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 Orchestra

1932 recording with vocals by Ivie Anderson


(Below) Two clips from the same performance, identified by the youtube providers only by the year, 1943. The first is the excerpt of the song It Don’t Mean a Thing from the full medley performed in the second video. In this 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.

IMDb does not list this film and I had trouble identifying it until I came across the review by The film is RKO Jamboree No. 7: Duke Ellington and his Orchestra (1943). 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 Boswell Sisters – recorded 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.



Thelonius Monk

Video to be replaced


(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 ~ Oscar Peterson .. Piano ~ Herb Ellis .. Guitar ~ Roy Eldridge .. Trumpet ~ Ray Brown .. Bass ~ Jo Jones .. Drums ~ Jazz ~ Diva


An all-star band featuring Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie – Nice, France – 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 aired on 19 August 1979, according to this note. 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.

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. He’s dressed differently.




The Puppini Sisters – a track on 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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