Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington: 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)


Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals) and Duke Ellington (piano)


The Great Summit / The Master Takes (Roulette/Blue Note, #7243 5 24547 2 3)

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Louis Armstrong (trumpet, vocals), Duke Ellington (piano), Trummy Young (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet),

Mort Herbert (bass), Danny Barcelona (drums)


Composed by Duke Ellington & Irving Mills


Recorded: New York, April 3-4, 1961


Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

This recording of the de facto Jazz National Anthem is my favorite of the Ellington versions or anyone else's. After an Ellington mood-setting lead-in on piano, Armstrong states the theme, at the end of which he blows an extraordinary descending line, cascading down in steps, with unique phrasing and timing; the line is reminiscent of his awe-inspiring, historic opening for "West End Blues" in 1928.

Satch then starts on the marvelous, essence-of-jazz lyrics by rhythmically talking the opening line in very cool manner, then sings the rest of the verses with great verve and jazzy playfulness, as Ellington stylishly comps with a repeated figure. Barney Bigard's clarinet provides beautiful, lyrical lines, with his trademark exquisite swoops up and down the scale, and adds outstanding accents and harmonic complements in support. Trombonist Trummy Young provides fine support as well; and when Armstrong says, "take it Trummy," Young produces a powerful, impressive solo perfectly attuned to the character and flow of the song. Throughout this track, these guys demonstrate the meaning of the title by swinging like madóand obviously hugely enjoying what they are creating. If a Martian should drop by and inquire what is this thing called "jazz," play him/her/it this track.

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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