Today, April 30, is International Jazz Day. You can read all about the jazz activities all over the world today, especially in this year’s host city, Istanbul (where Tony Bennett had a very successful concert last sumer), at the Official International Jazz Day website.
Here at the Year of Tony Bennett, our celebration is a bit smaller, but no less heartfelt. And, as we are honoring Duke Ellington this week, we’ve chosen three great recordings of Ellington’s It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Aint’ Got That Swing) for our readers and listeners. Why? Because it’s one of my favorite songs and I absolutely love all three of these recordings. And, they do exhibit not only a purity of the song, but also of the mores of their time in jazz. For this author, these three recordings are a mini-history of jazz.
Ellington wrote this song in 1931 during intermissions at club dates in Chicago. The song was first recorded in 1932, with vocals by Ivie Anderson and instrumental solos by Joe Nanton (trombone) and Johnny Hodges (alto sax). Here’s Ivie Anderson singing this song:
Tony Bennett has performed and recorded this song throughout his career; I am partial to this version from his 1999 album, Bennett Sings Ellington: Hot & Cool. Clayton Cameron on drums …
And, to finish off this trio, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong from 1961 The Great Summit.
Just remember: it really don’t mean a thing if ain’t got that swing.