Louis Armstrong and The All-Stars
Recorded September 30-October 2, 1958
Track Time 3:59
Written by Clarence Williams and Spencer Williams
Recorded in Los Angeles
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Trummy Young, trumbone; Peanuts Hucko, clarinet; Billy Kyle, piano; Mort Herbert, bass; Danny Barcelona, drums
Originally released on Audio Fidelity
Currently available on CD: Satchmo Plays King Oliver was reissued on the Fuel 2000 label.
Available on Itunes? Yes, on a few cheapie compilations
The information listed above refers to the All Stars’s version of this song because that’s where my Itunes shuffle landed, but this entry is going to focus on both of Armstrong’s 1959 recordings of “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll.” It’s one of the odder songs in the Armstrong discography but it looks he never played it before or after, but between August 3 and October 2, 1959 he made two completely different versions with two completely different bands…both featuring two completely different sets of lyrics!
The song “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll” was written by the team of Spencer Williams and Clarence Williams. Though not related, the two became linked in the jazz world for collaborating on tunes like this one and “Royal Garden Blues.” “Jelly Roll” became one of those tunes that no two singers ever sung in exactly the same way. Usually about 80% of it stayed the same but a lot of the little aspects of the lyrics differ when comparing the numerous versions. Mamie Smith might have recorded the first version, waxing it on December 6, 1922. That version is available at the Red Hot Jazz Archive and you can listen to it by clicking here.
Obviously, I don’t have to explain the double entendre-filled meaning of the tune’s lyrics, but Smith sings a verse that at least attempts to make it sound like the song is about a pastry:
Little Willie Green, from New Orleans, a greedy boy was he,
He always wanted a lot of kids just to keep his company
One day his Ma brought him a Jelly Roll, the best cake that was made,
And when the kids began to hang around, then Little Willie said:
From here, Smith sings the chorus and even in this early version, her soulful style results in some different readings of the lyrics, including the very first line:
Now, I ain't gonna give no, nobody none of this jellyroll, I mean my Jelly Roll,
I wouldn't give you a piece of my cake to save your soul!
My Ma told me today,
Yes, she told me when she went away,
She said to be a good boy, she'd bring me a toy,
I am her pride and joy,
Now there ain't no use for you to keep on hanging around,
I love you but I hate to turn you down,
The kids, they won’t behave, my Jelly Roll they crave,
Oh, I know you want it, but you ain't gonna get it,
I ain’t gonna give you none.
For those who know their “Jelly Roll” history, there are some differences towards the end of the chorus from what it would become in later versions. In her second chorus, Smith sings it almost the same exact way except this time, when she gets to the part about the kids not behaving, she adds a new line:
Sweet cookie cake is fine, but it don’t compare with mine.
However, by the time minstrel singer Emmett Miller got around to recording it on January 8, 1929, the famous next-to-last line was in place:
Oh, my Jelly Roll is sweet, and it sure is hard to beat
(To hear the Miller version, click here.)
By the 1930s and 1940s, classic versions of “Jelly Roll” were being recorded by the likes of Sidney Bechet and Eddie Condon (with Pee Wee Russell’s terrific solo), but the song managed to elude Louis Armstrong, though of course, he was no stranger to the music of Spencer Williams and Clarence Williams. However, when the Audio Fidelity label signed Armstrong to make some albums in 1959, he found himself in the unique position of recording the song for both of his first two Audio Fidelity releases. I have already discussed how Armstrong and Audio Fidelity joined forces in my September entry on “Wolverine Blues” so it’s not worth going into that whole story again. The result of it is in August 1959, Armstrong made his first album for the label backed by the popular Dukes of Dixieland. Though this was only a couple of months after Armstrong’s heart episode in Spoleto, Italy, he managed to turn in some thrilling trumpet solos on this first meeting with the Dukes.
“Jelly Roll” is taken at a medium kind of stutting tempo with Dukes trumpeter Frank Assunto taking the lead for the entire first chorus. I’m usually down on two-beat rhythms, but it works here. Pops is almost inaudible, but you can hear him contributing quiet harmonies against Assunto’s strong lead (with a very nice break). Armstrong’s just waiting for his turn in the spotlight to sing a couple of choruses, which he does in his imetiable way:
I ain't gonna give nobody none of my Jelly Roll, Jelly Roll,
I ain’t gonna give you any, not even to save your soul!
My Mama said today,
When she went away,
If I’d be a good boy, she'd bring me a toy,
(Break) Cause I’m Mama’s pride and joy.
Now there ain't no use for you just hanging around,
Oh, I like you but I hate to turn you down,
Now my Jelly Roll is sweet, they say it can’t be beat,
I know you want it, but you can’t have it, I ain’t gonna give you none.
With a triumphant, “Lookie here,” Pops barrells into a second chorus. The rhythm section starts swinging in 4/4 time and Pops really starts to have fun with the lyrics, rephrasing the melody wherever he sees fit. It’s not worth transcribing but I do love the delightfully swinging second break: “Cause my Mama’s, I’m her pride and joy.” Ending with “Take it gizzard,” clarinetist Jerry Fuller steps up to the mike in the role of “gizzard.” He splits a chorus with trombonist Fred Assunto before the joyous rideout with Pops on top for the first half. He overshadows the rest of the group and for his break, contributes an absolutely huge gliss…then disappears! I don’t know if this was in the plan, but Pops steps aside and lets Assunto take over and he really does, getting positively Armstrongian by taking the melody up an octave at one point (it’s one of Assunto’s highpoints of the session). Pops comes back and every jams out the rest of the chorus. After the drum break, Pops demonstrates some incredible endurance, leaping up to a high Bb and simply holding it for the final four bars before ending on a higher D.
The Audio Fidelity recordings were composites, made up of different portions of different takes. Years later, the Chiorscuro label released two albums of alternate takes. Some of them are quite wonderful but the “Jelly Roll” one is nothing special because about 75% of it was used for the master take. The only thing that’s different are the clarinet and trombone solos so unless you’re writing a thesis on Jerry Fuller and Fred Assunto’s complete solos, you’re better off sticking with the master. Pop’s final high Bb is delayed on the alternate, but otherwise everything he plays is just about the same as on the originally issued take. However, here’s some good news: in my “Odds and Ends” column of early November, I mentioned that the Essential Jazz Classics label was planning on releasing the complete Armstrong and Dukes of Dixieland material on a three-C.D. set. Well, though it’s not listed on Amazon or really anywhere else, worldsrecords.com is now officially offering the item ready to ship for the price of $35. I haven’t ordered it but it’s a welcome release as much of this material hasn’t been issued properly since the LP era. Go here for more information: http://www.worldsrecords.com/cgi-bin/storeR.cgi?specific=itemcode&phrase=61757
Just two months after the session with the Dukes, Audio Fidelity invited Pops back to record a tribute to King Oliver, this time with the All Stars as the backing band. From published reports, Pops was the man in charge on this session as many in the band had never heard of some of the songs that were to be recorded. Pops had to teach them the routines and the fact that the final product sounds so good is a testament to the professional nature of the musicians in the All Stars. But I will say that recording “Jelly Roll” again was pretty strange. Perhaps the Audio Fidelity people were just big fans of the song or perhaps Pops thought he could do more with it after the Dukes version. Whatever the reason for rerecording it, it’s a welcome performance.
Pops clearly had a ball blowing with the Dukes but the All Stars were his band so I have a feeling that some of the differences between the two versions might reside with Pops’s suggestions. For one, the tempo is brighter and always, the All Stars swing with a 4/4 feel from note one. The record starts right off with Pops leading the ensemble for a chorus of melody. Though his half-chorus of lead playing and that final high Bb on the Dukes version was pretty spectacular, Pops still didn’t sound like he was in 100% form on that performance, giving Assunto the lion’s share of the lead. On the All Stars date, he sounds in prime form, playing with verve and fluidity throughout the entire opening chorus. Peanuts Hucko is up with the first solo and it’s a very good one. I like Peanuts, though on some of the stuff from the 1959 European tour, he sounds quite bored. He would leave the band appoximately six months later, but he rose to the occasion for this album, turning in many hot solos.
But once again, the highlight is Pops’s vocal. Having recorded it just a few months earlier, he probably felt confidant enough to sing it again. However, after getting through only two lines, his mind goes blank—it’s “Heebie Jeebies” all over again! He keeps his composure, scats brilliantly and even makes up some new lyrics for the ending. Monique Adriaansen and Mel Priddle transcribed this vocal in August 2006 and after finding it on the web, I’ve decided to replicate it here—they even did a pretty good job with the scatting! Here ‘tis:
Yes, I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None o' My Jelly Roll, Jelly Roll
I ain't gonna give nobody none to save the soul
I said Jelly, Jelly Roll
Well, jelly roll, jelly roll, jelly roll
Ain't gonna give nobody to save your soul
When you see me walking down the street
Down where the cats all meet
Jelly, Jelly Roll
I ain't gonna give you none!
Hearing Pops’s brain conk out after just two lines is quite funny but he recovers beautifully and that “Walking down the street” line always makes me laugh because it’s so completely improvised. Trummy growls through a full chorus, getting typically good support from the rhythm section. Pops then leads the charge with a real New Orleans-style lead. By that, I mean he plays a lot of melody and doesn’t spend too much time in the upper echelon of his high register. Danny Barcelona takes a drum break and there are short spots for Mort Herbert and Billy Kyle before Pops takes it up for a typical All Stars ending, landing on a final high Bb. It’s a fine performance and clearly Pops must have liked that vocal because it’s one of only two songs that doesn’t survive on another alternate take.
So how do you like your Pops? Do you want the pure powerhouse champion of the Dukes version, holding that hard Bb at the end? Or do you like the more fluid-sounding, improvising New Orleans lead player? Do you like him singing the proper lyrics and rephrasing them in his own fashion? Or do you like him totally neglecting the words and scatting something new on the spot? Do you like him backed by a two-beat Dixieland band or do you like the more “modern” swing of the All Stars? That’s for you to decide as I’ll take Pops any way I can get it. Both of these “Jelly Rolls,” though recorded so close to each other, really couldn’t be more different. Only the genius of Louis Armstrong ties them together and that’s good enough for me.