Sunday, May 08, 2016

Your Moment of Swing: It Don't Mean A Thing If...

This is a 7 minute audio version of the classic "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," sung by Ella Fitzgerald with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Ellington apparently wrote the tune more than a decade before he introduced and recorded it in 1932.  It was the first time the term "swing" made it into a major song title, and its success probably helped inaugurate--or at least name-- the Swing Era that began in the late 30s.

It was usually sung by a member of the Ellington band and it's not clear when Ella Fitzgerald first sang it, but she didn't recorded it until 1957.  When Tony Bennett asked Louis Armstrong who was the greatest jazz singer he ever heard, Armstrong replied, "You mean, after Ella?"  Ella Fitzgerald's career spanned the decades from her first hit "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" in 1938 (which still is a swinging knockout) until 1993, three years before she died at the age of 79.  She was a powerful, inventive singer from first to last, and just as fun to listen to now as ever.

This particular recording is from a live show, and though it has the heat, rhythm and skill of the heart of the Swing Era, it is actually from 1967.  In some of her famous scat singing on this recording, you can even hear Ella name-check "A Hard Day's Night."

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