Fri. Feb. 22, 2019

Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean A Thing (live)

Classics: Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

Oooooh yes! Another one of those (live) recordings from back in the day… In the series of those we cherish. From Miles Davis‘So What’ at the Robert Herridge Theater back in 1959. To the firing ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ by the likes of Vi Redd along with Countie Basie. Not to mention Wes Montgomery‘s rendition of ‘Round Midnight’ in Belgium back in the first half of the sixties.

Nope, I’m in no way nostalgic but listening to this incredible performance of the classic ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’ pretty much tells us as something is cruelling missing in nowadays production. C’mon, folks. This song saw the light back in 1931, and this recording dates from 1966 at the Antibes/Juan-Les-Pins Jazz Festival.

As a matter of fact, ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’ is another illustration as to we consider music here on IDMW. With the latter havin’ no meaning/interest if it ain’t got that swing. Although we could say as well if it ain’t got that groove. And most definitely that something that touches the bodies, the hearts and/or the souls. And don’t you please say this incredible recording doesn’t have (any) effect on you…

Ella Fitzgerald first relased ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’ back in 1957. This as a part of the quintessential ‘Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Song Book’, the first episode of a fruitful collaboration between these two giants. It didn’t take long before Ella turned it into one of her greatest classics. Featuring Ellington himself. But also Dizzie Gillespie on trombone, Oscar Peterson on piano and Herb Ellis on guitar, among many other musicians…

No matter what/how, Fitzgerald and Ellington along with a 17 piece band would bring it to the next level almost 10 years later in this live recording. With each of the protagonists at their absolute peak. Beginning with with Ella and Duke takin’ us on a unique Swing. Therefore brilliantly showing us what live music and improvisation are about…

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Overview
Often referred to as the First Lady Of Song or the Queen Of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald sung like no one else, remembered for her horn-like improvisionational ability and even more for her scat singing.

A native of Newport News, VA, Ella pretty much had to fight hard to finally get into recognition. Not because of her lack of talent but rather because it most oftenly takes time before securing a stability. This in addition to the hardness of the show business. She nevertheless managed to find it while successively performing across the country along with the Chick Web orchestra. And more particularly at the Savoy in Harlem. Her manager was Moe Gale who co-founded the Savoy. Then she eventually turned the rest of her career over to Norman Ganz who happened to launch Verve Records to release her music.

The second half of the XXth Century saw her pretty much opening herself to new horizons. Appearing in movies and guesting on popular television shows. And collaborating with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and The Ink Spot in addition to her solo career. Ths givin’ birth to classics such as ‘Cheek To Cheek’ and ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’.

Although she already had local hits, Ella first came to major recognition back in 1938 with version of the nursery rhyme, ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket’. Meanwhile the 40’s saw her bringin’ new developments in her vocal style. Therefore including scatting in her performances which, at times, would also helped her improvising when like forgetting the lyrics of a song. The way she did for instance in one of her other classics: the famous ‘Mack Da Knife’…

The first recording of Ella – ‘Dedicated To You’ along with Mills Brothers – dates from… 1936. And her last recording saw the light back in 1989. As for what concerns a big majority of us here, I suppose the first classics of her comin’ to mind would be ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’. But also ‘Mack Da Knife’, then ‘Take The A Train’ along with Duke Ellington. This in addition to her cover version of the Smokey Robinson‘s penned ‘Get Ready’…

Fitzgerald had suffered from diabetes for several years of her later life, which had led to numerous complications. She nevertheless appeared with the Count Basie Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London back in March 1990. This for the launch of Jazz FM, before performing during a gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel. And three years later, she tragically had to have both of her legs amputated below the knee due to the effects of the disease.

In 1996, tired of being in the hospital, she wished to spend her final days at home. Wheeled outside one last time where she spent an hour, she looked up with a soft smile on her face and said “I’m ready to go now” while taken back in.

Ella sadly died in her Beverly Hills, CA home on June 15, 1996, aged 79.

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