Monday, June 27, 2011

We Have All the Time in the World

Nine days to Stoptime: www.stoptimesaratoga.com

I’m as excited about hearing Louis Armstrong’s music playing at the Congress Park Carousel throughout Stoptime on July 6 as I am about all the events. Twenty-one Louis Armstrong favorites will play for one hour and repeat twice between 5 and 8 PM. I chose songs to please children AND their parents. The mix covers his lifetime of recordings. Early songs include “West End Blues,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “Tight Like This,” from the 1920s through almost the last recording he made, “We Have All the Time in the World,” from the soundtrack of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Armstrong traveled to London in October 1969 to record “We Have All the Time in the World,” because John Barry, the composer for the James Bond films, came to New York to ask Armstrong to sing it. Ricky Riccardi in his new book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years, quotes Barry on his choice of Armstrong: “ ‘All the Time in the World’ is my own personal favorite…[this] had a lot to do with the experience we had in New York with Louie Armstrong and [later] that afternoon we recorded it. Look, it’s about a man singing about the September of his years. And I thought Louis Armstrong singing [it] just rung true and [producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli] loved the idea, there were no arguments. But to work with this guy in the studio he was the sweetest, humblest guy.”1
Another mention of Armstrong’s recording of this song crops up in the BBC documentary, The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong (available from Netflix) that Riccardi also quotes. Hal David, the lyricist, recalls the experience: “He was a sick man at the time. After he did his first take, he came over to me and [said], you know, ‘Did I do it good? Don’t be afraid to tell me, I want to do it good.’ …he thanked me for asking him to sing the song in the movie…It was a testament to the gentleman, the kind of gracious gentleman that he was.”2
Armstrong did good, no doubt about it. He took it slow, the range perhaps not as broad as in the past, but every word, every note precisely sung. The gravelly voice polished, like stones tumbled in the jeweler’s cylinder for a week, his clarion trumpet solo emphatic over the swelling strings.
Although the song is heard today, it is more associated with the film than Armstrong. It is not to be found on compilations of Armstrong biggest hits. I didn’t remember this song when I started my Armstrong research until I bumped into it watching The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong. Then I recalled it was frequently aired when On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was released in 1969.
Terry Teachout in his 2009 Louis Armstrong biography, Pops, doesn’t think much of it. He calls it “an innocuous ballad,” but he doesn’t dis Armstrong’s recording. Riccardi, on the other hand, credits Armstrong’s take highly, “…if anything, the extra rawness and fragility of his health made him connect even deeper with the song’s emotions. Armstrong was truly in his September years, just thankful to be alive, and the joy and love in his voice is contagious through the performance.”3
“We Have All the Time in the World” is the twentieth song on the Carousel mix, followed by the ultimate, “What a Wonderful World.” But since it’s a loop and a long one, you’ll be lucky to catch it riding a horse or standing next to one holding on to your kid, nodding as her pony slides up and down. If you miss it, come back later for another round.

1 Ricky Riccardi, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years, Pantheon Books NY, 275.
2 ibid.
3 ibid.

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