I may get in trouble for saying so, but for my money, Ivie Anderson is THE Duke Ellington vocalist. She is the ONLY Duke Ellington vocalist.
We may of course argue about this. But what is sadly indisputable, is that she is one of the most criminally overlooked voices in the history of popular music, and of jazz. Not to say she isn’t known. She is. It’s just that she was SO good. And I’m not sure everyone really realizes that.
Her canonical, standard-bearing vocal on “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” of course forever cements her place in the history books. And she enshrines herself equally permanently in the pop culture annals by virtue of her turn in The Marx Brothers film A Day At The Races, in which she performs “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm.”
But for my money, her true glory resides in … well … everything she sang.
As it’s often easiest to understand accomplishments of her magnitude in comparative context, consider her absolutely sublime rendering of Stormy Weather, as can be experienced in this video:
My lord, that’s beautiful.
There are lots of different collections out there that gather her Ellington performances together—I picked this one because it has them all, but however you can hear Ivie Anderson, please hear her.
California friends, if you didn’t know, she’s a Gilroy girl. Born there in 1905.