JAM, XXI: "It Don't Mean a Thing," Dizzy, Getz, Sonny

Every weekday this month I'll be posting new content in observance of Jazz Appreciation Month (J.A.M.), so-designated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History beginning in 2001. International Jazz Day, so-designated by UNESCO in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is on the last day of April, the 30th; it was first celebrated in 2012. Debating the relative merits of designating specific days or months for celebrating heritages, traditions, and the like aside, Jazz Appreciation Month is at the very least an excuse to dig into some material that I've been interested in for a while on the blog. 

Yesterday's installment featured part two of a twofer on Teddy Edwards and early West Coast bop. The final installment tomorrow will feature some of Charlie Parker's earliest commercially recorded improvisations from 1941 with Jay McShann.

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Today marks the 116th anniversary of Duke Ellington's birth.
From L'Aventure du Jazz (1972), via Wikimedia Commons
In honor of this great man, two favorite takes on "It Don't Mean a Thing":

I've always enjoyed the ominous two-horn introduction to the tune on Diz & Getz (1953), but never checked out what Diz and Getz were playing together until now. Although Oscar Peterson is quoted as saying that Dizzy came into the session wanting "a piece of Stan Getz, bad," as far as I can tell, Dizzy and Getz were generally on amicable terms, and they recorded and performed together numerous times after this session, most notably on For Musicians Only (1956), which threw Sonny Stitt into the mix (no idea what the Stitt-Getz dynamic would have been like, although it's worth considering that Getz and Stitt were born exactly three years apart, sharing the same February 2 birthday, whereas Getz was a full decade and generation younger than Dizzy). 

Dizzy and Getz meet again on the strange 1957 Verve all-star session Sittin' In, which includes Paul Gonsalves and Coleman Hawkins, plus an A-list rhythm section: Wynton Kelly, Wendell Marshall, and J.C. Heard. They also meet once again late in their lives on a fairly obscure release entitled Paris All-Stars: Homage to Charlie Parker (1989), which includes Jackie McLean, Phil Woods, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Percy Heath, and Max Roach. Even though it's fairly late in the game, it's clear that they can still deal over the classics; they were there from the start.
It Don't Mean a Thing — Dizzy Gillespie & Stan Getz
It Don't Mean a Thing — Dizzy Gillespie & Stan Getz arrangement 2

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And another equally burning take on "It Don't Mean a Thing": Sonny Rollins playing trio with Henry Grimes and Joe Harris, from Live in Stockholm (1959). After the drum trades, Rollins starts comping with quick hits behind Grimes's running bass line. Video footage of this very performance is on YouTube, but we only get a few up-close glimpses of Grimes during his solo. Check it out:
Henry Grimes Jazz Bass Solo Transcription – "It Don't Mean a Thing"

Henry Grimes Jazz Bass Solo Transcription – "It Don't Mean a Thing" 2

Henry Grimes Jazz Bass Solo Transcription – "It Don't Mean a Thing" 3
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This was the last recording Sonny made before his first bridge hiatus. He just published a two paragraph recollection in The Times of how he came to discover the Williamsburg Bridge as a space for practice. I remember speaking with someone earlier this week about the effects of practicing outdoors for your sound; Sonny is an obvious case study, and Stan Getz and many others also have attested to the wonders of shedding in the open air. I also love how the miniature piece ends, with wise words by the paragon of the ethics of jazz, the ever-conscientious Sonny:

Playing against the sky really does improve your volume, and your wind capacity. I could have just stayed up there forever. But Lucille was supporting us, and I had to go back to work. You can’t be in heaven and on earth at the same time.