Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Big Butter and Egg Man - Revisited

Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five
Recorded November 16, 1926
Track Time 3:01
Written by Percy Venable
Recorded in Chicago
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Kid Ory, trombone; Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Lil Hardin, piano; Johnny St. Cyr, banjo;
Originally released on OKeh 8423
Currently available on CD: It’s on any of the various complete Hot Five box sets, as well as a number of compilations
Available on Itunes? Yes

I thought I'd be able to uncork a fresh blog today, but alas, it wasn't to be. However, I'm digging out another old one that originally contained only one audio sample and have now squeezed five more into it, including a rarity or two. Dig it...


Today’s entry is on “Big Butter and Egg Man,” a number that Louis Armstrong approached in a few different ways over the decades, but each time managed to create something memorable. But first: what exactly is a “butter and egg man”? Ah, thank God for the Internet, which makes such quests for useless knowledge as easy as typing in the word “Google.” Apparently, people began using the term “butter and egg man” in the late 1890s, but back then, it was used quite literally to describe someone who (wait for it) sold butter and eggs. However, nightclub performer Texas Guinan is usually credited with popularizing the phrase by giving it a slightly different meaning. To quote the Oxford English Dictionary, the slang term “butter and egg man” refers to “a wealthy, unsophisticated man who spends money freely.” Nothing about farm products in that definition!

After Guinan coined it in 1924, it became the title of a George S. Kaufman Broadway play in 1925. Thus, it was ripe material for song lyrics, which Percy Venable produced in 1926. Venable, the uncle of Lucky Millander, was the choreographer at the Sunset Café in Chicago, where Louis and Lil performed (he later became choreographer for Chicago’s Grand Terrace Ballroom). As a songwriter, Venable wrote four songs that Armstrong performed with the Hot Five: “Sunset Café Stomp,” “Irish Black Bottom,” “You Made Me Love You,” and of course, “Big Butter and Egg Man From The West,” which is how the title appeared on the original OKeh 78.

(Note: the great majority of books, web sites and even C.D. notes credit “Butter and Egg Man” to Venable and Armstrong. However, Jos Willems’s All of Me credits only Venable and since Gosta Hagglof helped with crediting the songwriters, I can’t dispute that team!)

Armstrong recorded “Butter and Egg Man” the same day he recorded Venable’s “Sunset Café Stomp.” Both tunes feature vocals by May Alix (Armstrong spelled her name “Mae,” as we’ll see in a minute). The Hot Five recording of “Butter and Egg Man” has been enjoyed by listeners for over 80 years but many fans of the record probably have no idea who Alix was or why she even appears on the record. I could stiffly answer this but I’d rather let Pops do it himself. Here he is writing in his unpublished memoir, “The Armstrong Story,” written in 1954 (and now available in Louis Armstrong In His Own Words). This story takes place when Armstrong and Lil were still part of King Oliver’s band, playing at the Lincoln Gardens and getting to know each other better every night:

“One night we were alone talking over different things and trying to think of some place to go. I told Lil there was something I wanted to ask her to do. Take me to see Ollie Powers, a tenor, swing singer, and Mae Alix. Ollie was a light [skinned] heavy built fellow. He had just come off the Road with Shelton Brooks, a comedian who reminded you of Burt Wiliams. Ollie was working at the Dreamland with Mae Alix. They were both young at that time, especially that Mae Alix—some vivacious. In all they were great in their field.”

After praising Powers for a paragraph, Armstrong goes into further detail on Alix, writing, “Mae Alix was an attractive, high yellow gal. She had a good voice herself, but she made most of her money in tips. All the big time Pimps, hustlers, and good time Charlies would visit the Dreamland. They would line up a big line of dollars across the floor and Mae would take a long running split and pick up all of those dollars. Sometimes she would have a whole basket of dollars. Those cats would keep her splitting. The dollars would come in so fast sometimes Mae would over look some of the money and the musicians would call her attention nwith the horn and show her all the money she had missed. I was on the edge to meet Ollie and Mae. So one night we got off early and Lil suggested we go over so I could meet them in person. This was a thrill.”

As Armstrong tells the story, when he and Lil met Powers and Alix, Armstrong gave power a dollar to sing a song and gave another dollar to Alix to do a split. “Gee, I thought I was somebody, sporting the up. Two dollars, boy, was I something.” Feeling like a big shot, Armstrong rushed back to tell Joe Oliver what he did. “When I told Joe Oliver, he looked at me and said ump, ump. As if he wanted to say, ‘Why you country so and so.’” Hmmm, what was that definition again of “butter and egg man”? “A wealthy, unsophisticated man who spends money freely.” Sounds like Pops might have had himself in mind when he recorded “Butter and Egg Man”!

Anyway, a few years passed and by November 1926, Armstrong was great friends with Alix and Powers. Thus, it was no surprise to see Alix on the Hot Five 78 coupling of “Big Butter and Egg Man From The West” and “Sunset Café Stomp.” If you’d like to listen along as I give it the blow-by-blow, click here:

Armstrong and the Hot Five start off “Butter and Egg Man” in joyous New Orleans fashion, the ensemble jamming collectively for a full 32-bar chorus. It’s textbook New Orleans: Ory tailgates, Dodds bubbles over the top and Pops sticks the melody as Lil and St. Cyr chug along merrily. Alix then sings a chorus, belting it out with a purely vaudeville, pre-microphone style (and hey, crank up that hi-fi and dig St. Cyr’s tasty banjo playing while you’re at it):

I want a Butter and Egg Man
From way out in the west,
Cause I’m getting tired of working all day,
I want somebody who wants me to play.
Pretty clothes have never been mine,
But if my dream comes true, the sun’s going to shine.
Cause I want, a Butter and Egg Man
Won’t some great Big Butter and Egg Man want me?

Alix’s vocal is harmless enough but can’t compare to Armstrong’s vocal offering, which follows immediately, announced by a down-home, “Here, here!”

Now mama, I’m your Big Butter and Egg Man,
But I’m different, honey, I’m from way down in the south.
Now listen baby—I’ll buy you all the pretty things that you think I need,
As long as I can keep this cornet up to my mouth.
Oh, I’ll play you a little a little minor in G,
And if you say it’s necessary baby, why I’ll even hit high C (ha ha ha ha)
Cause I’m your Big Butter and Egg Man—come here baby and kiss me,
Big Butter and Egg Man from way down south.

Armstrong’s vocal is a gas but it’s not the genius who later completely transformed casual pop tunes and film songs into standards of the Great American Songbook. It’s a vocal of a very vaudevillian nature and, as I’m not the first to point out, shows a great Al Jolson influence. It’s more proof that Armstrong had big ears. The Jazz Singer was still a year away and there’s no evidence that Armstrong ever saw Jolson perform live (though he very well might have in New York during his stay with the Fletcher Henderson band). Anyway, that “Come here baby and kiss me” is pure Jolson, as are the little laughs and spoken phrases. A fun vocal.

However, the trumpet solo that follows is pure Armstrong..meaning, pure genius. Here we see jazz being transformed from an ensemble-oriented music into a soloist’s art: 32 bars of improvisation backed only by a piano and a banjo. Now, this is one of the seminal Armstrong solos of the 1920s and it has been analyzed for decades. Martin Williams selected it for the Smithsonian History of Classic Jazz and in his short write-up of it, he quotes Andre Hodeir (“It is impossible to imagine anything more sober and balanced”) and Gunther Schuller (“No composer, not even a Mozart or a Schubert, composed anything more natural and simply inspired”). So really, what more can I say about it? This is why I feel that writing about the classic Hot Five and Seven recordings in the 21st century is almost a futile project. Really, what else can be said about these wonderful, world-changing records? If I ever have to write about “West End Blues,” I’ll probably spend more time on the 1950s versions than the groundbreaking original!

(2009 note: I did muster up the nerve to write about "West End Blues"...and yes, I spent more time on the later remakes!)

But of course, I can’t completely shut up. Has there ever been a more perfect opening to a solo to the simple three-note motive Armstrong works over three times at the start of his “Butter and Egg Man” outing? So simple, so relaxed, so perfect. The repeated concert D’s at the start of the bridge are thrilling, starting out speedy and gradually puttering to a triplet pattern, sounding like a car about to run out of gas. And the darting in-and-out phrase that connects the end of the bridge to the last eight bars always catches me by surprise, a daring maneuver that sticks out in an otherwise superbly seamless solo. Alix then comes barreling back in for eight bars, making sure those in the back of the theater can hear her voice (did anyone tell her this was for a record?), and the ensemble takes it out for eight joyous bars. An infectious record from start to finish.

Flash forward 21 years. Though “Butter and Egg Man” was probably a regular staple of Armstrong’s Chicago performances of the mid-20s, it does not seem to have lasted into his big band leading days. There are no broadcasts of it, nor are there any mentions of his playing it live in the years that followed. But on May 17, 1947, Louis Armstrong found himself onstage at Town Hall, playing with a small group instead of a big band and focusing on “the golden OKeh days,” in the words of the evening’s emcee, Fred Robbins. Armstrong opened the evening back just by a rhythm section consisting of Dick Cary on piano, Bob Haggart, bass and Big Sid Catlett on drums. After burning through “Cornet Chop Suey” and “Our Monday Date” at the top of his game, Pops turned in a reflective “Dear Old Southland” before setting his sights on “Big Butter and Egg Man.” Let's listen:

However, this performance produced an unintentional bit of comic relief as a possibly still nervous Armstrong waited for Cary’s introduction, picked up his trumpet and…forgot what song he was about to play! He played the first note of “Butter and Egg Man” but quickly turned it into the melody of “Our Monday Date,” which he had already played. Thankfully, Armstrong was surrounded by quick-witted musicians, who, after a beat of confusion, started comping the changes to “Monday Date,” even though Armstrong was now playing it in Ab (the first version was in Bb). Armstrong takes “Monday Date” all the way into the bridge when he finally realizes his mistake. He calls out “Butter and Egg Man” to the other musicians, who keep right on playing in the correct key. Armstrong runs up to the mike and says, “We’re going to swing into ‘Butter and Egg Man,’ folks,” getting a big laugh from the audience. Catlett sets him up and finally after almost a full minute, Armstrong launches into the correct “Butter and Egg Man.” In his insipid Armstrong biography, James Lincoln Collier tried pinning the confusion on pianist Cary playing the “wrong introduction” but that’s nonsense. Cary’s in the right key, Ab, but Armstrong had a simple brain fart and started playing the wrong song. Even geniuses can make mistakes!

However, Armstrong wasn’t through making mistakes on this version of “Butter and Egg Man,” though again, his second mistake results in more laughter. Since he hadn’t probably sang the song since the Sunset Café days, it’s clear that Armstrong didn’t remember the lyrics of the bridge. Like a trooper, Armstrong sings on, making up the words as he goes along:

Pretty clothes, hmmm, the pleasure is mine
Get some work, we’ll both have a time!

Armstrong cracks himself up with his quick thinking but he finishes the vocal and turns it over the Dick Cary, for a swinging solo. Ah, Dick Cary…I know it sounds sacrilegious, but I prefer Cary with the All Stars than Earl Hines. I prefer Hines as a pianist, but Hines didn’t fit the band as well, though he was an “All Star” name. Pops always played better with team players and that’s just what Cary was. He was a sensitive accompanist and a swinging soloist and I cherish all of Cary’s work from his very short stint in the band. Even when Hines joined, Pops played an engagement with Hines and Cary playing two pianos, but Armstrong’s road manager, Pierre Tallerie, known as “Frenchy” but better known as “that asshole Frenchy,” convinced Joe Glaser that Cary was a drug addict, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Cary was let go and Armstrong was forced to deal with Earl Hines headaches for the next four years. It’s another reason why the All Stars were always better with team players. I’m a Yankees fan (which will surely infuriate some of my Massachusetts friends!) and I daydream every day about the glorious, star-free teams of 1996 and 1998. For the last few years, we’ve had every star known to man, and we have nothing to show for it. Am I saying that Earl Hines is A-Rod? Hmmmmm……

After Cary’s full chorus (with great Catlett accents), Pops picks up his horn for two choruses that just knock me out. Okay, sacrilegious time, part two. I love, love, love, love the 1926 original “Butter and Egg Man” and that solo was one of Armstrong’s finest of the period. I’ll never disagree with the likes of Schuller and Hodier on that matter because it’s such a great solo. But—and stone me if I’m wrong—I prefer Armstrong’s Town Hall solo. I realize it’s not as “important” to Armstrong’s career as the original, which was positively revolutionary in 1926. Armstrong’s Town Hall concert came at the same time the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Fats Navarro were changing the way the trumpet was played forever so it’s not a historically important solo. And it wasn’t even released until 1983, so it’s not a track that historians and critics have been able to analyze for 50 years. I’m just saying I prefer it to the original. He opens with the same classic three-note motive, a nod back to his original solo. But once he gets past it, he creates something totally new and fresh. If you have a copy of the Town Hall Concert nearby, pop it in and just listen to the five seconds of trumpet playing from 2:55 to 3:04. It’s not a funny quote or a searing high note. It’s just some of the most rhythmically advanced playing I’ve ever heard. It begins as a simple Armstrong-esque phrase, but then there’s a quick smear downward and another “normal” phrase, followed by a quick tumble into the lowest region of his horn. He follows it with another slippery phrase with some interesting harmonic choices thrown in for good measure. It’s only eight bars and it’s not “West End Blues” but I think it’s some wonderfully creative playing. The bridge is very relaxed, as is the final eight bars, which feature a conspicuous lack of high notes…until wammo! A high Ab leads into a fierce final chorus as Armstrong sticks to the upper register, eating up the chord changes and swinging like a man possessed. He hits some high C’s in the bridge but everything builds to the climactic final eight bars. With Big Sid laying down his favorite backbeat, Armstrong takes the melody an octave higher, beginning on a high C, with a climb to a freakish high Eb, which smoothly glisses back down to a C before a quick, improvised ending. Again, I mean no disrespect to the 1926 version, but man, this is a smoking solo!

Armstrong next encountered “Big Butter and Egg Man” at a Decca recording date on February 6, 1951. The date was arranged by Gordon Jenkins, then one of the most popular arrangers in the country, having arranged four of the top six records in the country in July 1950. Jenkins, a life-long admirer of Armstrong, already gave Armstrong’s recording career a jumpstart by placing Pop’s sandpaper vocal chords over a heavenly sound of strings and voices. The combination produced “Blueberry Hill” and “That Lucky Old Sun” in 1949, Armstrong’s most popular record in years. Though he was a huge name at the time, Jenkins was in awe of Armstrong during that session. “I cracked up,” he remembered. “I walked into the studio, looked over there, saw Louis and broke down. Cried so hard I couldn’t even see him. Later that night I came home, and I was so excited I couldn’t eat my dinner. Then I started crying again. I took it pretty big.” Jenkins managed to arrange a number of Armstrong Decca sessions until 1954 and I enjoy all of their work together. Jenkins always presented lovely backdrops for Armstrong’s vocals, always peppering tem with patented Armstrong phrases. “All the stuff with the strings, I tried to take all of his old licks that he used—and which everybody has used since—and write ‘em for strings,” Jenkins said. “Paraphrase ‘em a little bit for his personal benefit. It broke him up. Broke a lot of people up.”

The February 1951 Jenkins date is an anomaly because it features absolutely zero strings. Instead, Jenkins arranges for a small big band, with friends of his such as Chris Griffin, trumpet, Charles LaVere, piano and Nick Fatool, drums. On the lovely “If,” one of my favorite Armstrong Decca records, Jenkins really indulges in some Pops licks in his arrangement. At the end of the three-tune session, Armstrong remade “Butter and Egg Man.” Here's how it came out:

Jenkins didn’t have much to do on this one, writing a four-bar introduction and staying out of the way as Pops and Velma Middleton sing three choruses. Jenkins slows down the tempo from a jaunty jam to an almost Basie-ish medium groove (Allan Reuss’s guitar pumping along like Freddie Green).

Middleton was a natural fit for this song, namely since it had been introduced by a female in Alix. This brings up one of my pet theories: critics were very unkind to Velma in her nearly 20 years with Pops. They made fat jokes, criticized her singing, held their noses at her and Louie’s comedy routines and nearly threw up when she did her splits. Even Laurence Bergreen’s Armstrong biography from 1997 piled on, writing that it was Middleton who “pulled Louis into endless vaudeville routines.” Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Armstrong loved Velma like he loved a family member. Besides, look at the entertainment Armstrong loved in the 1920s: he sang comic duets with Lil, he accompanied Butterbeans and Susie on another date and of course, invited Mae Alix to accompany him on “Butter and Egg Man.” Yes, the same Mae Alix who did splits! Armstrong clearly had a great love for female performers in every capacity: females who sang blues, females who sang ribald songs, females who engaged in vaudeville patter with men and females who embraced showmanship such as doing splits. And in Velma, Pops had all of that wrapped into one big, beautiful human being.

So Velma opens the 1951 remake by singing (not shouting a la Alix) the lyrics, with Pops playing a nice trumpet obbligato behind her. It’s a smooth outing but the fun stuff is still ahead. Much like the original from 25 years earlier, Pops take second chorus, opening with “Look here,” instead of “Here, here” and once again, he sells himself in a semi-spoken word style. Velma answers him (what chemistry these two had) and Gordon Jenkins, who always liked to write special lyrics, probably suggested some of the new lines Pops sings. He promises her all the jewelry that’s “Wool-worth” the money, a play on “well worth” and adds some hip slang such as this example:

Now I’ll buy you, a real sharp vine
Providing what you told me the other day, just don’t change your mind.

Pops and Velma laugh together, leading to a final chorus, where Velma sings straight while Pops scats around her, bringing to mind yet another female singer Pops accompanied in the 20s, Lillie Delk Christian, whom Pops steamrolled with some scintillating scat singing on “Too Busy.” What Armstrong does to the word “pretty” is something to marvel at. To close the record, Jenkins borrows the ending the All Stars used on Velma’s feature on “I Cried for You.” Velma sang more standards in the early days of the All Stars than she later would but even after “I Cried for You” disappeared, it’s ending lived on in future versions of “Butter and Egg Man.”

Back to 2009: Like my recent revisit to "The Gypsy," there are numerous live versions of "Big Butter and Egg Man" from the mid-50s to discuss but truthfully it's not worth sharing the audio or going into detailed analysis of each one since the routine rarely changed. The late Gösta Hägglöf’s Ambassador label has a wonderful release, When You and I Were Young Maggie, that collects some rare performances from the early days of the All Stars, including a “Butter and Egg Man” from Chicago on July 5, 1951. The All Stars adapted Jenkins’s arrangement, speeding it up a hair and including a full chorus by the ensemble at the start, with Pops taking the lead. The routine then follows Jenkins’s as Velma takes the first chorus, Pops takes the second and the two duet in third chorus. Pops now has a new line in the second eight bars. In the 1926 original, he promises to buy all the pretty things as long as he can keep the cornet up to his mouth. On the Jenkins version, he promises her jewelry, “if you’ll just put your arms around me and sort of call me honey.” By the July broadcast, he promises her all the things that she “thinks” she’ll ever needs, “as long as I can keep this great big cigar in my mouth.” After their third chorus duet, Pops shouts, “Take it, Velma” (on the record, it’s “Take it, Gordon Jenkins!”) before Jack Teagarden takes a 16-bar trombone solo. Pops takes the bridge and Velma comes in for a reprise of the last eight bars, the horns playing the “I Cried for You” ending.

A bunch of broadcasts of “Big Butter and Egg Man” survive from July 1953 through January 1955, but again, they’re all very similar so it’s not worth heavy analysis but there’s some new stuff. The “Wool-worth” line from the Jenkins record is back and included in every version. Instead of just being a “big fat cigar,” Pops now sings about a nickel “John Ruskin” model. And instead of being a “great big butter and egg man from the south,” Pops now proudly announces that he’s from “Galilee,” as he often referred to the south (and not the south of Israel). And after shouting “Take it, Velma,” the trombone doesn’t take it anymore. Instead, Pops plays lead for 24 bars, usually the highlight of the performance (he’s in scorchingly good form on a New Year’s Eve broadcast from the Down Beat club in San Francisco, available on the Storyville disc Louis Armstrong and His All Stars, available on Itunes), before Velma takes the final eight and they go out. There are some funny little asides that demonstrate the joy Louis and Velma had performing together. On a second broadcast version from the Basin Street nightclub, Pops picks up the horn during the last chorus, causing Velma to exclaim, “Come on home, fat boy!” And during swinging version from the Crescendo Club (available on The California Concerts), Pops eschews the “Galilee” reference, sings that he’s from the “south,” then verbally tells Velma, “Let it come out of your mouth.” I listened to all four versions in a row while preparing this entry and can attest that none of them are exactly the same, in terms of Armstrong and Middleton’s patter and even the closing trumpet lead. (Also, after listening to these four versions in a row, I can also attest that I don’t want to hear them again until at least the end of the weekend!) But I'd like to share the audio of at least two of these broadcasts. Here's the Basin Street broadcast from August 24, 1954--the summer of Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy--with Velma's "fat boy" line:

Here's the scorching San Francisco version from December 31, 1954 (listen to Pops at the start, not happy with the slightly sprightly tempo, physically slow the band down a few hairs with the force of his lead playing):

I'd like to share the version from the Crescendo Club as it's one of my favorites but it's pretty easy to find online. Drop the 99 cents for it (it's on The California Concerts) and you won't be sorry.

But Pops wasn’t done yet, which means I’m not either. As the All Stars hit their popularity peak around 1956, 1957, Armstrong began playing more and more concerts and festivals, which usually only allowed Velma to sing three or four numbers a night. Thus, many of Velma’s early specialties, including “Butter and Egg Man,” disappeared, though they likely reappeared during longer nightclub engagements or dances. But in 1959, Armstrong recorded the Satchmo Plays King Oliver album with the All Stars for the Audio Fidelity label. I’ve written a little bit about this album’s stupid title before since only a handful of the album’s tracks have anything to do with Oliver. Nevertheless, all the material is fresh and Pops is at the top of his game. “Butter and Egg Man” survives in two takes of varying lengths. The originally issued take is 3:41 while a meatier alternate clocks in at 5:21. Both are great and it’s a pleasure to hear Pops tackle the song by himself and without the customary female assistance (Town Hall doesn’t count since he forgot the words!). Both takes open with a great Billy Kyle introduction before Pops leads the ensemble (with Trummy Young and Peanuts Hucko) for a full chorus, much like the live versions. After the first chorus, however, it breaks into a mini-jam session. Kyle takes eight bars, bassist Mort Herbert takes eight, followed by eight more from Trummy and a final eight by Peanuts, opening with a “My Sweetie Went Away” quote. Pops scats a break and sings the title phrase before Danny Barcelona takes a four-bar drum break. Pops never does sing a full chorus but the trading with the drums is exciting, especially how Pops usually sets up the drum fills with an exuberant scat lick. Hucko and Young riff nicely behind the vocal and after one more drum break Pops, leads the rideout with some brilliant playing. It’s been 12 years since Town Hall and he’s not quite as daring, but his tone is full and his upper register is in beautiful shape, with some strong high notes in the final eight bars (and a “Dixie” quote leading into the final drum solo in the bridge). And even though Velma’s not in the studio, the band plays the “I Cried For You” ending anyway, sounding tight.

It’s a fine version but kind of rushed, which is why the 5:21 alternate is my preferred one. Give it a listen:

It follows the same pattern as the issued but after the opening ensemble chorus, everyone stretches out a bit more, 16 bars each from Kyle and Herbert before the vocal. And this time, Pops sings the full chorus and it’s a delight. Hucko, not content to wait for his own solo, plays the “My Sweetie Went Away” quote behind Pops’s vocal. After Armstrong’s emphatic ending, Trummy takes a break and launches into a swinging 16-bar solo that highlights the Barcelona-Herbert rhythm team, which swung infectiously at tempos such as this. I don’t care what mood I’m in, it’s one of those things that as soon as I hear Trummy shouting over Herbert’s walking lines and Barcelona’s backbeat clicks on the snare rim, I’m immediately smiling and nodding my head. Peanuts also takes 16, repeating some of the motives he worked out on the issued take. And with everyone relaxed and swinging, Pops trades his fours with Barcelona, but instead of singing his lines, he scats every time, playing with the word “pretty” again and shouting out a triumphant “butter and egg man!” Barcelona excitedly builds up to a roar and Pops shows the way out with some more great lead playing.

Now, if you're still with me, a treat. When I originally wrote this, I knew that Pops and the All Stars played "Butter and Egg Man" live at Keesler Air Force Base in October 1959 but I never dreamed I'd ever hear it. A few months later, thanks to the generosity of the great Armstrong discographer Jos Willems, I was able to hear the entire concert, including the last suriving Armstrong performance of "Butter and Egg Man." It's the Velma routine again and though there are no surviving broadcasts of it between January 1955 and October 1959, it's still as tight as ever. But the ultimate highlight is the final Armstrong trumpet solo which amazingly opens by quoting the start of his 1926 Hot Five solo! Talk about coming full circle, huh? Give it a listen:

“Butter and Egg Man” stayed in the repertoire until Velma’s death in February 1961 and then it was gone for good. But while it lasted it provided plenty of great moments in plenty of different settings: trailblazing Hot Five record, smoking live remake with just a rhythm section, an arrangement by Gordon Jenkins, live fun with Velma and finally, a jam session showcase for the All Stars. Anyway, you like it “Big Butter and Egg Man” is pretty entertaining, but then again, so is just about anything Louis Armstrong ever performed! Have a great weekend and I’ll try to be back on Monday with more ruminations on all things Pops!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Hate To Leave You Now - Revisited

Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
Recorded December 8, 1932
Track Time 3:01
Written by Dorothy Dick, Harry Link and Fats Waller
Recorded in Camden, NJ
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Louis Bacon, Louis Hunt, Billy Hicks, trumpet; Charlie Greene, trombone; Pete Clarke, clarinet, alto saxophone; Edgar Sampson, alto saxophone; Elmer Williams, tenor saxophone; Don Kirkpatrick, piano; John Trueheart, guitar; Elmer James, tuba; Chick Webb, drums
Originally released on Victor 24204
Currently available on CD: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (as well as a number of RCA compilations)
Available on Itunes? Yes

I've been mainly doing "Revisit" posts on my earliest ones, the ones without any music samples, but today I'm making an exception. I wrote about "I Hate to Leave You Now" almost a year ago, complete with music samples, but at the time, I mistakenly wrote about Armstrong using a straight mute on the tune. My trumpet-playing pal Dave Whitney was the first to tell me that I might have been wrong about that but now I have a detailed explanation I want to share from a German trumpet player, Herbert Christ. Herbert is an Armstrong authority and the last time I saw Joe Muranyi, Joe couldn't stop raving about Herbert's playing. Anyway, I think Herbert solved the case of the mystery mute, which I'll get to below. For now, let's begin at the beginning....


After being stuck in the 60s for my last few entries, it was nice to see the ol’ Itunes shuffle deposit me back to 1932, one of my personal favorite Armstrong periods. Today’s selection, “I Hate to Leave You Know” was from Armstrong’s first session for Victor, beginning a five-month stretch of recording that I’ve always considered to be the finest recorded evidence of Pops in his prime as a trumpet player. Some of the songs are dogs, some of the arrangements are sad and some of the section playing is woeful…but on track after track, Pops flies around his horn like Superman, totally in command and able to pull off any and every idea that came to mind, whether double-timed pre-bop runs like his 1920s self, or grandiose, operatic high notes, foreshadowing the player he was emerging into.

Armstrong’s first session for Victor didn’t feature his usual working band (the Zilner Randolph band), but rather that of drummer Chick Webb’s. Armstrong had recently returned from a tour of Europe and was now fronting Webb’s band for a short run of the revue, “Connie’s Hot Chocolates of 1932.” Webb and Armstrong seemingly got along well and Pops would later tell stories about Webb enthusiastically asking Armstrong to always play “Them There Eyes” for him. Armstrong also would go on to mention Webb almost every time one of his later drummers would get set to solo on Webb’s old anthem, “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” The Webb band also featured old friend Charlie Green, a trombonist who went back with Louis to his days with Fletcher Henderson, and Louis Bacon, a trumpeter who would join Armstrong’s big band just a few short years later.

This session took place in Victor’s famous church studio in Camden, NJ, a studio that was home for some of the finest jazz recordings made of that or any other era, including works by Bennie Moten, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller. The clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow was on hand for this session—he was Armstrong’s personal marijuana dealer, of course—and he remembered Armstrong looking around saying, “This is funny, ain’t it, Mezza, jammin’ in an ole church.” Mezzrow answered, “Where else should Gabriel Blow?”

Mezzrow remembered the session in great detail for his autobiography, Really the Blues. “He had a terrible sore lip,” Mezzrow wrote of Armstrong, “in addition to being dogtired, and that day he had played five shows and made two broadcasts….I didn’t see how poor old Pops was going to blow note one.” Indeed, the session began at 1:30 in the morning and certain precautions were made to make things easier on Armstrong. “They wouldn’t let Chick Webb use his bass drum on this date, mainly because Louis’ lip was in such bad shape and without the bass he wouldn’t be pushed so hard,” Mezzrow recalled.

Armstrong’s delicate lip held up and soon enough, he was soaring on “That’s My Home” and “Hobo You Can’t Ride This Train,” two tracks that came off so wonderfully, they were created for Armstrong’s Autobiography project 25 years later. Two takes survive of each of those numbers, each featuring different, strong solos by Armstrong, who might have been butchering his lip, but was still managing to make some pretty incredible sounds. But how long could he keep going?

“I Hate To Leave You Now” was the third tune up and it must have been a special choice for Armstrong since it was written by his good buddy, Fats Waller (though interestingly, as Dan Morgenstern pointed out in his liner notes to the Complete RCA recordings set, it was never registered for copyright until 1957 and as far as I can tell, has only been recorded by one other person, Hal Smith, in 1999). Feel free to listen along:

The Webb band takes a four-bar introduction and it’s clear by just those four bars that the Swing Era hadn’t quite begun—the tuba already sounds out-of-date and Webb’s static brush hit on the snare drum on each beat of the bar doesn’t even hint at his potential as a drummer (he must have missed his bass drum). So when did the Swing Era begin, you ask? Interestingly enough, just five days after this session, Bennie Moten’s band headed into these same Camden studios, and the fury and swing of that landmark session, which featured the likes of Count Basie, Hot Lips Page and Ben Webster, is THE moment the Swing Era came alive for this writer.

But even though the orchestration doesn’t exactly swing like Moten, no one could exactly swing like Armstrong, who makes the listener completely forget about the surroundings as soon as he picks up his muted trumpet. Here, I originally wrote, "Armstrong plays the melody with a straight mute, the only kind in his bag as it least changed the pure tone of his trumpet." But now I'm going to let my pal Herbert Christ take over:

"Louis used in those days beside his straight mute a mute which is used mainly for mexican or latin tunes. With a double bottom and hole in front to produce a different flavor. Black artificial leather covered. I have one of it and I am using it. I hear it on Home, On treasure Island, Love you funny thing, All of me. You can see those mutes clearly on a photo of his first Big Band of 1930 to 1932. I found one actually at They will send you the link. Also before he switched on trumpet from Conn to Selmer balanced. The horn he used till the end of his life. I try out the Conn model with great fun. This horn has the possibility to switch from Bb to A-key. This mechanic is installed at the first tuning slide of the Conn horn."

Sure enough, here's a link to a now-expired eBay auction for such a mute. Click here to see it. Fascinating stuff for us trumpet-freaks. But enough technical details, let's get back to the music...

That Armstrong’s chops were dying down is no surprise when you hear the little cracked note in the very first bar. However, he recovers and manages to caress the very pretty melody beautifully. This has to be one of my favorite muted Armstrong moments. His sound combined with the sound of that Camden church results in a positively heavenly experience. He’s ultra-relaxed, keeping his improvisation to a minimum, just singing the melody. Gorgeous stuff.

After a modulation by pianist Don Kirkpatrick, Armstrong takes the vocal in his charming tenor of the period:

Oh, the evening was splendid, while dancing with you,
Why can’t we extend it, an hour or two?
I’m sorry it ended, baby, but I Hate to Leave You Now.

Oh, my arms were around you, they held you tight,
Longed to surround you, the rest of my night.
But I’m glad I found you baby, but I Hate to Leave You Now-ow.

Oh dear your eyes are divine, when you look into mine,
There’s something that I want to see,
Oh, your love is hidden there, for somebody to share, babe,
It’s really meant for me. And dear!

You kiss me good night (ha ha), at your front door,
Before you dismiss me, just kiss me once more,
And tell me you miss me, I hate to lose you now.

Divine. Simply divine. He sounds so damned happy, how can you help but smile? A highlight for me is the way he enters the bridge: “Oh dear your eyes,” each a quarter note, landing on the first beat of the bridge with the word “eyes,” phrase much like his trumpet playing. He nearly explodes with the soulful, “And dear,” which carries into the cute little laugh during the last A section. Armstrong even screws up the last line, singing “I hate to lose you now,” but the message still works and what preceded it is so good, it doesn’t matter. Throughout the vocal the rhythm section relaxes a bit, with Webb’s brushes nicely prodding matters along.

Another Kirkpatrick interlude sets up Armstrong’s delicious entrance, playing five repeated C’s not on the beat but rather between each quarter-note, creating tension that resolves with the leap up to a high G. After this adventurous beginning, Armstrong calms down, probably not wanting to blow his chops out. He almost does that at the 2:44 mark as he plays a phrase that sounds like it’s going to go somewhere, but he just disappears for a few beats (you can hear the another trumpeter carrying on the melody in the background). When he gets his footing, he plays two quick F’s before a gigantic gliss to a high A, showing off a little power. He reminds me of a boxer in round 12; perhaps a little out-of-gas, but with enough smarts and pure power to flurry when it counts.

After the high A, Armstrong retreats back to the lower register for some lovely little phrases, before heralding the next A section with another high A. Summoning up everything he has left, Armstrong continues by playing the melody in the upper register, an octave higher than written, pulling it off though one split-second note is cracked at the 2:59 mark. With the end of the fight looming, Armstrong pours it on, emptying the tank with a series of bone-chilling high A’s before resolving to a high C at the bell. Winner and still champeen….

The originally issued take of “I Hate to Leave You Now” is a gem, for the muted beginning, delightful vocal, and powerful conclusion. But Armstrong wasn’t done yet. Victor’s A&R man, Eli Oberstein, recorded two takes of all four numbers recorded that day, which has led to a total of eight surviving takes from that December session. The alternate of “I Hate to Leave You Now” is marked –2, which usually signifies the second take but sometimes the numbering systems on those older jazz dates could be a little funny (a common problem: tracks marked –1 could either mean take 1 or the producer’s first choice for issue).

Regardless, here is the alternate take of “I Hate to Leave You Now”:

Once Armstrong opens with the mute, but he takes more liberties with the melody, almost from the very beginning. In some ways, I like the creativity of this take more than the issue, especially the relaxation of that simple descending motif 30 seconds in. His lip sounds stronger because he doesn’t spend too much time in the upper ranks of his horn. The vocal is similar to the first take, though I like the “Yes, Mm” after the first eight bars. In fact, after listening carefully again, I’m simply amazed by how many tiny changes Armstrong makes when he sings the song again. So if you don’t mind indulging me, here’s my transcription of the vocal on take 2. Compare it to the one from take 1 and you’ll see all the little differences that mean so much.

The evening was splendid, while dancing with you
Can’t we extend it, an hour or two?
I’m sorry it ended, baby, I Hate to Leave You Now. Yes, Mmmm…

My arms were around you, they held you tight
They longed to surround you, the rest-a-my night,
I’m glad that I found you baby, Mama, I Hate to Leave You Now.

Oh dear your eyes divine—yeah!—when they look into mine,
There’s something that I see,
Oh the love’s hidden there, somebody to share,
Is really meant for me. Mmmmm, dear!

You kiss me goodnight, at your door,
Before you dismiss me, kiss me one more,
Tell me you miss me, I Hate to Leave You Now.

Looking at some of those lines, they don’t even read like proper English. But Pops is feeling it and if a word or two is dropped, who cares, it’s all for the greater good (i.e. swing). Besides, he even gets the title right the last time through on this take!

So far, so good, but how are those chops holding up? He decides to eliminate all pleasantries, opting to dive right in with a gliss to a high G, holding it for two bars. It’s a mighty impressive way to begin the solo, but then he disappears for the next two bars. Clearly, he might have extended himself a little too much right off the bat, but there was no quit in Pops. He comes storming back with a typically Pops-ian phrase off a Dm chord, F to the low D to the high A. He repeats it, but misses the second note, causing him to abandon the three-note motif and instead focus on those fat high A’s again. Like the other take, he begins playing the melody an octave higher but again, peters out for a few beats. Is Pops on the ropes or is he playing possum? He answers that question with another stunning high A. His ending is sloppier rhythmically on this take than the perfect swing of the issue take, but he still manages to work over those A’s until the final high C. Overall, I think I might have to give take 2 the edge for the muted trumpet solo, but take 1 has the better final trumpet solo. And both vocals are so good, it’s a draw. Thus, Oberstein really couldn’t make a wrong decision, which is probably why the alternate was also issued during the 78 era by Victor and according to Morgenstern, became more common than the originally selected master!

That concludes this look at “I Hate to Leave You Now” but it didn’t conclude Armstrong’s day at that early morning session. He still had to get through two takes of a “You Rascal You” rip-off titled “You’ll Wish You’d Never Been Born.” On both takes, Armstrong sounds like the tank is empty but he continues to fight to end, turning in beautiful cadenzas on both. If listened to on a proper sound system, those unaccompanied opening solos sound like Armstrong’s in the same room. That song is also notable for being perhaps the first recorded example of Armstrong blowing his trumpet behind other soloists in order to keep his chops up before taking his own solo.

But that’s a story for another day. The only sad parting note concerning “I Hate to Leave You Now” revolves around something George Avakian told me. While preparing Armstrong’s 1955 Columbia album, Satch Plays Fats, Avakian and Armstrong selected 11 songs to record. Unfortunately, Avakian caught Armstrong a particularly grueling time (when wasn’t it grueling for Pops?) and Armstrong and the All Stars didn’t have time to go over some of the material, so two songs got the ax before the band even got to the studio: “Willow Tree” and—you guessed it—“I Hate to Leave You Now.” Oh, to think of the later Pops with the All Stars tackling that song, why, it might have rivaled that album’s classic version of “Blue Turning Grey Over You.” Oh well, it’s no use living a life of regret when we have two perfectly great takes from 1932 to choose from now, is it? S’all for now!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

About To Throw My Computer Out The Window...

Pardon the silly title for this blog. I have a "Google Alerts" set up for Louis Armstrong that lets me know daily every time Louis Armstrong's name is newly mentioned in the online world. Most of the mentions are forgettable; a 14-year-old proclaims his or her love of "What a Wonderful World," or something dull happens at Louis Armstrong airport in New Orleans. But occasionally something grabs my attention and makes my blood boil.

As most of my readers now, Armstrong's later years are my specialty ad the focus of the book I've been writing for a few years now. I focus on the later years because I feel they're the most misunderstood. A lot of people feel the need to knock Armstrong's last two decades in order to make a point about how great and "serious" he was as a youth. I'll never disparage Armstrong's early years but please, the myths surrounding Armstrong's later years have got to be put to rest.

The good news is the tide has been turning for some time now. Of course, Dan Morgenstern will always be the greatest champion of Armstrong's later years...and Armstrong himself period. But I receive e-mails from people all the time who "get it" and even some writers such as Gary Giddins, Will Friedwald and Terry Teachout have written eloquently on Armstrong's later period. Terry, of course, has his own Armstrong biography which promises to be quite definitive when it hits the shelves in December.

But until then, the Armstrong bookshelf is pretty lacking when it comes to that department. Laurence Bergreen spent 424 pages on the first 43 years of Armstrong's life before rushing through the last 28 in just 70 pages. And don't get me started on James Lincoln Collier. Unfortunately, for most people looking for an Armstrong biography, these are the writers they turn to, which has led to the endurance of the myths and legends surrounding Armstrong's later period.

Which brings us back to Google Alerts and one of this week's Armstrong results. I don't want to give the person's name because he's not a jazz expert and I don't want to humiliate him. I'm not even going to give the website. But this week, a Canadian librarian decided to write a column about Armstrong to demonstrate how his town's citizens could use their library to learn more about Pops. Great! Well, the headline is "A Good Read" and plastered right under it is a picture of Collier's Armstrong biography. Then came the lead paragraph:

"For most of us growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, Louis Armstrong was almost a caricature: 'Satchmo' grinning and sweating as he appeared in mainstream movies and television programs, seeming like a real-life manifestation of Uncle Tom. What is remarkable is that many respected critics regard Armstrong as the greatest of jazz musicians, or even, to quote Steve Leggett, 'perhaps the most important American musician of the 20th century.'"

Shot through the heart! Grinning, sweating, Uncle Tom...but oh, those early years! Yeah, like the Scandinavian clips from 1933 where he grins and sweats and mugs through "Dinah" and "Tiger Rag"...genius! Here's how our librarian sums up the Armstrong's final period: "Although Armstrong enjoyed the respect and admiration for his jazz skills, he saw himself as a popular entertainer and not just as a jazz musician. Armstrong wanted to be — needed to be — loved by audiences and this accounts for the stereotyped but loveable character he presented to his public. As his fame and popularity grew, he got further and further from his jazz roots but he saw this not as selling out but as part of his natural evolution as a performer."

I'm not going to deny that Armstrong saw himself as a popular entertainer but the "needed to be" loved by audiences is pure Collier psychobabble, while the growing further from his jazz roots is also nonsense. As I'll argue in my book, Armstrong's upbringing in New Orleans found the trumpeter influenced by just about every type of music known to man. He sang and performed pop songs, waltzes, marches, spirituals, you name it...oh, and jazz, too. He listened to opera and was obsessed with Guy Lombardo. Sure he revolutionized jazz but once OKeh executives saw what he could what a pop song in 1929 ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love,") well, good night, nurse, the rest is history.

I know I'm being harsh on the librarian but I have some pretty strong opinions on Armstrong's later period. I'll get off my soapbox for now but not before leaving a little musical treat from Armstrong's later years. In fact, it's one of my favorite performances from Armstrong's later years...and I'm not even going to give the title! Just give it a listen and let those preconceived notions of grinning, sweating "Uncle" Satchmo melt away and try not to be moved by the power of his music. The man was a genius from day one til day none so I say let's enjoy ALL of it and not just those early masterpieces. Dig THIS and have a great weekend:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chloe (Song of the Swamp)

Louis Armstrong and Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra
Recorded September 22, 1952
Track Time 3:06
Written by Neil Moret and Gus Kahn
Recorded in New York City
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Bob McCracken, clarinet; Milt Yanker, alto saxophone; Stitz Feguson, tenor saxophone; George Berg, Romeo Penque, flute; Marty Napoleon, piano; Art Ryersno, guitar; Arvell Shaw, bass; Cozy Cole, drums; Unknown strings, Choir, vocal; Gordon Jenkins, arranger, conductor
Originally released on Decca 28524
Currently available on CD: Yes on Satchmo in Style
Available on Itunes? Yes

Ah, the sound of Louis Armstrong and Gordon Jenkins. Many hardened jazz people have had some problems with the "commercial" nature of this collaboration (Down Beat gave a compilation of the material two stars way back in the 50s), but honestly, I've never met an Armstrong nut who didn't have a soft spot for them (of the top of my head, I can recall Joe Muranyi, Marty Napoleon, Michael Steinman, Dave Whitney and many more Armstrong aficionados who have professed their love of these sessions to me).

In my upcoming book on Armstrong's later years, I discuss Armstrong and Jenkins's working relationship in good detail so I'll save some of the anecdotes for the day when it sees the light. Suffice to say, Jenkins worshipped Armstrong to an almost scary degree. He cried almost anytime he was near Pops, including in the recording studio, which says a lot since the same thing didn't seem to happen when Jenkins worked with Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland and other big names of the 40s and 50s.

The pairing of Jenkins and Armstrong hit a home run their first time out with the coupling of "That Lucky Old Sun" and "Blueberry Hill" in 1949. The following year, Jenkins pretty much owned the music world; at one point that year, Jenkins had a hand in the majority of the top ten records in the country. His signature, sentimental string sound and his unique use of voices made the Jenkins sound something very easy to spot. Decca wanted Armstrong to have hit records, so the pairing made complete and total sense in the early 50s. The placement of Armstrong in the middle of Jenkins's lush settings was akin to placing meatball on a velvet pillow but it worked.

Today's entry is from Armstrong and Jenkins's fourth session together, done on September 22, 1952. It was an interesting time for the All Stars as Trummy Young had recently joined, beginning his 11-year-run with the group. Also, Barney Bigard left for about six months and was replaced by Bob McCracken. The rhythm section consisted of Marty Napoleon, Cozy Cole and Arvell Shaw, the latter also having recently rejoined the band. All of them, minus Young, took part in the session, as they were augmented by a few reeds, the guitar of Art Ryerson (a staple of many of Armstrong's 1960s post-"Hello, Dolly" studio sessions) plus Jenkins's strings and voices.

The session was done two days after a month-long run at New York's Paramount Theater that featured both Jenkins's orchestra and the All Stars. Each show closed with both groups combining for "When the Saints Go Marching In," usually leaving Jenkins shaking backstage, crying from excitement (too bad a bootleg hasn't been discovered of that performance). Thus, everyone was very comfortable and very familiar with each other when it came time for the session. The day began with two Christmas songs, "Winter Wonderland" and "White Christmas," which I have written about it in my annual Christmas posting. But then it was time for Jenkins to trot out arrangements of two older tunes, "Chloe" and "Listen to the Mockingbird." Both are a lot of fun but for today's purposes, we're going to focus on "Chloe."
The song "Chloe" had been around since the 1930s and fans of classic jazz probably have some vivid aural memories associated with the song: Red Allen swinging it at an uptempo clip, Benny Goodman swinging through a Fletcher Henderson arrangement of the tune, the unforgettable sound of Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton's truly swamp-like trombone on Duke Ellington's version, etc. Before I even got into jazz, I loved Spike Jones's hilarious parody of it, complete with tuned cowbells taking the melody. But for Armstrong, Jenkins slowed the tempo dramatically, added some of his characteristically humorous touches and even let Pops's trumpet get in some scorching work. Let's listen to "Chloe."

The song "Chloe" comes in two parts. The verse consists of a minor-keyed run followed by the call of "Chloe," while the main strain is notable for its lovely chord changes. Armstrong's unaccompanied trumpet is pretty dazzling during the verse. He gets four chances to work-over the melody in his own fashion, taking more chances with each outing before his dramatic final break. The choir sets up Armstrong's beautiful vocal entrance, his voice containing a hint of scratchiness on the word "Through." The rhythm section swings lightly while Armstrong gets backed by either strings or voices. He doesn't deviate from the melody much or throw in any of his trademark asides or scat passages but he sings the hell out of it, especially in the dramatic final section, going up high to hit the climactic word "ain'" and going way back down for the final word "are." Armstrong's vocal range was showed off terrifically throughout the date (dig "White Christmas") and "Chloe" is no exception.

After a chorus, the impish Jenkins couldn't resist going for a laugh with a cute bit that finds the choir intoning "Louie, Louie" instead of "Chloe." Pops plays along and it's all in good fun. But after the short bit comes my favorite moment of the track, Armstrong swinging way in getting back to singing the final line. As writtne, it's simply, "Love is calling me/I've got to go where you are." But for the ending, Armstrong adds an entire new phrase, "I believe that I hear love calling me/ I've got to go where you are." The line swings like mad, almost all on a single pitch and he hits the downbeat--boom--perfectly with the word "I," pausing for a second after singing it. He practically defines swing with his reading of it and it even inspires the rhythm section to kick it up a few notches to close out the record. And what a close! Just listen to Pops hold that final note. The man was a master singer--"singing was my first hustle" he would proudly told people and with Jenkins, he recorded some of the finest vocals of his career.

"Chloe" isn't really a spectacular record and it doesn't contain anything earth-shattering but it radiates tremendous warmth while those opening trumpet calls generate remarkable heat. A record that never fails to make me smile. And isn't that what Louis Armstrong is all about?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Someday Sweetheart

Louis Armstrong and The All Stars
Recorded November 1965
Track Time 3:11
Written by Benjamin and John Spikes
Recorded in New York City
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Tyree Glenn, trombone; Buster Bailey, clarinet; Billy Kyle, piano; Buddy Catlett, bass; Danny Barceona, drums
Originally released on Reprise R 6180
Currently available on CD:No
Available on Itunes? No

Last week, David Ostwald's Louis Armstrong Centennial Band celebrated their ninth year at Birdland in New York City. Our friend Michael Steinman was not only in attendance but he brought along his camera crew and documented the evening on his "Jazz Lives" blog, complete with video clips (clickhere to dig it). Anyway, David and the gang played "Someday, Sweetheart," which Michael wasn't sure if Louis ever recorded. It turns out that Pops did wax it in 1965 but it's a recording that has never been issued on CD or MP3 so this is the only place in town you'll hear it today, folks.

But first, a quick bit of history. I think of "Someday, Sweetheart" as one of the great early jazz standards. Jelly Roll Morton claimed to have written it but it was claimed by the Spikes Brothers when it was published by Melrose (I'm sure Jelly Roll was okay with that!). Nevertheless, Jelly Roll recorded a memorable version (complete with strings), as did King Oliver (with the tuba playing the melody). Glancing through my Itunes, it seems like almost everyone took a stab at it; I have versions by Mildred Bailey, Benny Goodman, Red Allen, Jimmy Rushing, Kid Ory, Paul Barbarin, George Lewis, Lena Horne and more. Thus, it's a little odd that Pops never waxed a version of the tune in its heyday...or did he??? (Cue dramatic duh-duh-DUH music).

In 1927, Louis Armstrong took part in his "50 Hot Choruses" experiment. For the full story on that project, check out my blog from March on the subject by clicking here. In a nutshell, Armstrong, backed by pianist Elmer Schoebel, recorded solos and breaks on over 50 songs of the period. We're talking about, prime 1927 Armstrong here. The results were transcribed and a book of transcriptions was published...then the original recorded cylinders were lost or destroyed and no musical archeologist, not even Indiana Jones, has been able to turn up this holy grail for jazz fans.

But thank God for our dear, departed friend Gösta Hägglöf and the famed Swedish trumpeter Bent Persson. Beginning in the 1970s, Gus and Bent teamed up to recreate the original transcribed solos. Instead of just having Bent play them backed by a piano, as they were originally done, the two dreamed up the idea to place each song in one of the many settings Armstrong found himself playing in during the 20s: small bands, large groups, duets with pianos, Hot Seven lineups, and more. The project took years to complete but was eventually released on three CDs on Gus's Kenneth label. Since Gus passed away in March, his labels have been a bit in limbo but I've been assured by his brother that his material will indeed be available again. Stay tuned...

Anyway, that's a very long way of saying that Louis Armstrong recorded "Someday Sweetheart" as part of the 50 Hot Choruses project. Bent and a group of Swedish musicians gave it a pretty full treatment when they recorded it in 1991, starting with the final four bars (a la Jelly), featuring a reed duet, the trombone playing the verse and even a charming, period-flavored vocal by drummer Christer Ekhe. It's a wonderfully authentic performance but it all builds up to the final chorus, where the entire 32 bars of trumpet Bent plays are as Pops played them in 1927. It's some great stuff, with the adventurous flurries of notes we associate with Pops's 1920s playing, a stoic bridge, complete with break, and a an almost-stuttering sense of rhythm that is ridiculously tricky (part of me thinks Bent is one of the few to be able to pull it off). And the final phrase would crop up a few years later on Armstrong's OKeh version of "Little Joe," which I have also blogged about in the recent past. Anyway, the whole performance is a lot of fun, but that concluding trumpet solo is a gassuh. Here's the audio:

But though Armstrong performed it for Melrose, there are no records of him playing it again until 1965 when he appeared in the film A Man Called Adam. The film starred Sammy Davis Jr. as a troubled jazz trumpet player that cannot overcome the numerous cliches hurled at him by half-hearted screenwriters and ultimately succumbs in the end. Still, Armstrong has a nice dramatic part in it as an old-fashioned trumpet player, Willie "Sweet Daddy" Ferguson. It's the kind of film that shows what Armstrong could have done if given parts with a little more dramatic meat on them, but alas, it wasn't to be and really A Man Called Adam is all we have. And since the film isn't especially good it hasn't even appeared on DVD (or YouTube for that matter).

In the film, Armstrong and his All Stars at the time perform "Someday Sweetheart" and "Back O'Town Blues," Armstrong sounding quite wonderful on both pieces. 1965 is pretty much the final year of pure, no-frills trumpet playing in Armstrong's career. During a European tour of the first part of that year, Armstrong's trumpet playing was simply stunning. However, he had a dental procedure that forced him to take some time off and he never seems to have regained full 100% status after that. He still blew some great stuff during the rest of 1965 but by 1966, the chops began growing more and more erratic.

Anyway, he was having a good day when he cut the soundtrack recordings for A Man Called Adam. I'm guessing Armstrong was given "Someday Sweetheart" to do because his character was supposed to be so old-fashioned. Speaking of which, on the recording, you'll hear regular All Stars Buddy Catlett on bass and Danny Barcelona on drums. But in the film, the much older John Brown plays bass and Jo Jones is on drums. I asked Danny about it and he said, "Then they told me, 'Well, Danny, you and Buddy Catlett won’t be in the movie cause we got to get, got to have guys in the movie, got to be like over 60 years old.' I said, 'Okay.'"

So enough of the preamble, here's "Someday Sweetheart," as recorded for A Man Called Adam in November 1965:

Isn't that a good one? The trumpet sounds very strong during the opening full chorus and Pops sings it like he had been doing it for decades (backed nicely by Tyree Glenn's muted trombone). The rhythm section is really locked into a nice, lightly swinging groove, a perfect tempo. After the vocal, Glenn, clarinetist Bailey and Pops himself take eight bars each, Armstrong getting nice harmonies from the other horns behind him (Benny Carter did the music for the film so I wonder if he helped shape this performance). The final righteous and Armstrong even sings a nice high note to end the performance.

That's pretty much all that has to be said for "Someday Sweetheart." It's a shame that Armstrong didn't perform it more often but I'm very happy with that 1965 version and those 1927 breaks...though if only he recorded it in full in '27. Wow. Oh well, that's jazz history for you, full of what-ifs. I'm going to quit now and wish everyone a happy weekend and hopefully I'll be back with more good old good ones next week.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Week In The Life...

I know, I know, this blog is "The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong," not the wonderful world of Ricky Riccardi, but sometimes everything intertwines so here's an update on what I've been involved in, Pops-wise, over the past seven days. I've been away from blogging, and the computer in general, for about a week and I apologize for that. The ideas are percolating as usual--I want to do blogs on "Someday Sweetheart," "Chloe," 'SOL/Gully Low Blues" and a few more but with the baby and everything, I just can't get started. But soon, very soon, I promise this blog will return to normalcy.

Speaking of baby Ella, dig this photo of my little one in an outfit that was a gift from my pal David Ostwald:

To quote an old high school friend who saw the photo on my Facebook page, "Seriously, Ella has to be the coolest kid on the block." Does she have any other choice?

Anyway, last Thursday night, as advertised, I interviewed All Stars pianist Marty Napoleon at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. It was a beautiful evening as Marty proved to be a human dynamo. His stories were hilarious and his memory absolutely flawless...almost scarily flawless! He remembered months, dates, everything. He's going to be 88 next month and is still playing at the assisted living home he lives in in Glen Cove, Long Island. In July, he is running a three-day jazz fest in that city that will certainly include some of New York's finest jazzmen. The festival will also contain a tribute to Louie, which Marty told me will include a performance of "The Gypsy," the subject of my last entry. I made a big fuss about that 1953 version with Marty on piano, done months before the Decca studio version, but Marty told me they played it quite frequently in the months before he left the band. Who knew? Anyway, I won't go into any more details about that other than to say that it was filmed by the good people at the Museum and should appear in complete form on their website in the near future. I'll keep you posted once I learn more. In the meantime, here's a photo of myself and the unwilling-to-grow-old Marty!

And finally, last night I had a wonderful experience at the opening reception of Jazz at Lincoln Center's newest exhibit, "The Collage Aesthetic of Louis Armstrong: 'In the Cause of Happiness.'"

After the publication of Steven Brower's beautiful book, Satchmo: The Wonderful World and Art of Louis Armstrong, Armstrong's collages have been quite en vogue. Right now the Louis Armstrong House Museum has an exhibit of its own, titled "A Little Story of My Own: Louis Armstrong's Collages." The House Museum--an essential visit if you're even in the vicinity of New York City--is displaying Armstrong's original collages through July 12, a mandatory stop for any Armstrong fans in the New York area.

The same can be said of the gorgeous Jazz at Lincoln Center exhibit. Instead of using the fragile originals, they have lined their walls with beautiful, blown-up versions of the collages, such as this one featuring Armstrong's Ambassador Satch cover photo:

The collages were gorgeous and the constant soundtrack of Armstrong music in the background gave me the chills. So did the stellar lineup of people in the crowd: Dan Morgenstern, Michael Cogswell, Stanley Crouch, Marc Miller, Steven Brower, Jon Szwed, Phil Schaap, Phoebe Jacobs, Robert O'Meally...and on and on and on. I still shake my head in disbelief when I'm surrounded by such company but you can be sure that there was a helluva lot of love for ol' Pops in that room last night. A more photos won't hurt, will they? Here's the eloquent O'Meally addressing the crowd, as Michael Cogswell and a partially hidden Stanley Crouch look on:

Here's Stanley and Mrs. Cogswell as the wall of collages lurks in the background:

Representing the Louis Armstrong House Museum, here's Michael Cogswell again and Lesley Zlabinger (not pictured, but much in attendance was associate director Deslyn Deyer)

I could have kept on taking photos all evening but eventually the Pops conversations struck up and the camera was placed safely away for the remainder of the evening (one thing discussed: Mosaic's Armstrong Decca box set shipped today!). Overall it was a great evening but even without the star-studded crowd, the power and potency of the collages will continue to speak to those who visit the exhibit until it is taken down on September 26. From the official website, "'The Collage Aesthetic of Louis Armstrong: "In the Cause of Happiness' is located in the Peter Jay Sharp Arcade in Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th Street in New York City. Admission is free and the exhibition is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Monday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m." And here's the link if you'd like to read more about. A fantastic job well done by all involved!

And that was the week that was for me...minus all the diaper changes and 2 a.m. feedings! Anyway, I hear Baby Ella from here so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. I'll be back with something in a few days...til then!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Gypsy - Revisited

Louis Armstrong and The Commanders
Recorded October 22, 1953
Track Time 3:17
Written by Billy Reid
Recorded in New York City
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Billy Butterfield, Andy Ferretti, Carl Poole, trumpets; Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Phil Giardina, Jack Satterfield, trombone; Hymie Schertzer, alto and baritone saxophones; Al Klink, tenor saxophone; Bernie Leighton, piano; Carmen Mastren, guitar; Sandy Block, bass; Ed Grady, drums; Toots Camarata, arranger, conductor
Originally released on Decca
Currently available on CD: Moments to Remember in the Ambassador series has it, as well as a few older Armstrong Decca compilations: Highlights From His Decca Years and Sings Back Through The Years. (Live versions will be discussed below)
Available on Itunes? Yes (studio and multiple live version)

For this entry, I'm more or less gutting it from scratch rather than a straight "revisit." "The Gypsy" has long been one of my favorite Armstrong songs but since I originally published this blog, I've attained numerous different versions, all of which are pretty special. I'll lay out the stats right now: I have 12 versions of "The Gypsy" in my collection, as well as a 1968 interview where Armstrong discusses his love of the song. You'd have to be a nut like me to listen to all 11 in the course of one posting, since details varied little once Armstrong cemented a routine on it. But nevertheless, I've edited some of my favorite solos because I think the trumpet cognescenti out there (you know who you are!) will enjoy them. But don't be daunted...dig the Decca and a couple of the live ones and you'll easily see why Armstrong cherished this tune so much. Off we go in the wayback machine...

Today’s entry will focus on a pop song that Louis Armstrong clearly loved. He recorded it in 1953 and played it almost every night for the next two years but eventually it disappeared, never to return again. But for the period it was in the band’s repertoire, it was a highlight of every live show that featured it. The song was Billy Reid’s “The Gypsy,” a sizeable hit in 1946 that Armstrong didn’t get around to recording until seven years later.

Originally, “The Gypsy” was introduced by its composer, Billy Reid, who led an orchestra in the United Kingdom. Reid’s version was sung by Dorothy Squires in 1945, but the song didn’t become a big hit in the United States until another female singer, Dinah Shore, recorded it in 1946. Amazingly, the same day Shore’s record hit number one in Billboard, another version by the Ink Spots did the same exact thing. Here's a YouTube video of the Ink Spots performing the tune in a Soundie short from 1946::

The Ink Spots became synonymous with the song, though other popular versions were recorded that year by the likes of Sammy Kaye, Hal McIntyre and Hildegarde with Guy Lombardo (now there’s a pairing!). In the jazz world, the legendary alto saxophonist Charlie Parker recorded a version of “The Gypsy” on July 29, 1946, while the Ink Spots version was still hot on the charts. Unfortunately, Bird’s recording came during the infamous “breakdown” session on Dial, where Parker’s drug-fused lifestyle finally caught up with him, resulting in sometimes incoherent playing that’s difficult to listen to. However, though he sounds like he’s dying, Bird’s version of “The Gypsy” is very emotional and if you can get past a few stutter steps, there’s an awful lot of soul in that recording.

Now, Louis Armstrong had a very sizeable record collection so it’s not certain which version he liked best, but he was definitely aware of “The Gypsy.” How do we know? Because at the famous Town Hall concert of May 17, 1947, Armstrong quotes “The Gypsy” during his solo on “Save It Pretty Mama” at the 3:30 mark (this version was issued by Victor and is on numerous RCA compilations). In ensuing years, he began quoting it during his solo on "Basin Street Blues," as I detailed in my short novel on Armstrong's history with that tune I published last December. For an example, here's Armstrong's solo from a 1948 "Dixieland Jubilee" show, "The Gypsy" prominent in the break:

So Armstrong was aware of it but didn’t have a chance to record it until an October 22, 1953 Decca session. When he did get around to recording it, it was his pick, according to Milt Gabler. “Louis loved the song,” Gabler said. “He loved the lyric content, and he loved the tune of it, and he just loved to play it. And he came in; he said he wanted to record it. So we recorded it. That’s all.” This might sound a little odd as jazz critics at the time blasted Decca for “forcing” Armstrong to record pop tunes but Armstrong definitely had a say in what was recorded that October day in 1953. Besides two Christmas songs, Armstrong also rerecorded his own composition “Someday You’ll Be Sorry” as well as “I Can’t Afford To Miss This Dream,” a song written by Armstrong’s friend Gloria Friedlander. On New Year’s Eve 1952, the Armstrongs had a party at the house where Pops, as usual, had his tape recorder rolling. On the tape, which can be heard at the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College, Armstrong asks Friedlander numerous times to sing the song so he could memorize it. He even promises her to record it for Decca, which causes her to exclaim, “You really like it that much? I love you!” Thus, Armstrong obviously had enough clout to take this song (never recorded by anyone else to my knowledge) and have Toots Camarata make a fine arrangement of it for Decca. It should be no surprise, then, that he would also want to record a seven-year-old pop song in “The Gypsy.”

Earlier this year, the ever-generous Armstrong discographer Jos Willems sent me quite a treat: a CD of an All Stars broadcast from the Blue Note in Chicago that features Armstrong playing "The Gypsy" in July 1953...three full months before the Decca version! Thus, you know Armstrong really was pushing the tune if he was playing it live on a national broadcast even though he didn't even have a record of it yet. There's a slight hiss and hum to the recording but I think it's definitely worth a listen. The band is a good one, with Trummy Young and Barney Bigard in the front line and Marty Napoleon, Arvell Shaw and Cozy Cole maintaining the rhythm. Here's the audio:

I love Napoleon's piano introduction, which sounds pretty solid, ushered in by a perfect Cole drum hit that makes me think the band had already been playing it live by this point. The band takes a full chorus up front at a slow, stately tempo, Armstrong sticking the melody in his commanding lead playing. His last eight bars are just the personification of relaxed playing. He then sings a wonderful chorus, already using the "Although I know she's lying" aside that would become a hallmark of all future versions. As soon as he sings the final word, he only has a couple of seconds to pick up his horn but stand back for what follows. He opens with a steady stream of improvised ideas, contributing some neat little runs but always making sure to leave a little space. Perhaps my favorite moments comes in the turnaround between the two eight-bar sections; Armstrong plays another flurry of notes, pauses, then plays the first two notes of the melody as gigantic quarter notes, infusing a helluva lot of passion into those two notes. From there, he sticks to the melody before perhaps the only confusing part of the performance: Armstrong clearly sounds like he wants the band to slow it down for one of his patented endings, but they don't seem to pick up on it at first. Thus, Armstrong sounds rushed a bit before everyone locks in and Armstrong gets to do a dramatic ending. There were still some kinks to work out but overall, an impressive early performance.

(Now, for all the musicians in the house, as Pops would say, I've edited a bunch of Armstrong's concluding solos to hear how his ideas progressed over the course of the few years he regularly performed the tune. Here's the solo from the Blue Note again:

Okay, onto the Decca recording..which I forgot to post the audio of for the past two days! Sorry about 'tis:

I’ve already discussed this session in its entirety last October as it is one of the great sessions of Armstrong’s later years. Camarata’s arrangements swing like mad and the studio band is positively explosive (and vice versa). “The Gypsy” begins with the wonderful trombone section, including two of Eddie Condon’s favorites, Lou McGarity and Cutty Cutshall. Armstrong sings it like he had been singing it for a decade, throwing in “yeahs” wherever he pleases. Armstrong clearly had a thing for gypsys; a few months later, on “St. Louis Blues” from the W.C. Handy session, Armstrong sang the following blues lyrics:

I went to the gypsy, to get my fortune told
Yes, been to the gypsy, to get my fortune told
Because the gypsy knows, crazy about my jelly roll!

And when I went to the gypsy, she had fortunes all over the place
Yes, the gypsy had, fortunes all over the place
But when she looked in my hand, she slapped me right in the face!

Now what those lyrics had to do with St. Louis is anyone’s guess but Armstrong also had fun on “The Gypsy.” After singing the lyric, “But I’ll go there again cause I want to believe The Gypsy,” Armstrong adds as an aside, “Although I know she’s lying,” and giggles a bit. But the highlight of “The Gypsy” is undoubtedly one minute and 45 seconds of gorgeous Armstrong trumpet. It’s one of my favorite Armstrong solos because it might contain the most relaxed playing he ever did. For those who just think of Armstrong as a high note player, he doesn’t get way into his upper register until the end of the bridge. Until then, it’s a textbook example of how to improvise around a melody while still keeping the melody somewhat in the forefront. There’s a pattern to this solo: Armstrong plays a snatch of melody, improvises for a few bars, rests, then begins the next eight-bar section with the written melody, improvises for a few bars, rests, and so on. His playing is also remarkably slippery on “The Gypsy.” There are few better places to study Armstrong’s unique concept of rhythm. His phrases come in quick bursts and slower, legato segments. He plays obbligatos to his own lines, infuses it with the blues and comes up with a masterpiece. And transcribing this thing would be a bitch!

Triumphantly, Armstrong builds to a climax at the end of the bridge when he plays the melody in his upper register. But he still follows that with some incredibly nimble phrases before a beautiful, typical ending where Armstrong slows it down and plays the last four bars dramatically, his tone never sounding bigger. I love, love, love, love this record. It’s not one of his best known records but even Armstrong himself later said of “The Gypsy,” “Well, you know, that record I think is one of my finest.”

When I first wrote the above paragraph, all I had was a transcription of Armstrong saying that phrase. Well, here's two minutes of an interview Armstrong did while in England in 1968 where he utters the line, talks about his love of gypsies and even mentions the joke that inspired one of the aforementioned stanzas in "St. Louis Blues." Enjoy this treat:

Though the song wasn’t a hit by any means, that didn’t stop Armstrong from performing it with the All Stars, which he began doing late in 1954. The earliest live version in the Armstrong discography is from an August 13, 1954 radio broadcast from the Basin Street nightclub in New York City. Here's the audio:

Everything sounds firmly in place, beginning with new pianist Billy Kyle’s piano introduction, which never changed. Pops plays a chorus of trumpet in the front, with sensitive support from Barney Bigard and Trummy Young. Though he sticks to the melody pretty closely, Armstrong takes some nice chances in the second eight bars. While improvising in the last A section, he quotes “I Cover the Waterfront,” one of his favorite licks. Armstrong sings it much as he did on the record, with the same placement of “yeahs” and the same “Although I know she’s lying” line. The song also gave Armstrong some easy applause. He would usually end his vocal with a big emphasis on the final word “day” while Trummy Young would play a little phrase that made it sound like the song was ending. Armstrong would then usually mumble or shout with amusement while Billy Kyle would play a transitional piano solo to let Pops have time to get his horn up to his lips. Armstrong always got applause during the transition because most in the audience probably thought the song was going to end, but thankfully it wasn't to be as he would then play another half chorus of trumpet to take the song out. At Basin Street, the closing solo was very much in the spirit of the Decca record, with quick, short phrases peppered throughout, displaying that same wonderful sense of rhythm. The solo also has two more quotes that stand out: another placement of “I Cover the Waterfront” and the “Johnny Get Your Gun” line from the verse to “Over There.” Barrett Deems gives Pops a nice backbeat and he rides it right on through to the final cadenza. Again, for those who care, here's just the solo:

I could probably go on for pages about the different versions of “The Gypsy” that followed but honestly, not much changed in the ensuing performances except for Armstrong’s trumpet playing. An especially great version was captured at the Crescendo Club for another Decca record, recorded live on January 21, 1955 (and available on Itunes and on C.D. on The California Concerts). By this point, Armstrong’s opening trumpet stuck to the melody a little closer and the “I Cover the Waterfront” quote was gone from the opening, saved for the concluding solo (he was obviously trying it out to see where it fit better at Basin Street). Here's the Crescendo Club solo:

However, except for the two aforementioned quotes, Armstrong always managed a fresh approach to his final trumpet solo on “The Gypsy.” One of my favorite examples of this comes from a version from Stockholm in October 1955 (heard on volume 2 of Storyville’s Scandinavia series). Armstrong had a little descending phrase he liked to play in the beginning of the final chorus, but this night, he just works the motif over and over until it reaches its logical conclusion, ending it with a perfectly placed Armstrong lick. The phrase unfurls in slow motion and never ceases to catch me by surprise. Here 'tis:

At a Gene Norman “Just Jazz” concert in Pasadena in January 1956, Armstrong is a little friskier in his opening chorus and works over the same descending phrase in the final solo, albeit in a different manner:

By March 1956, most of Armstrong’s playing on “The Gypsy” was settling into a “set” nature, though that final chorus always came out slightly different. For example, here's how he approached it at Carnegie Hall that month:

And at a one nighter in Grand Rapids, Michigan just days later (dig that pause on the descending phrase):

At the famous “Chicago Concert” of June 1 of that year, “The Gypsy” is slower than ever, almost back at the original Decca tempo and Armstrong again throws some rhythmic curveballs in the last chorus (also, not included here, but the "I Cover the Waterfront" quote made it back in the first chorus again):

“The Gypsy” always drew big applause upon its conclusion but that evening, another song got a bigger hand at the mere mention of its name: “Mack the Knife.” Originally recorded in September 1955, “Mack” was a hit by the beginning of 1956 and Armstrong began featuring it around March of that year. With another popular number that now had to be performed at every show, something had to be cut out and that something turned out to be “The Gypsy.” Usually, Armstrong took “The Gypsy” at a slightly faster clip live than in the studio but with a generous chorus-and-a-half of trumpet, the performance usually ate up over four minutes of concert time (almost five minutes in Chicago). It makes its final appearance in Jos Willems’s definitive Armstrong discography, All of Me, at Norman Granz’s “Jazz At The Hollywood Bowl” concert in August of 1956 and that was it. By this point, the song was tighter than ever so let's revel in the wonder of Louis Armstrong delivering a song he truly loved in front of an adoring audience (including, backstage, the likes of Roy Eldridge, Sweets Edison, Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich, Illinois Jacquet, Art Tatum and more). Here 'tis:

But though it only lasted for a few years, 1954 through 1956 is arguable the peak of the All Stars and it’s a welcome listen on the numerous live recordings of the band from this period. And truthfully, who knows how long Armstrong really continued to play it? There are few surviving live recordings of the band from 1957 and 1958 and though it's not on the ton of material from 1959, I did find one review that mentioned Armstrong playing it in the summer of that year. But none of these later versions have surfaced, which is a shame. My 12 versions have given me infinite joy...but I wouldn't mind 12 more!

S'all for now. Reminder: if you're near the Harlem area Thursday night, come out and see me interview Marty Napoleon. It's going to be a gassuh...