“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)“ is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington….whose lyrics were written by Irving Mills….which is now accepted as a jazz standard…..as jazz historian Gunther Schuller characterized it as “now legendary” and “a prophetic piece and a prophetic title”.
The music was composed and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at Chicago’s Lincoln Tavern….then Ellington and his orchestra recorded it for Brunswick Records (Br 6265) on February 2, 1932. After Mills wrote the lyrics, Ivie Anderson sang the vocal and trombonist Joe Nanton and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges played the instrumental solos.
The song became famous, Ellington wrote, “as the expression of a sentiment which prevailed among jazz musicians at the time.”…..while he credited the saying as a “credo” of his former trumpeter, Bubber Miley….who was dying of tuberculosis at the time….whereas Miley died the year that the song was released….as the Ellington band played the song continually over the years and recorded it numerous times, most often with trumpeter Ray Nance as vocalist.
In this video seen herewith…..legendary jazz singers Sarah Vaughan and Joe Williams sing “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” at the 1980 Kennedy Center Salute To Duke Ellington television special….with Billy Taylor & His All Star Orchestra providing the accompaniment for this wonderful rendition of the Duke Ellington classic.