but he is much more sober here, even charming with his asides such as “oh, you sweet little you.” Again, go back and watch those YouTube videos. Those singers represented American popular singing before Bing and Pops got through with it. I mean, there’s nothing on those records that remotely sounds like anything Armstrong was doing. Just listen to how he rephrases the “Margin I’m all through line,” not even really finishing it, but still conveying all the necessary emotion. He physically forces the rhythm section to swing more just by the way he enters the bridge. And though there’s no sane reason to repeat “dividends are do,” he does just that and the effect is lovely. I think it says a lot that just a few short years later, there would be nothing on records that sounded remotely like those falsetto band singers.
Knowing that Brown was one of the strongpoints of the band, the trombonist, Brown follows the vocal with 16 bars of gorgeous improvising that, to my ears, are just as much a part of this song as the written melody. Every note is perfectly placed and there’s even a little tribute to Armstrong with Brown’s phrase at the end of his first eight bars. Then Burke comes up and gets his innings and I think it’s a winner. Yeah, it’s a novelty of sorts, but it would have fit into a country record just fine and clearly, Burke’s comfortable with the blues, too.
Armstrong enters on a perfectly poised break, taking it from the bridge and sounding very relaxed., though Hamp’s pushing him hard with those drum accents. Knowing a good thing when he’s got it, Armstrong spends the final 16 bars of the record once again playing the melody fairly straight, rephrasing it sparingly but absolutely killing the high D and Eb at the end. A very sweet record.
Armstrong never recorded the tune again, which is one of my biggest regrets. Could you imagine if he had tackled this one on the Autobiography session? He probably would have slowed it a tad and he would played the high notes even more dramatically, with more raw power than he did as a younger man. Oh well, at least we have the original and if there’s anything that can get us through the turmoil of this economic crisis, it’s Pops.
Birdland was a “gassuh” last night, as usual. David Ostwald’s band was tremendous as usual, with only two holdovers from the last time I was there two weeks ago: Jon-Erik Kellso and the stride monster Ahud Esherie (in addition to the leader on tuba, who naturally is always there). Dion Tucker was aboard on trombone, Kevin Dorn was on drums and the always scintillating Anat Cohen was on clarinet. Seriously, is there a finer clarinetist in the country today? She never makes a wrong move. Positively incredible playing, especially on her feature of “Shreveport Stomp.” Other tunes performed: “I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby,” “Star Dust,” “Melancholy Blues,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Limehouse Blues” and others that I know I’m forgetting. In the audience, I finally got to meet my fellow Armstrong biographer Terry Teachout, who was a delight. George Avakian stopped by to congratulate me on the book deal, which was really very nice. Also, the great Michael Steinman of the “Jazz Lives” blog was in the house, as was
Armstrong nut Al Pomerantz, my good friend Mark Ipri and the man who made the whole book thing happen...my agent Tony Outhwaite! I’m sure I’ll be back in October but even if I’m not, please drop by at Birdland some Wednesday because the music is always great and at a $10 cover charge, it’s a bargain. And as Ostwald himself said, all of money goes to needy families: those of the band members.