© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Louis Armstrong was the father of “vernacular music,” which was made possible by the microphone. Anyone with any kind of contemporary rhythmic concept —be they singer, instrumentalist, or composer-arranger— owes a debt to Armstrong. By the way, my favorite Armstrong performance, both playing and singing, is his 1957 recording of “You Go To My Head” with Oscar Peterson. If you want to understand where Miles Davis came from, and why Armstrong is still relevant today, listen to this. I often play it for students, and many of them find it a life-changing record.”
- Bill Kirchner, Jazz musician
Returning to the subject of favorite recordings, Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson [825 713-2] has been included in that group since Verve released it in 1957.
Louis’ meeting with Oscar Peterson's trio, is as Richard Cook and Brian Morton in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed “perhaps a mixed success, but nevertheless an intriguing disc.”
Peterson can't altogether avoid his besetting pushiness, yet he's just as often sotto voce [a quiet or understated voice; literally “under the voice”] in accompaniment, and on the slower tunes especially - Sweet Lorraine and Lets Fall In Love and You Go To My Head.”
But the important point here is that “the chemistry works, and Louis is certainly never intimidated.”
I also agree with them when they assert: “It’s good to hear [Pops] on material more obviously 'modern' than he normally tackled and, although he sometimes gets the feel of a song wrong, he finds a surprising spin tor several of the lyrics.”
But I think, the most important point to be made in its favor is that, thanks again to the intercession of impresario Norman Granz in, that the album exists!
How many times have you heard friends’ remarks about Wish List recordings - “Gee, I wonder what it would have sounded like to have so-and-so performing with such-and-such - while knowing that the reality is that’s never going to happen because those artists are no longer with us?
I’ve often longed for a Louis Armstrong-Art Tatum recording, but that never happened, either. Thankfully, this one did, especially since Oscar Peterson gets a close to Tatum as anyone ever did.
Put another way, although a modern stylist and very much his own man, Peterson’s homage to Tatum is very much apparent in his playing and is what I think that Cook-Morton are referring to when they mention Oscar’s “besettling pushiness.” But that’s not the way I hear it. What’s on display here is a great accompanist offering his talents to a great soloist, one very much deserving of his respect.
More about the special nature of Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson [Verve 825 713-2] is revealed in Leonard Feather's liner notes from the original LP release of this material:
"When I was a kid," Louis Armstrong says, "I used to go singing around in churches or choirs or on street corners. You'd get four hustlers on a corner who could make a sharp quartet. 1 was about seven years old when I started singing. We'd pass the hat and sometimes we'd make as much as $1.50 a night. That was like $150 a night now"
This recollection places Satchmo's vocal career ahead of his horn-blowing life by several years and means that he has been singing, for pleasure and money, over half a century. Since today his popularity with the general public can be credited even more to his singing than to the trumpet that originally made him a globally known figure, and since the present album is basically a set of vocal performances, it is interesting to note that this thorny, rock-bottomed approach to the use of the human voice predated (and in a sense predicted) similar melodic and rhythmic nuances on the cornet and trumpet.
As George Avakian pointed out in The Jazz Makers (Grove Press), Louis "developed a whole school of jazz singing, based on a literal interpretation of the folk and blues singers' approach to the voice as an instrument. Louis showed that the emotional meaning of o lyric can be expressed through vocal inflections and improvisations of a purely instrumental quality just as effectively — more so, in fact — as through words. This line of development paralleled the growth of his instrumental influence. It still embraces every jazz and popular singer today"
All this can be applied at full strength to the dozen interpretations on these sides of material that generally falls in the popular song category. What Louis may lack in clear understanding of the lyrics' meaning in occasional lines is more than compensated by his overall feeling for the mood of both lyrics and melody. And there are, of course, additional virtues in the presence of his companions. The Oscar Peterson Trio Plus One (Louis Bellson again rounds out the rhythm section as he did on previous albums in which Oscar's trio played for Louis, Ella Fitzgerald and others) is perhaps the most perfectly integrated rhythmic unit of its kind in contemporary jazz.
Peterson's background is about as different from Louis' as Admiral Byrd's from Dr. Livingstone's; yet it is this very contrast, and the eclectic quality in his work, that makes him the ideal accompanist, for any singer or instrumentalist of any jazz school. What Louis learned on the streets and in the Waifs' Home in New Orleans has its best possible complement in what Oscar learned during rigorous classical studies north of the border. Neither had to bend a millimeter in musical concession to the other; the blend of spontaneous musicianship and academic knowledge was natural and immediate.
All the songs in this are from 15 to 30 years old; all have been used extensively by jazzmen, though in several instances Louis had never before recorded them. ...
You Go To My Head is, unless memory fails, Louis' first recorded performance of a number he could and should have introduced as soon as it was published, over 20 years ago. Perhaps in an effort to compensate for keeping us waiting so long, he plays an entire chorus and sings another. Not since Billie Holiday has there been a comparable sympathetic treatment….
Hearing Louis in the un-frilled, ungimmicked setting of the Oscar Peterson rhythm section will be a treat for those who have often seen him in person and wished for fewer encumbrances. Basically Louis needs nobody but Louis — he could stand all alone in the middle of the Sahara, singing selected excerpts from the Tunis telephone directory, and we suspect he could make it for a week without food and water. But if there must be someone else, let it be the man whose team made this
session such a happy occasion for all concerned. The meeting of Armstrong and Peterson marked one of the most catalytic moments since the day when Peterson met Norman Granz.”
Of You Go To My Head, Ted Gioia has written in The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire [Oxford]
You Go to My Head
Composed by J. Fred Coots, with lyrics by Haven Gillespie
“In 1934, this same songwriting duo collaborated on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," which endeared itself to Mom and Dad by getting countless youngsters to move from the naughty to nice cohort group. Four years later, some of those nice kids had grown up, but I'm confident few parents encouraged their headstrong teens to follow the lead of the new Gillespie-Coots hit "You Go to My Head." This song was a paean to romantic infatuation, packed with similes relating love to booze; in the course of a few bars — musical ones, that is, not those called "Dew Drop Inn" — we get references to champagne, burgundy, and a kicker of julep. Indeed, this song comes closer than any tune I know to capturing in musical form the feeling of losing control.
If the words were a bit too sophisticated for the kids, so was the music. "You Go to My Head" is an intricately constructed affair with plenty of harmonic movement. The song starts in a major key, but from the second bar onward, Mr. Coots seems intent on creating a feverish dream quality tending more to the minor mode. The release builds on the drama, and the final restatement holds some surprises as well. The piece would be noteworthy even if it lacked such an exquisite coda, but those last eight bars convey a sense of resigned closure to the song that fittingly matches the resolution of the lyrics.
Four artists had hit records with this song during the summer 051938. Larry Clinton's version was the biggest success, reaching as high as #3, but Teddy Wilson, Billie Holiday, and Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra each enjoyed placement in the top 20 with their releases. The song fell out of circulation during the early 19403, but was widely covered during the second half of the decade, with artists from a range of stylistic camps — including Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Lena Home, Coleman Hawkins, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, and Lennie Tristano — bringing their individual talents to bear on it.
Vocalists tend to take this song at a "deep ballad" tempo, sometimes so extremely slow that they test the competence of the rhythm section to maintain a sense of swing while moving along at less than 40 beats per minute. Check out the recordings by Betty Carter and Shirley Horn for examples of how this can work when the instrumentalists on hand match the skill of the singer. In contrast, Bill Evans — whom one might expect to linger over the chart — delivers a simmering hard bop treatment on his 1962 Interplay album, helped along by Jim Hall and Freddie Hubbard.
Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond take a different approach in their 1952 duet performance from Storyville, mixing romanticism and cerebral deconstruction in equal doses. Desmond had such fondness for this recording that when he and Brubeck reunited for a duet project in 1975, he wanted to showcase "You Go to My Head" again, and the song served as the emotional centerpiece of the resulting album. Both versions are worth hearing, but the earlier track is especially revealing of the simpatico relationship between these two artists, and is my favorite performance from their work for the Fantasy label.”
Here’s a video of Pops and OP performing You Go to My Head.