Just Squeeze Me

Duke Ellington Orchestra feat. Ray Nance

November 2, 1958

THe multi-talented Ray Nance fronts the Ellington Orchestra during a performance in Amsterdam on November 2, 1958.

*Ray Willis Nance (December 10, 1913 Chicago – January 28, 1976) was a jazz trumpeter, violinist and singer. He is best known for his long association with band leader Duke Ellington. He lead his own band in Chicago from 1932 to 1937. Then, worked with Earl “Fatha” Hines from 1937 to 1939; and with Horace Henderson from 1939 to 1940.

Duke Ellington hired Nance to replace trumpeter Cootie Williams in 1940. His first public performance with Ellington was the famous Fargo, North Dakota ballroom dance. Shortly after joining the band, Nance was given the trumpet solo on the first recorded version of “Take the “A” Train,” which became the Ellington theme, a major hit and a jazz standard. Nance’s “A Train” solo is one of the most copied and admired trumpet solos in jazz history. Indeed, when Cootie Williams returned to the band more than twenty years later, he would play Nance’s solo on “A Train” almost exactly as the original.

Nance was often featured on violin and was the only violin soloist ever featured in Ellington’s orchestra. He is also one of the well-known vocalists from the Ellington orchestra, having sung not the first version (that credit goes to Ivie Anderson), but arguably the definitive version of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” It was his contribution to take the previously instrumental horn riff into the lead vocal, which constitute the now infamous, “Doo wha, doo wha, doo wha, doo wha, yeah!” He was often featured as vocalist on “Jump for Joy,” “Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin'” and “Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me)”. His multiple talents for trumpet, violin, vocals and also dancing earned him the nickname “Floorshow.”

Click here to Support 30sJazz