Six Minutes With Satch: Blue Again / When Your Lover Has Gone

The April Chicago sessions continue today with two more invigorating performances, though only one song became a standard. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh's "Blue Again" was from the Broadway show The Vanderbilt Revue and though a flurry of versions survive from 1930 and 1931, it seems to only be revived in Louis-inspired circles these days.

Still, it's worth a few minutes to head over to YouTube to hear some of the contemporary versions (this is actually one of my favorite things to do with the entirety of Armstrong's early 1930s recorded output). For example, listening to this version by The Ambassador Club Band, I finally realized that Armstrong's dramatic opening cadenza was based on his slowing down the verse, which is used as the introduction in what I'm assuming is the stock arrangement heard here:

That's a charming little dance band performance but absorb the whole thing, the rhythm, the vocal, the feel....then listen to Louis's take below. Night and day. Not only is that opening trumpet spot worth the price of admission but there's the relaxed, marching-yet-swinging feel of the rhythm section, Louis's passionate vocal and my trumpet fireworks at the end. A masterpiece of a forgettable song in the hands of most bands (including Duke Ellington's).

The flip side, "When Your Lover Has Gone," has gone on to become a standard but is usually treated as the ultimate torch song, dramatically interpreted by the likes of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. This is one of those rare examples where Louis doesn't seem to have taken the time to get too deep into the lyrics. The passion is still there as it always is, but he actually seems pretty content that this particular lover has split, comically emphasizing the silent "h" in "hours" and repeating the title phrase in such a sing-song manner at one point, that it swings but could be about almost anything ("When the Liver is Done" is what I first wrote back in 2007....still sands).

But oh, that trumpet! After a mystery second trumpeter sets Louis up dramatically, he takes flight with a perfectly constructed chorus, finally finding the anguish in the trumpet solo that isn't quite there in the vocal. Those descending lines that start the second half floor me every time. And folks can complain about the intonation of the reeds all they want, I just love that rhythm section and Louis's foil on a lot of these tracks, trombonist Preston Jackson.

We'll hear more from this, Louis's "happiest band" as he once called them, tomorrow. But for now, take six minutes and listen to this:

Louis Armstrong (tp, voc), Preston Jackson (tb), Lester Boone (as), George James (as, bars), Albert Washington (ts), Charlie Alexander (p), Mike McKendrick (g), Tubby Hall (d).
OKeh recording session - Chicago, IL April 20, 1931

Louis Armstrong (tp, voc), Unknown (tp), Preston Jackson (tb), Lester Boone (cl, as), George James (cl, as), Albert Washington (ts), Charlie Alexander (p), Mike McKendrick (g),
Unknown (b), Tubby Hall (d).
OKeh recording session - Chicago, IL April 29, 1931

YouTube links:


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