For my birthday weekend I’ll be heading north to our sister scene in Richmond, Virginia to DJ for the 12th annual Jammin’ on the James – a weekend of Lindy Hop workshops and dances in one of my favorite venues, the Lewis Ginter Recreation Association. This year’s instructors are Marie Mattsson, Skye Humphries, Naomi Uyama, Peter Strom and live music provided by Naomi & Her Handsome Devils, the Blue Crescent Syncopators, and the Doctors of Jazz. Not to mention all the excellent vintage shopping – come check out this cool city and swing out with us!
After experiencing one of the best music festival experiences I’ve ever had earlier this year at New Orleans’ French Quarter Festival, I am returning to the cradle of jazz, this time to perform! I’ll be in New Orleans with two of Jonathan Stout’s bands, the Campus Five and the Jonathan Stout Orchestra for the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, October 4 and 5, 2014. On October 4, from 8:00 p.m. to midnight, the Jonathan Stout Orchestra will perform at the Civic Theater, New Orleans’ oldest theater, built in 1906. On October 5, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five will be at NOLA’s famous French Market (at Dutch Alley). On top of these performances, ULHS will feature performances by some of New Orleans’ finest swing and traditional jazz bands and musicians – Ben Polcer’s Swinging Seven, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, Luke Winslow King Quintet, Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses, Palmetto Bug Stompers, New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings, and the Shotgun Jazz Band. See you in NOLA!
I’ve probably lost my mind, but I am beyond excited about the events coming in August and early September! The first two are for fun and the last four are gigs, which also happen to be fun – I love that singing has afforded me such great travel opportunities this year, performing with several different bands! Here’s where I’ll be, barring forces majeure:
August 8-10, 2014 – competing and social dancing at the Southeast Summer Brawl in Columbia, SC
August 16-17, 2014 – immersing myself in a 1920’s alternate universe and dancing like a mad flapper at the Jazz Age Lawn Party in New York City
August 21-24, 2014 – I’ll be pulling double duty at the International Lindy Hop Championships in Arlington, VA, DJ’ing and singing with the Jonathan Stout Orchestra and Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five!
So many exclamation points!!! Six states in six weekends – see you on the road!
The Mint Julep Jazz Band was excited to be invited to provide music for Our State Magazine‘s Music in the Library video series, which shares and highlights songs from North Carolina musical artists filmed at Our State Magazine’s headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina. We filled up their cozy library space with eight musicians, swing, and hot jazz on a hot June afternoon and the results came out great, using just three microphones and three cameras.
The Mint Julep Jazz Band will kick off the weekend festivities at The Process, a Lindy Hop workshop weekend in Richmond, Virginia on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 9:00 p.m. The Process is a new event, in its first year, and seeks to answer the question, “What is the process guiding Lindy Hoppers to rapid improvement?” in its workshops throughout the weekend. With a great lineup of instructors (Casey Schneider & Mike Faltesek; Jaya Dorf & Michael Gamble; Chelsea & David Lee; Mike Herring; Abigail Browning & Adam Speen; and Sparrow Pants) and live music by The Low Down Sires, 504 Supreme, and Gypsy Roots, it looks like it will be a rumpus in Richmond! For more information visit The Process website.
The Mint Julep Jazz Band is returning to Cleveland, Ohio, this time as the featured Saturday night band at All Balboa Weekend! Now in its 14th year, All Balboa Weekend is the longest running Balboa weekend in the world and we are excited and honored to be a part of this weekend, attended by people around the globe who love this dance called Balboa. Details about the weekend are available at http://www.allbalboa.com.
On June 7, 2014 the City of Raleigh Museum is featuring the Mint Julep Jazz Band at an event honoring Raleigh’s World War II veterans, with the launch of an exhibit called “Our War: Voices of Raleigh’s World War 2 Veterans” and and a 1940’s themed fundraiser event. The event, which coincides with the 70th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6, will highlight the new exhibit and feature swing dancing, European and Pacific theater-themed food and drinks, live and silent auctions, and costumed cigarette girls. Time Warp 2014 tickets are $60 for museum members and $70 for non-members (which include a museum membership — a $35 value).
Time: 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Location: City of Raleigh Museum, 220 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, NC
Tickets: To purchase tickets, visit the event’s Eventbrite page
I am excited and humbled to be wearing the uniform of World War II Army Nurse Corps First Lieutenant Martha Way, who served in the 97th Evacuation Hospital Unit with her husband, Dr. Brady Way. First Lieutenant Way’s unit landed in Normandy, France just 11 days after D-Day and joined the field hospital there to provide care to wounded soldiers. Her unit then went on to sites in Belgium and Germany, directly supporting First US Army troops fighting in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) and was one of the first units to assist the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. The 97th Evacuation Hospital Unit served thousands of wounded soldiers and displaced persons until the unit was inactivated on November 23, 1945. Martha Way returned to Beaufort, North Carolina with her husband following the war. I am friends with the Way family and thank them immensely for allowing me to wear Martha Way’s uniform on this special occasion.
The Mint Julep Jazz Band is proud to be performing at Frankie 100 NC, North Carolina’s Frankie Manning Centennial Celebration, a once ever event celebrating the life and legacy of Lindy Hop pioneer, educator, and global ambassador Frankie Manning, who passed away shortly before his 95th birthday. This year Frankie would have been 100 years old and the global Lindy Hop community is set to celebrate, with a huge event in New York, Frankie’s hometown, and smaller celebrations worldwide.
The Mint Julep Jazz Band will be performing at the main dance on Saturday, May 24, 2014 at the Carrboro Century Center from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Come join us for some Lindy Hop and be a part of this celebration for NC, which is drawing dancers from surrounding states and beyond!
I am elated to be performing at DCLX 2014, my favorite Lindy exchange, with the Craig Gildner Big Band featuring New Orleans soprano sax phenom Aurora Nealand. Joining Aurora in the muderess’ row of a reed section in the big band are two of my favorite reed players, Anita Thomas and Halley Shoenberg, and I could not be more excited about hearing them together. We’ll be performing at the Saturday night dance at Glen Echo’s Spanish Ballroom, which is easily my favorite and most beautiful place I have performed.
See you soon, DC!
This past month we’ve had two dances pop up with ensembles that are not regular dance bands – Chapel Hill High School’s and Duke University’s respective jazz ensembles. They had, in my mind, potential to overcome some of the problems some local adult big bands face, like the fact that some of these kids are picking up these instruments every day and playing 5 days a week in an ensemble setting might give them an edge. Also, how would the high school kids stack up against the college kids? I’d heard some good things about the Chapel Hill High School’s jazz program, but then Duke kids are probably some of the most gifted students in the nation.
The first dance was Chapel Hill High School’s swing dance on March 8, held in the high school gymnasium, but not without substantial pomp and decorations. This year was the 18th anniversary of the annual swing dance, which is a fundraiser for the band boosters that includes the dance and a silent auction of goods and services from local businesses. The gymnasium was packed with teenagers, mostly standing around or solo dancing in groups, but some were actually partner dancing. Parents and adults had a seated area near the stage. A large stage was set up with risers for the band, which was necessary since the band was a giant big band – something like 8 or 9 trumpets, as many trombones, even more saxes, plus students trading off spots in the rhythm section.
The dance itself was quite a show – the band director kept things moving with announcements, introduction of the numerous (I counted at least 6) guest vocalists, and promotions for the fundraiser and silent auction, leaping into the next musical number as soon as he was finished speaking. The song selection was a mix of classic swinging tunes (Jumpin’ at the Woodside and Leap Frog were highlights), songbirds and crooners on slower dance tunes, some 50’s/60’s Sinatra, a token neo-swing song (vocals performed with gusto, I might add – I had to smile), and a smattering of ballroom fare. Overall, the tempos were up and most of the songs kept us moving. The kids in the crowd cheered for their friends when they were featured and the vibe in the room was extremely positive and supportive. When the band took a break, a student combo played the breaks. The first band break was a little more swinging than the second and that was their only big misstep, having a group play more modern feeling tunes that lacked the drive to be danceable during that second break.
In spite of being outnumbered 50 to 1 by high school students and feeling only slightly awkward being the only dancing adults in the room, our group had a pretty good time. What the high school kids lacked in skill they made up for in enthusiasm and spectacle. I hope more members of the swing dance community decide to come out to this dance next year, both to support these burgeoning jazz and swing musicians and as a great opportunity for outreach to all these high school kids who were dancing and enjoying themselves. If only they knew they could do this every weekend!
The second dance was at Duke Gardens on March 27 and was a collaboration amongst Duke Gardens, Jazz@ Duke, the Duke Swing Dance Club, and the Duke Jazz Ensemble. Duke Gardens has played host to a number of DJ’d swing dances over the past few years and is arguably one of the swing dance community’s loveliest venues. This dance was not only free to all who attended, but also had an impressive buffet set up on the patio for the dancers to partake. The Duke Swing Dance Club did a great job with promoting the dance and teaching the beginner lesson before the dance. This is the second year the Duke Jazz Ensemble has performed in collaboration with the Duke Swing Dance Club, although the location of the dance was different from last year.
I had high hopes for the Duke Jazz Ensemble for several reasons:
- The students were older, had probably played their instruments longer, and I knew that gaps in the ensemble were often filled by more skilled community players.
- In the 1930’s Duke University was host to several dance bands and orchestras, including Les Brown and his Blue Devils from 1933-1936, before Les Brown went on to start his Band of Renown. Under the direction of Les Brown, the Blue Devils made some hot recordings and went on several regional tours. Check out this fantastic recording of the Blue Devils performing “Rigamarole.” Arrangements from Les Brown’s time at Duke and from later years reside in the Les Brown Scores Collection at Duke University Libraries – I am salivating over this collection!
- I have on good authority that there are other swing era charts (as opposed to post-WWII arrangements of swing era songs) in Duke’s music library, per a former Duke student who performed in the jazz ensemble.
- In the Facebook event the Jazz@ promoter posted that the band would be performing “swing-style Jazz from periods before, during, and after the 30’s.” I’ve only heard one other Triangle-based big band perform a 1920’s piece, which was the North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra, a band made up of professional musicians and college professors from around the state. The Facebook event also had 180+ RSVPs, which meant lots of people and potential energy.
So with all of these things in mind I was fairly confident that the Duke Jazz Ensemble would deliver a dance that at least had some variance in song selection, perhaps some lesser known tunes with hot arrangements. Musicianship-wise, they had an edge on the high school students because the students did take solos, but most of the solos were done by the excellent Brian Miller, a local professional, whose solos were definitely a highlight of the dance and who appeared to carry the band at times.
However, the Duke band lacked the presentation, showmanship, and energy that the high school event excelled at executing. The Duke ensemble had no vocalists, though they played many of the same vocal tunes as the high school band, just as instrumental arrangements. The guitar player slouched in his chair and plucked single notes on his hard body guitar, instead of laying down the essential rhythmic chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk of quarter note chords that completes a swing rhythm section. Most of the tempos were around 150 bpm and songs ran well over 5 minutes – in several instances there were 8 minute songs, which can be purgatory for a newer dancer who may only know a few moves. There were a few really slow tunes and some faster tunes, but the band seemed to fall apart toward the end of the faster tunes, which were around 180-190 bpm. Toward the end of the night they played a combo tune while the rest of the big band just sat there – if you have a big band, use it! We can hear small groups any time. There were also no 1920’s tunes, as were promised, and, arguably, no 1930’s tunes – the repertoire was 1940’s-1960’s and the drummer never left the ride cymbal except to play fills.
One of the songs the band performed was an arrangement almost identical to Count Basie’s “April in Paris,” a song that was recorded in 1955 or 1956 and released in 1957 on an album of the same title. This particular recording is quintessentially new-testament Basie and any swing DJ worth his/her salt will know this tune. A local dancer/DJ was dancing in front of the band when they performed this tune and at the end, after they hit the big sustained note as an ensemble, she yelled to the band, “One more once!” No one cracked a smile and they stared blankly at her. She addressed them again, “One more time!” More blank stares, no shout chorus. Brian Miller was the only one within earshot who acknowledged that she was referencing the recording and told her that the band did not have that version of the arrangement. I don’t know if this means that the rest of the band had not checked out the recording of the song they just played or if they were being obtuse, but it did not sit well.
I’m going to declare the Chapel Hill High School Jazz Ensemble the winner of this battle – while the Duke Jazz Ensemble played essentially the same repertoire with the addition of improvised solos, the Chapel Hill students captured the energy and feel of the swing era and songs of later eras, as well as considering the needs of dancers in terms of song length, rhythm section, and creating a connection to the audience through the bandleader and vocalists.