“I’m in the Market for You” (1939) Harry James

“I’m in the Market for You”

Composed by James F. Hanley (music) and Joseph McCarthy (lyric); probably arranged by Jack Matthias.

Recorded by Harry James and His Orchestra for Columbia in Los Angeles on November 30, 1939.

Harry James, trumpet, directing: Jack Palmer, Claude Bowen and Jack Schaeffer, trumpets; Truett Jones, Dalton Rizzotto and Bruce Squires, trombones; Dave Matthews, first alto saxophone; Drew Page, alto saxophone; Claude Lakey and Bill Luther, tenor saxophones; Jack Gardner, piano; Bryan “Red” Kent, guitar; Thurman Teague, bass; Mickey Scrima, drums.

The story:

Harry James left Benny Goodman’s band in early January 1939 to form his own band. On the surface of it, this seemed only natural. Since joining the Goodman band two years earlier, James had made a national reputation as one of the most spectacular trumpet soloists in the world of swing. The only soloist in the Goodman band in the years 1937 and 1938 who was featured more than Harry James was Benny Goodman himself. With Goodman, James was featured prominently on Benny’s weekly network radio show, The Camel Caravan, which brought the sound of his trumpet and his name into millions of homes nationwide on a regular basis. Harry’s horn was also showcased often on BG’s Victor records, and in a Hollywood movie, the 1937 Warner Brothers flick Hollywood Hotel. That movie, and Benny’s Victor record of “Sing, Sing, Sing” each contained high-test James trumpet solos. James was one of the most popular members of the Goodman band. It was reported that Harry was paid $250 a week when he joined BG in January of 1937, and by the time he left two years later was clearing an average of $500 a week. (Multiply by 15 to get the value in today’s dollars.) (Above left – Harry James solos with Benny Goodman’s band – 1937.)

The band James formed in early 1939 was a good one, and it was dedicated to swing. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the band had only limited success throughout the first year of its existence, and Harry was forced to dip into his savings each week to cover the shortfall between what the band had earned and its expenses. But like most bandleaders during the swing era, especially those who were jazz-oriented, Harry rather obstinately continued to run his band in a way that satisfied his musical tastes first, and the dance audiences he played for second. He couldn’t grasp that he was selling his musical product, not buying it. But we have to remember that in 1939, Harry James was only 23 years old. He would learn.

Summer 1939 – the fledgling Harry James band. L-R front: Ralph Hawkins, Truett Jones, Connie Haines, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Dave Matthews, Jack Palmer;  middle: Jack Schaeffer, Thurman Teague, Drew Page, Russell Brown, Claude Bowen, Bryan “Red” Kent; back: Claude Lakey, “Jumbo” Jack Gardner and Bill Luther.

Harry James left the Benny Goodman band after the Camel Caravan broadcast on January 10, 1939. He appeared two days later for the Metronome All-Star recording session which was at the Victor recording studio on East 24th Street in Manhattan, and then began to organize his own band.

He was assisted in this process by saxophonist Dave Matthews, with whom he had been working in the Goodman band. Although Matthews was born in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, his family moved to McAlester, Oklahoma when he was a child, and he grew up there. By his teens, Matthews was living in Chicago, where his mother taught at the Chicago Music College. Matthews studied there for five years, and  began his career as a professional musician in 1930. He worked in a series of territory bands in the early 1930s, and joined drummer Ben Pollack’s band in 1935. It was in this band that he met Harry James. James left Pollack in early 1937 to join Benny Goodman, and in the spring of 1938, Harry advocated on Matthews’s behalf with BG to get him into the Goodman band.

As the personnel of the new James band settled through the early weeks of 1939, there were eleven musicians in it from Texas, including Harry. One of those musicians was Drew Page, who played second alto and baritone saxophones, and the few clarinet solos that were in the band’s book. Page later recalled those early days of the James band: “In New York, we rehearsed for a few days in the building where the Roseland Ballroom was operating, and then started on tour with a total of twenty-three arrangements in the book, and a few ‘heads.’  (On the heads), Harry dictated the brass parts and Dave Matthews dictated the saxophone parts. Two of those heads became hits after they were recorded: ‘Two O’Clock Jump,” which was Harry’s version of Count Basie’s ‘One O’Clock Jump,’ and ‘Lady Be Good,’ a series of riffs and solos not touching on the melody, which was re-titled ‘Flash’ on the record. Later, another head added to an arrangement of ‘Pagan Love Song’ became a hit under the title ‘Back Beat Boogie.’ Harry began by dressing up ‘Pagan Love Song’ with a tag (ending). He developed the tag to such an extent that he threw the arrangement away, and we played the tag as the number.” (1) (Above right: Harry James with his parents, Everette and Maybelle James – late 1930s.)

The new James band, being booked by Music Corporation of America (MCA), bounced around playing mostly one-nighters with a few location jobs and theater weeks or split-weeks thrown in, just enough to keep the band about a break-even enterprise financially. By November 1939, the band was in Chicago, playing at the Panther Room of Hotel Sherman for several weeks. From there, they traveled west to Los Angeles. They had been booked into the Palomar Ballroom, but that venue had burned to the ground on October 2, 1939, so MCA had to scramble to fill in play dates for the James band in and around Los Angeles. The eventual venue they were assigned to play was the tony Victor Hugo restaurant in West Hollywood. That engagement was something of  a disaster, with the band being fired after a week because of their blasting away while patrons tried to eat dinner. In the wake of this fiasco, MCA had to get the band some lucrative work in a hurry, or Harry James and His Orchestra would have had to disband, and Harry would have had to file a bankruptcy petition. Eventually, two engagements were secured: a week at a Los Angeles theater followed by a week at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. These two gigs temporarily stabilized the band’s finances, and they then began to play their way back east.

The music:

The song “I’m in the Market for You” was composed in 1930 by James F. Hanley (music) and Joseph McCarthy (lyric) for the film High Society Blues, produced by Fox Film Corporation. Although many artists recorded this song in 1930, the most notable recording of it for the teen-aged trumpet prodigy Harry James was the recording made of it by Louis Armstrong. While Louis’s recording had two passionate open trumpet solos and a vocal, James’s version is relaxed by comparison. Harry mutes his horn with a cup-mute, and plays melodically throughout this performance. The tempo is perfect for dancing.

Although Harry James was endowed with astonishing technique on trumpet, here his playing is straightforward with no technical fireworks. Melodic paraphrase is what James was after, and he achieved it beautifully. The arrangement, probably written by Jack Matthias (Andy Gibson was also writing for Harry then, but this does not sound like his work), is also very simple, consisting mainly of harmonic pads played either by the saxophones or the brass. However, there is a passage where the ensemble spells James for sixteen bars. Also, listen for drummer Mickey Scrima’s soft back beats throughout, and a tart Jamesian upward rip near the end of this performance.

This is a warm late 1930s dance band performance which features some very tasty trumpeting by young Mr. James.

The recording presented in this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.

Notes:

(1) Drew’s Blues …A Sideman’s Life with the Big Bands, by Drew Page (1980), 113.

Links:

Here are some great performances by Harry James when he was Benny Goodman’s featured trumpet soloist:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/04/13/big-john-special-1937-benny-goodman-with-harry-james-and-gene-krupa-and-1938-benny-goodman-with-harry-james-and-dave-tough/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/03/23/flat-foot-floogie-1938-benny-goodman-with-harry-james-and-dave-tough/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/07/09/sing-sing-sing-1937-benny-goodman/

For a panorama of images that appear here at swingandbeyond.com, click on this link:

https://www.google.com/search?sa=N&sxsrf=ACYBGNSh-3CCg5-1zNhsxEQG5xBhtvi0Jg:1576754642771&q=swingandbeyond.com&tbm=isch&source=univ&ved=2ahUKEwi_h4XjzMHmAhXHGc0KHamMALo4FBCw

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2 Comments

  1. Nice re-engineering of a lovely tune. if you go back to Pop’s original, you can hear that James lifted whole phrases from Louis and James admiration for Pops was boundless. Even better, check out James’ 1960s version, which is stunning and a lot more flashy. For my money, I’d take the original. I’ve always wanted to transcribe that solo. Maybe someone knows if it’s been done?

  2. Delighted to get the back story on easily one of my favorite James recordings! I first heard the transcription version from April of ’41, on which Harry plays open, and thought it was marvelous, but when I heard this earlier, more relaxed take I found it still more incredible. For me, Harry’s playing here achieves an effect that is similar to his magnificent “Sleepy Time Gal”: every note is perfectly chosen and flawlessly executed. Along with Mickey Scrima, guitarist Bryan Kent contributes greatly to the laid back quality of this side. If there could be any doubt that it was the 1930 recording by his idol, Louis, that inspired Harry here, listeners should take note that the brass ensemble passage following Harry’s full chorus opens with a quote from bars 9-12 of Lawrence Brown’s solo on the Armstrong version.

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