THE POET, GRIPPED BY PURE LOVE, EARNESTLY STATES THAT HE WOULD RATHER HAVE THE COMPANY OF THE BELOVED THAN ANY OTHER PERSON, EVEN ONE OF GREATER WEALTH AND FAME, AND THESE WORDS ARE ACCOMPANIED BY A PLEASING AIR

What follows is the Official JAZZ LIVES Love Song.  It captures my feelings exactly and deeply, and the music that accompanies it is perfectly delightful.

The song is I’D RATHER BE WITH YOU — composed by Harry Akst, Lew Brown, and Elsa Maxwell for a night club “revue” for the Casino de Paree.  (I have read that the New York club Studio 54 occupied the same space, decades later.)

My guess about the composition of this song is that Akst created the melody, Brown the lyrics, and that they called on Ms. Maxwell for the details of Society that would make it authentic.  (I can invent the dialogue for their meeting, and I am sure you can also.)  I’ve not seen the film nor a copy of the sheet music, but the song was recorded in Chicago by Charles LaVere and his Chicagoans, and we have the performance I love through a series of nearly miraculous kindnesses.

The jazz connoisseur Helen Oakley Dance arranged for this racially mixed band — not yet accepted as the norm — to record for the nearly-dead OKeh label, and the records were not issued at the time.  (Thanks to hal Smith for this detail.)

Some thirty years later, Columbia Records was cleaning house and someone decided to dispose of a number of unlabeled one-sided vinyl test pressings.  Helene Chmura, blessed be her name, asked collector Dan Mahony if he wanted them before they were thrown away; he agreed, and among them were the seven sides from the LaVere sessions of March 11 and April 5, 1935 — this performance comes from the latter.  I read that these were “test-only” performances, which means that they were the Thirties equivalent of audition “demo” recordings.  Given the circumstances, we are so lucky — beyond lucky — to have them.  (Mahony passed them on to the fine UK collector and gentleman Bert Whyatt; the discs now are held by Charles LaVere’s son Stephen.)

Before I write more, you should hear the music.  The video below was created by the exceedingly talented Chris Tyle (cornet, clarinet, drums, vocal, jazz scholar, bandleader, archivist, writer . . . . ) as a special commission for JAZZ LIVES.  Alec Wilder would have called the song “notey,” and deplored the repeated notes; I am amused by the way the lines spin out to accommodate the lengthy lyrics . . . but it goes right to my heart.

The musicians are Charles LaVere, vocal (and possibly trumpet); Johnny Mendell and Marty Marsala, trumpets; Joe Marsala, clarinet / alto; Joe Masek, tenor; Boyce Brown, alto; Preston Jackson, trombone; Jess Stacy, piano; Joe Young, guitar; Israel Crosby, bass; Zutty Singleton, drums.  That’s some band.

I find the lyrics particularly charming.  Of course the notion that “I like you a lot” is a familiar refrain in love songs.  “I like pie, I like cake, I like you best of all,” another.  “It all depends on you” and “I wanna go where you go — then I’ll be happy,” other variations.  But this song, where the singer says “I prefer your company to that of famous members of the upper class who would offer me unique experiences so far beyond the ordinary,” is offering a special kind of love-bouquet.  And it is witty and sweet that the singer doesn’t say, “Mrs. Astor wanted to sleep with me but I told her NO because I like you better.”  No, the lyrics advance a series of whimsical rhetorical possibilities — which must have been especially striking in the Depression: IF Mrs. Vanderbilt invited me to dine . . . and I think we are expected to know that this is a dream rather than a real invitation, and that the singer and the Beloved do operate in the world of the shared hot dog at Coney Island.

But love often is charmingly hyperbolic, and the singer insists, “My preference for you, my fidelity to you, is not a simple matter of preferring you more than your real peers.  I’d rather be with you than with anyone else, no matter how rare and glittering the experience anyone else could offer.”  That, to me, makes it a deep and authentic — even while whimsical — offer of love.

And the music!  It might be too much for some when I say I love every note of this performance, but it’s true — from the repeated vamp capped with a Zutty accent (sounds like his pal Sidney) into Boyce’s melody statement, so sweet yet never sentimental, with that rhythm section, Stacy bubbling, beneath.  Marty Marsala takes the bridge in an impassioned way, with the saxophones playing a written figure to emphasize his statement; a break from Boyce leads into an even more beautiful exposition of the melody.  (If anyone doubts that Boyce was a remarkable player, soulful and precise, let the skeptic listen to that chorus a few times.  It stands alongside the best alto playing I know.)

This — eighty seconds — is a fully satisfying musical offering.  But there’s more.  After an interlude concluded by Zutty and a two-note phrase from Preston Jackson, Charles LaVere begins to sing.  (Is it Marsala or  Mandell echoing and improvising around and under him?)  His diction is refined; he is offering us the story in the clearest way.  But the vibrato-laden way in which he ends phrases is both intense and heartfelt; his reading of “be” in the song’s title is so touching.  We know he cares!  On a second or third listening, we can honor Jess Stacy, stealing the show yet again.  Tenorist Joe Masek brings out his best early-Thirties Hawkins, and one of the musicians (or a studio onlooker) lets out a fervent yell of approval at 2:37.  I agree with the anonymous emoter.  And the final eight bars are a full-band ensemble, both tender and rocking, driven on by embellishments from Preston Jackson and Zutty’s cymbal.

It’s the combination — witty lyrics without a hint of satire, delivered with the utmost feeling over a hot jazz background — that does it for me.

(In this century, James Dapogny urged Marty Grosz to record the song — which he did, splendidly, on an Arbors CD called MARTY GROSZ AND HIS HOT COMBINATION.)

I send this to performance and video to my Beloved, who has already heard and felt the song.

I encourage you to send it to your Beloved.

If you don’t have a Beloved at the moment and would like one, play this over and over until the music and the lyrics are brilliantly resonant in your head, then hum and sing it under your breath as you go through your day.  It will, I am sure, attract the love of your life to you.

May your happiness increase.

About these ads

12 responses to “THE POET, GRIPPED BY PURE LOVE, EARNESTLY STATES THAT HE WOULD RATHER HAVE THE COMPANY OF THE BELOVED THAN ANY OTHER PERSON, EVEN ONE OF GREATER WEALTH AND FAME, AND THESE WORDS ARE ACCOMPANIED BY A PLEASING AIR

  1. Pingback: THE POET, GRIPPED BY PURE LOVE, EARNESTLY STATES THAT HE WOULD RATHER HAVE THE COMPANY OF THE BELOVED THAN ANY OTHER PERSON, EVEN ONE OF GREATER WEALTH AND FAME, AND THESE WORDS ARE ACCOMPANIED BY A PLEASING AIR | chewbone

  2. jOhn P. Cooper

    Love small band 30s stuff. Nice tune and there is another tune by the same name done by Les Brown with Doris Day and a male vocalist in which they declare there love for each other by naming the big Hollywood stars that they would turn down for each other.

    Nice video, too!

  3. Pingback: THE POET, GRIPPED BY PURE LOVE, EARNESTLY STATES THAT HE WOULD RATHER HAVE THE COMPANY OF THE BELOVED THAN ANY OTHER PERSON, EVEN ONE OF GREATER WEALTH AND FAME, AND THESE WORDS ARE ACCOMPANIED BY A PLEASING AIR | chewbone

  4. The Beloved gratefully and wholeheartedly accepts this delightful musical bouquet and is so very glad to be with you this very moment and always.

  5. A lovely song, which I trust all “Beloveds” will appreciate. As Michael explains, it was recorded on April 11 1935, at the second of two Chicago sessions under Charles LaVere’s leadership. The slightly earlier session (March 11) was a very similar personnel, but with Jabbo Smith on trumpet and vocals, Leonard Bibbs on bass (replaced by Israel Crosby on the later session) and LaVere himself on piano.

    Bert Whyatt wrote in the notes to the ‘Gannet’ UK CD issue a few years ago:
    “It seemed to Derek Coller and to me that the solo piano heard [on the first session] was so like Jess Stacy that, during a 1979 visit, we had him listen to the tape.. Jess had no memory of the session (though he remembered LaVere as a “fine musician”) and seemed uncertain as to whether it was him playing. However when later we played the tape again, with Jess’s wife Pat present, she insisted ‘Of Course that’s You!’ and he was well satisfied and pleased.”

    So thanks must go to Jess’ “Beloved” for confirming his presence…

  6. Count your blessings, and take good care of her!

  7. Dave McLaughlin

    Michael, I fell in love with this song back around the early fifties, when I was in my teens, and learning about girls…

    My dad used to book big bands for dances when he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley back in the mid 30s. He owned a ton of 78s and he played them all while I was growing up — this one a lot: I’d Rather Be With You, Ray Noble and His Orchestra with Al Bowlly as the vocalist.

    I was enchanted, but of course didn’t know at that time who those people were in the lyric, but they seemed important in some way. I still listen to that song often.

    Anyway, thanks for the memories, and all you do for jazz…

    Dave in Arroyo Grande, CA

  8. This song has magical powers, Dave. I am going to search for a copy of the sheet music to see what the verse is; I am sure it is just as quirky and sweet as the chorus. But you, dear Mr. McLaughlin, have given me a great gift: I didn’t know there was another recording that predated Marty Grosz’s. Do any of my readers have a copy of the Bowlly disc or the sheet music? Romance needs you!

  9. Dave McLaughlin

    Michael, now that I’ve listened to it, I’m positive that it is NOT Ray Noble/Al Bowlly, but someone else’s band/soloist from the same era. Sorry ’bout that. It’s still a dynamite (3:17) recording, and my other comments about it still apply.

    If you’ll send me an email address to my email address I’ll try to send it to you (4.5MB) or I can send you a link to my Dropbox and you can download it. Thanks…

    Dave McLaughlin

  10. I am still very intrigued! My email is swingyoucats@gmail.com., and I’m in your debt. Michael

  11. I was delighted to find this, Michael, and love the video. About 15 years ago I met Ed Reynolds of Wakefield, MA a dedicated jazz fan and collector of every Joe Marsala recording in existence. Ed taped every one that I didn’t already have including all the The Charles LaVere recordings of 1935, the earliest recordings on which my father appears. This is one of my favorites as well. Though it’s impossible to tell whether Mendell or Marsala accompany LaVere’s vocal, Marty was always sensitive to the soloist and wove in and out and around in an effort to support and highlight the performance. Marty had a staccato-like way of playing the horn owing to the fact that he began as a drummer then switched to trumpet.

  12. My brother, Tracy, turned me on to your site. He thought I’d get a kick out of your discourse regarding our father’s record. He was right.
    The video is wonderful and I hope you can inform me how I might obtain a copy on DVD. (I don’t like downloading things off You Tube or other sites as they often contain malware or other unwanted programs.)
    I’ve never seen any sheet music for this title, but surely there is one. All my father ever said about the tune was that it was written by Elsa Maxwell.
    Regarding the tests of the two sessions, the beloved Mrs. Chmura only had the four tests from the second session, which, you correctly state, through a circuitous route, are now a part of my collection. The three tests for the first session came to exist through two sources. My father had shellac tests of all three, but by the time he gave me his collection, they were nowhere to be found. Frank Driggs, then working as assistant to John Hammond at Columbia, turned up “All Too Well” and “Ubangi Man” (for consideration for inclusion in Jazz Odyssey Volume 2 – The Sound of Chicago. (“Ubangi Man” made the cut.) At that time (1964), Driggs told me that it had come to him through an equally circuitous list of informants that one of the guys who had operated Jump Records had the LaVere tests. Accordingly, my father retrieved “Boogaboo Blues” and “All Too Well” from Ed Kocher, to whom my father had obviously lent them many years before. (Neither man had any memory of the disposition of “Ubangi Man”.) In any event, the discovery explained explained why the tests were missing from the collection. Shortly thereafter, I sent to Driggs a rough tape copy of “Boogaboo Blues” that Don Brown had made for me one Saturday at a Jazz Man Record Shop collectors’ session and he put it out! (It appears on The Sound of Jazz Genius, which was offered as a premium to the buyers of another great Driggs anthology, Swing Street.) Every copy of that recording that has been issued since can be traced to that rough tape. Also, although “All Too Well” was found by Driggs, the metal part had been damaged resulting in extraneous noises at the end and more discouragingly throughout Jabbo’s solo. [By the way, on behalf of Sony, I recently had all seven tracks (including "Boogaboo" and the undamaged "All Too Well") expertly remastered by Steven Lasker.]
    The personnel you have for the band is almost right. My father didn’t possibly play trumpet on the record. He did play trumpet (or more probably cornet) professionally and did so with the orchestras of Del Coon and Joe Sanders (1934-1936), but he never claimed to have done so on his own records and we played them together numerous times. Also, the guitarist has been often been misidentified, including from the first jazz magazine notices that appeared in 1935. As far as I know, there is no such player as Joe Young (other than Mighty Joe Young, the post-war Chicago blues guitarist and singer). Rather, the guitarist is Huey Long, from Sealy, Texas and a brother to Jewel Long, who also recorded. Huey was a teacher and performer, well-known for his association with The Ink Spots, who lived to be 105 and now has a short page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huey_Long_%28singer%29). Also, in his rundown of the personnel differences between the two sessions, Jim Denham failed to note that Bud Taylor played the other tenor on the first session. And to add to Denham’s story about Stacy’s reluctance to identify himself on the second session, you can write that off to his ultimate respect for his friend Charlie LaVere. He told me later that he didn’t want to take anything away from LaVere in admitting that he was playing on that session. But really, did it even need confirmation? The playing is so obviously Jess. (On second thought, maybe confirmation wasn’t totally unjustified. Dick Sudhalter got a lot of things about these sessions wrong in Lost Chords, stating that LaVere played piano like Stacy and even crediting the authorship of “I’d Rather Be with You” to LaVere! Oh, well.)
    In regard to the confusing suggestion by Dave McLaughlin, I think the recording to which he refers is Victor 24881 – I’d Rather Be With You – Jan Garber and his Orchestra – Vocal refrain by Lee Bennett. It’s the only other record of the song I’ve been able to locate…and I’ve been looking a long time. (Of course there are other songs with that same title, witness the recorded legacies of the Harlem Hamfats and The Dells.)
    Lastly, thanks to your list for bringing forth Eleisa Trampler, with whom I’m sure that I’m going to enjoy corresponding. She – or anyone else – can contact me directly at stevelavere@hotmail.com and I will happily return the favor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s