It Don’t Mean A Thing Duke Ellington and Ivie Anderson

Melody • Muted trombone/trumpet (?) has loose melody as introduction • Ivie states the melody clearly (1st chorus). Basically triadic with some repetition and flattened 5th on aint • Sings phrase, ‘doo-wah’ response from muted brass • Sax improv – large range, quickly up and down scales, broken chords, sequences • Main Melody features sequences and repetition Tone Colour • Vocals – bright and nasal timbre, w/ contrasting growls in improve • Drums – dry, flat timbre (little cymbals) • Contrast between mellow muted brass and bright sax sections. • Clarinet is again brighter and sharper than saxes • Close harmonies in horns/saxes creates warm texture, underneath melody and soloists Articulation • Vocals – clearly articulated. Some phrases drawn out. • Some brass ‘stabs’, bursts of notes/motives • Doo-wah’s articulated legato-staccato to emphasise syncopated nature • Heavy accent of backbeat by bass Duration • Beat is very regular, emphasised by drums and walking bass – forward motion. Occasionally drops out for 2 bar breaks • Rhythm is swung, with a lot of syncopation • Tempo is moderately fast • Vocal do not ‘swing’ as much as rest of band – relatively straight • Doo-wah’s, quaver-crotchet rhythm, syncopation creates tension Dynamics • Soft intro in vocals – ‘wat da doo’, rhythm section takes prominence • 1st chorus – vocals loud of softer muted brass • Solo section – Alto is to the fore, band soft • Dynamics build in 5th chorus, to vocal entry at B • Fade out in horns to unexpectedly loud tubular bell

Key Instruments Voice • Presents melody clearly (1st, 2nd and end of 5th chorus), with very little deviation • Bright, nasally tone colour • Sings relatively ‘straight’ for the swing context Alto Saxophone • (as part of section) provides harmonic support in chord ‘pads’ underneath melody • Outlines chords in improv underneath singer 2nd chorus • Solos (solo section & 4th chorus) using broad range, moving quickly up and down scales, broken chords and sequences. Double Bass • Provides descending bass line for introduction • Provides driving walking bass line • Accents beats 2 + 4 with slap technique Meaning • • A celebration of the still young style of dance music ‘it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that that swing’ – The feeling is all that matters (in contrast to classical music)

How is this achieved? • • • • • Driving bass and drums – creating ‘that swing’ Improvisation of alto sax evokes the sense of the freedom felt while dancing Improvisation on tenor sax, clarinet, behind melody also evoke this freedom

It Don’t Mean A Thing Ella Fitzgerald
Melody • Piano roughly states main melody in 1st chorus • Ella states main melody – loosely, playing with it – often removing words ie. ‘…don’t mean a thing… ain’t got that swing…’ • Then into improv, often quoting other melodies (a tisket a tasket, fiddler on the roof, rain, rain go away, etc.), or using sequences – w/ large (2.5 octaves) range • Tenor sax improv. – Ben Webster – soft, long, brooding notes vs. Paul Gonsalves – aggressive, linear, scalar approach. • Main melody is occasionally referred to (ie. Ray Nance, B phrases, 6th & 7th chorus’) • Simple backing figures w/ blues inflection in sax section (from 8th chorus onwards) Tone colour • Ella’s voice is mellow and warm, also uses growls and a bright upper register • In contrast, Nance’s timbre is raw and gritty • Webster – breathy tone vs Gonsalves – harsher, more aggressive tone • Drum – shimmering cymbals • Trumpet (in last chorus) has a super bright piercing timbre Articulation • Ella is less precise in her articulation, slurring some words, drawing out other phrases • ‘Doo-wah’ is phrased much looser, with less accenting and therefore less tension • Drums articulate the swing rhythm very clearly, on hats & ride Duration • Very Steady beat, held down by bass and drums • Drums articulate swing rhythm, with various fills at the end of 8 or 32 bar phrases • Tempo is moderately fast • Rhythms used are highly syncopated and complex - often pushing and pulling of beat in melody/solos • Heavy backbeat by drums 8th chorus onwards Dynamics • Soft piano intro – builds up with introduction of drums, bass… • Dynamics build up throughout the whole piece to a huge climax

Key Instruments Voice Ella – Mellow, warm timbre. States melody playfully then improvises, all with a loose but controlled sense of rhythm. Has a very large range (2.5 octaves) and utilises a variety of growls. Ray Nance – Raw, harsh timbre. Generally responds to Ella’s improv (ie. Doo-wahs in 5th chorus). Also states melody at times (B sections 6th and 7th chorus) to provide structure. Tenor Sax Ben Webster – solos in 4th chorus. Measured use of notes, soft and brooding. Paul Gonsalves – Aggressive, scalar approach to improvisation. Trades with Ella and Ray in 6th chorus.

Meaning • Simply a way of having fun, a relaxed, playful piece.

How is this achieved? • • Rain, Rain Go Away quote signals the light-hearted nature of the piece The abundance of improvisation (such as Ben Webster’s Tenor Sax solo) signal the relaxed nature of the performance, as they last as long as they want to (ie. Ella is soloing practically the whole 11 choruses)

Specific Similarites • Both feature a steady, driving emphasis on every crotchet • Both feature a rhythmic swing feel • Instrumentation is largely the same – piano bass drums rhythm section, female (main) vocalist, Tenor sax soloists • Both feature a very clear statement of melody Specific Differences • The dynamics (and levels of energy and excitement) in the Ellington version are heavily arranged, rising and falling within the piece, while the Fitzgerald interpretation features a gradual increase in dynamics and energy throughout the whole piece to a final climax. • Ivie Anderson sings the melody with the same phrasing etc. for each chorus, while Ella never sings the same phrase twice, cutting words or changing notes or growling, etc. • The ‘band’ (sax/trumpet sections) are featured heavily throughout the Ellington interpretation, with many stabs or melodic features, while in the Fitzgerald version they do not play (Except for the sax soloists) until the 8th chorus when the saxes enter, then the trumpets. • Ella sings doo-wah unlike Ivie, and has a much great vocal range Contextual Issues • Recording Capabilities o The Ellington was recorded using 78 vinyl technique and was limited to 3 minutes. As such it is very restrained, with the head only played once at the beginning and end, short solos in the middle and orchestrated introduction and endings. o Ella was not restricted in this way. This accounts for the dramatic time difference, and also the much more relaxed feeling of Ella’s interpretation. She solos for practically the entire eight minutes, with very extensive use of scat by her and Ray Nance, as well as sax solos. This allows a more natural build-up of dynamics and tension to the heavily back-beated final verses. Ella is able to trade phrases with Nance and the saxes. • Live vs Studio o Ellington’s interpretation was studio recorded. As such there are many heavily rehearsed sections which are obviously well rehearsed and quite polished. There are no mistakes apparent. The recording capabilities give quite a ‘dry’ timbre to the whole piece, for instance in regards to the drums which had to be quite low in the mix (far from the mic) so as not to disturb the recording process. o Ella’s interpretation is a live recording, for jazz lovers. It is apparent from the large degree of clapping, laughing, shouting that this is a very relaxed atmosphere. She quotes many other melodies and musical jokes (such as Nance’s comical ‘doo-wops’ in the 5th chorus), which is a form of interaction with the audience only

available in a live format. Also, there are mistakes apparent (such the drummers opening fill) which are only available thanks to the live format.