Friday, March 12, 2010

So Little Time (So Much to Do)

Recorded May 13, 1938
Track Time 2:45
Written by Peter DeRose and William Hill
Recorded in New York City
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Shelton Hemphill, trumpet; J.C. Higginbotham, trombone; Rupert Cole, Charlie Holmes, alto saxophone; Bingie Madison, tenor saxophone; Luis Russell, piano; Lee Blair, guitar; Pops Foster, bass; Paul Barbarin
Originally released on Decca 1822
Currently available on CD: It’s on Mosaic Records's "Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions 1935-1946" box set.
Available on Itunes? Yes.

Hello, friends. Once again, sorry for the delay but sometimes life just moves too fast. With a little bit of spare time, I decided to tackle a tune that might as well be my personal anthem: "So Little Time (So Much to Do)."

This song was penned by two formidable songwriters, Peter ("Deep Purple") DeRose and Billy ("The Glory of Love") Hill. This wasn't their first joint venture, as the two had combined to produce the western classic "Wagon Wheels" in 1934. "So Little Time" wasn't quite as enduring. In fact, I couldn't find any other recordings of it by anyone during the time it was written. However, I did find sheet music for it with Guy Lombardo's face on the cover. Perhaps that's where Louis got it from since Lombardo was his main "inspirator." Or perhaps Decca just wanted to hand him another pop tune with the hope he could work the Armstrong magic on it.

In any case, the song didn't really take off, but Louis still sprinkled it with his magic. I think it's a lovely song with a very attractive melody (I've been known to play it at some of my gigs) and I think Pops must have felt the same way since he really sticks to the melody like glue for most of the record.

Regarding the personnel, Louis was leading a scaled-down version of Luis Russell's big band with one other trumpet, one trombone, three reeds and rhythm. Who knows the reasoning behind such decisions but I'm sure Louis and Decca didn't complain when the date was over as the final tune waxed that day was Armstrong's first version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In." I don't think as many people have heard "So Little Time" as "The Saints" but let's try to change that. Give it a listen right now:


Okay, so it's never going to overtake "The Saints" but I think it's a swinging little record. The nifty little introduction (drummer Paul Barbarin getting his press rolls ready for "The Saints") builds up to heavenly sound of a muted Louis playing a catchy melody. He builds up to an effortless high note (listen to the pure tone of that single offering) before passing the ball to the big-toned tenor of Bingie Madison. The band's really swinging at this point and it's almost as if Pops can't get enough of it, so he jumps back in and improvises a swinging obbligato behind Madison before stepping back to the forefront to complete the chorus.

The vocal finds Louis in pretty gravelly terrain, but he still sings with plenty of heart, really emoting with that "Mama" towards the end, which elevates his outing into a whole other level (and listen to alto saxophonist Charlie Holmes's fine obbligato behind Pops). After another transition (and another two-note piano break by Russell), Pops becomes part of the section and plays an arranged passage, again staying right on the melody. He again hands it off to the slightly tart clarinet playing of Rupert Cole, whose solo is harmless but enhanced by the roof-shaking press rolls of Barbarin...the man could move a mountain!

With only half of a chorus left, Pops continues caressing the melody, though the way he squeezes the life out of a descending gliss is worth the price of admission. There are no pyrotechnics and no slow motion finish as the band keeps swinging along and Pops works his way up to a high C. Those looking for fireworks might be disappointed but I'm always glad to hear Louis Armstrong play melodies such as this one. A very fine record.

Now, if I had written this post six months ago, it would have ended right there. But back in November, I met a man at a Louis Armstrong Symposium in Staten Island named Paul Kahn. Paul's the husband of Catherine Russell, daughter of Luis Russell and a singer in her own right. It turns out Paul and Catherine had read my blog in the past and Paul wanted to show his appreciation by giving me a copy of Catherine's CD Sentimental Streak. I had heard that Catherine was a singer but I really knew nothing about her. I looked forward to listening to the disc, but really, these days it seems like anyone with a voice makes at least one attempt to do a jazz/standards album so I didn't really know what to expect.

Well, to cut the chase, the first song on the disc was "So Little Time" and it knocked me on my ass. The whole disc did, in fact. It stayed in my car from that November day until just today, when I took it out to upload "So Little Time" onto my computer so I could share it on this post. Catherine absolutely swings like a force of her nature and her backup band, featuring great musicians such as trumpeter Steven Berstein, guitarist Matt Munisteri and pianist Mark Shane, are equally terrific. Using Louis's 1938 recording as a template, they gave "So Little Time" an irresistibly swinging treatment. Listen for yourself:


Isn't that fantastic? The whole album is like that and really knocked me out. I'm officially a Catherine Russell fan and can't wait for her new disc to be released in April. Check out her website for more information (and to hear her tackle Pops's "Back O'Town Blues") by clicking here.

S'all for now. I just did some quick math and realized that this is my 300th post! Pretty crazy. Normally, I do special things for my milestone posts but trust me, I'm lucky I got this one out. I think "So Little Time (So Much to Do)" really says it all! But thanks for being patient and I hope to be back real soon with more Pops, Pops, Pops.

3 comments:

Paul said...

Hi Ricky,
Thanks for the shout out on Catherine Russell and for all of your wonderful work on this blog. "So Little Time (So Much To Do)" is indeed a theme in our lives, such a "timely" lyric. By the way, we've added your blog to the "links" section of Catherine's web site
http://www.catherinerussell.net/html/links.php
Hope to see you along the trail.
Paul Kahn

Lou Dumont said...

The Ink Spots performed "So Little Time" on a 1939 broadcast from a radio studio in Philadelphia. I have heard that disc and wish someone could re-issue it.

Baron said...

The High Sierra Jazz Band play it at a slower tempo. A lovely heart felt rendition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCh7rM8AMok

Baron