It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)


It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) – (m. Duke Ellington, w. Irving Mills)

Wikipedia excerpt:

The music was written and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at Chicago’s Lincoln Tavern and was first recorded by Ellington and his orchestra for Brunswick Records (Br 6265) on February 2, 1932. Ivie Anderson (photo below) sang the vocal and trombonist Joe Nanton and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges played the instrumental solos. The title was based on the oft stated credo of Ellington’s former trumpeter Bubber Miley, who was dying of tuberculosis. The song became famous, Ellington wrote, “as the expression of a sentiment which prevailed among jazz musicians at the time.” Probably the first song to use the phrase “swing” in the title, it introduced the term into everyday language and presaged the swing era by three years. The Ellington band played the song continuously over the years and recorded it numerous times, most often with trumpeter Ray Nance as vocalist.

Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra, vocal: Ivie Anderson — recorded on 2 February 1932; issued on 24 March 1932 on the 78 rpm single (US) Brunswick 6265, b/w “Rose Room (In Sunny Roseland)”



Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra — Columbia Records, 1932


Two clips from the short film RKO Jamboree No. 7: Duke Ellington and his Orchestra (1943), about which Wild Realm Reviews says:

It is staged to look like a performance at the Hurricane Restaurant in Hollywood but was actually filmed at the Movietone Studio in New York. [read more…]

The first video contains only the song “It Don’t Mean a Thing” from the medley performed in the second video. In the medley Duke and the band play sections of “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady” as an introduction to the two full songs “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”



The Boswell Sisters – recorded on 22 Nov 1932 – Victor Young (ldr), Bunny Berigan, Manny Klein (tpt), Tommy Dorsey (tbn), Jimmy Dorsey (cl), Larry Binyon (ts), Harry Hoffman (vln), Martha Boswell (p), Carl Kress (g), Artie Bernstein (sb), Stan King (d), New York City


Django Reinhardt with Stephane Grappelli. The band is billed as Stephane Grappely’s Hot Four –21/10/35 – Grappelly* (v), Django & Joseph Reinhardt, Pierre Ferret (g), Tony Rovira (b)

*This spelling was used professionally for decades.


Thelonious Monk Trio — from recording sessions on 21 & 27 July 1955 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ; released on the album Thelonious Monk Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington, Riverside RLP 12-201 

  • Thelonious Monk (piano)
  • Oscar Pettiford (bass)
  • Kenny Clarke (drums)


(above) Ella Fitzgerald performs in a NYC with Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman in the audience, 1948, © Herman Leonard, 1948

Ella Fitzgerald – live, Brussels 1957, with Oscar Peterson – piano, Herb Ellis – guitar, Roy Eldridge -trumpet, Ray Brown – bass, Jo Jones – drums


Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie with an all-star band – Nice Jazz Festival 1977 — personnel: Dizzy Gillespie (tp), Stan Getz (ts), Arnie Lawrence (as), John Lewis (p), George Duvivier (b), Shelly Manne (dr). The title Le Grande Parade du Jazz given at the beginning of the video is that of a PBS program.

According to this note., the program was broadcast on 19 August 1979. The same note says the performance was recorded at the Nice Jazz Festival 1977. I haven’t  found any info on that event or this performance at The personnel credits are given by the Youtube provider. Also, the site Nice Jazz Festival, on a page of photos titled Le Jazz à Nice de 1975 à 1980 (Jazz at Nice from 1975 to 1980) has a photo of Dizzy Gillespie, dated 1979, in which he’s dressed differently than in this clip.



The Puppini Sisters – from the 2007 album The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wild Bill Cox
    Dec 23, 2012 @ 11:14:30

    Thanks again for this fabulous site! I was just in to listen to Duke Ellington, Stephane and Django, and Ella (& all stars including Oscar, Herb, and Ray) and, boy! Did I have some fun, eh–kid? Also, Diz, Stan, and the boyz having too much fin with BeBop a la 1977. tyvm for all this classic swing and hot jazz!



  2. Susanne Schempp
    Dec 06, 2016 @ 06:07:42

    would you know where I can buy the arrangement of “It don’t mean a thing”
    as sung by the Puppini Sisters?
    Greetings Susanne Schempp



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