It’s finally here! After much pandemic and the regular trials and tribulations of creating a studio album, the Mint Julep Jazz Band’s 3rd album Watch the Birdie takes flight today, Halloween 2022. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it. Available wherever you get your digital music – if you’d like for the most money to go to the band, we encourage you to pick up a copy on our Bandcamp page.
Though I do love Art Deco buildings, I don’t think anyone would hear my name and associate it with anything related to architecture. So imagine my surprise when US Modernist Radio reached out to me about being a guest on their podcast. They regularly feature jazz musicians at the end of the episodes and I must say, in looking at their list of past guests, I am in excellent company.
Click here to enjoy the episode, released on October 10, 2022.
When I was young, I wondered why each subsequent band album seemed to have more and more years between albums, but now I understand. When a band does well, they are busy, then the members are busy contributing to other endeavors, and then people need a break after being so busy, so the thought of a new album is definitely lower on the priority list, particularly when other work is steady.
In 2020, we decided that 5 years was enough time gone by since the release of Battle Axe and that we should record another album. You know how the rest of this story goes with the global COVID-19 pandemic essentially putting a halt to life as we knew it.
We scheduled this recording a couple of times during the pandemic and had to keep pushing it back, but we believe it’s for real this time, so we are launching a Kickstarter today for album pre-orders and swag. I know some of you have told me that you need a new tee shirt, so we got you! I’m also excited to add enamel pins, Burt’s Bees, a sponsorship option, and some quality time noshing with yours truly as rewards, in addition to some of our recurring rewards.
What will this album be? It’s a dance album, of course, but it’s also the culmination of efforts aggregated just prior to the pandemic that still feel new to us, plus some new-to-us arrangements created during the pandemic, and some old favorites that should be put on tape. The project feels fresh to us, so we hope you enjoy it as we slowly re-open our jazz dance and music community.
It’s also a celebration of our 10th anniversary as a band! Our first gig was in February of 2012 at the (now defunct) Hot Club of Durham weekly swing dance in the Trotter Building in Durham’s DIY district. I look at videos of that night and think about how far we’ve come, but also how we did a respectable job for a very first gig. It’s been a wild ride and we thank you for all the wonderful musical experiences we’ve shared since then.
Visit our Kickstarter page for more information about the tracks on the album, swag, and how to get your copy/copies of our recordings – we’re offering digital, CD, and vinyl this time!
Picking up where we left off, we cautiously move back into position, changed forever, but hopeful that our community can once again be together in a meaningful way. While Lindy Focus may more likely resemble a regional Lindy exchange this year, I have a feeling that the impact will still be strong, particularly for those of us who are still working from home and whose scenes are not running regular dances yet.
Per usual, I am most excited about the music – the musicians and bandleaders this year are all from North Carolina! Our state has a history of producing incredible jazz musicians (Coltrane, Simone, Monk, to name a few) and, for the modern swing dance community, you are already familiar with several bands based in NC – Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers, and the Mint Julep Jazz Band. We’ll have some new-to-you faces that we’re excited for you to hear (including bandleader Sean Mason!) and I’m sure there will be some new-to-you tunes that we’ve added to our books during the pandemic.
Above all, be safe – Lindy Focus will be requiring masks/vaccinations and we’ll have to do air hugs, but it will be so good to see any number of you and share in the collective and creative energy that has been missing for so long.
If Lindy Focus is not in your risk budget, we all understand and we’ll see you again in the future – if it is in your risk budget this year, registration is open, the hotel is taking bookings, and I’ll see you soon!
Photo credit to the wonderful Atsuki Takizawa!
The Mint Julep Jazz Band cordially invites you to a jazz picnic at historic Orchard Park! Join us on June 12, 2021 from noon to 3:00 p.m. for an afternoon of music under the trees, enjoy the provisions in your picnic basket, do a little dancing (pursuant to the current safety guidelines), and then recline on your picnic blanket six feet away from the nearest attendees. This event is all ages and open to the public.
Through crowd funding from our wonderful community, we were able to cover the bare minimum costs of this event, but we will continue to take donations toward musician compensation and any unforeseen expenses – please send your donation to me with a note for “picnic” or “jazz picnic” to Venmo @Laura-Windley or via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org (select friends and family so there is no fee). We will also have a virtual tip jar at the show and hope that you will support this live music endeavor.
Orchard Park is a park owned by the City of Durham and we want to be sure that the event is enjoyed by everyone and hope that we could potentially do this again. The city’s guidelines are applicable to attendees as follows:
- Please wear a mask when you are not eating.
- If you are feeling sick, please stay at home.
- Please make sure your picnic area is 6 feet away from the nearest groupings of people. If we reach attendance of 100 people, we may ask newcomers to set up in an adjacent section of the park.
- At this time (4/23/21), the city’s guidelines say “no shaking of hands,” so this means no social dancing. I hope this changes, but make plans to do solo dancing.
- Hand sanitizer is encouraged, please bring some with you, as we will have port-a-potties and no facilities for hand washing.
- There is a water fountain at the park, but you should also plan on bringing enough water for the afternoon.
- Please pick up your trash and dispose of it appropriately; otherwise, Lucian Cobb and Laura Windley will be picking up your trash and that makes for a long day.
To RSVP to the Orchard Park Jazz Picnic, ask questions, and for more information and updates, please visit our Facebook invite for this event.
Orchard Park is located at 1000 S. Duke Street in Durham, North Carolina.
This past weekend the Mint Julep Jazz Band premiered three new music videos as part of the California Balboa Classic’s virtual event, CalBal Live! The event reached out to 5 bands/bandleaders to create brand new recordings for the event, compiled remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers, the Jen Hodge All-Stars, Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers, and the Mint Julep Jazz Band, We hope you enjoy these new-to-us tunes, here’s the scoop on each song, the sponsors, and the musicians for each recording:
If you say CalBal three times fast it might come out sounding like cowbell at the end – hence this tune is a pun on the event’s nickname. We’d been looking for pitched cowbells for years, online an at music stores, and it took a pandemic Zoom cocktail hangout for the topic of almglocken to come out. Thanks to Jonathan Stout for the suggestion, we think they worked out great! Here’s our rendition of Johnny Blowers’ Cowbell Serenade, sponsored by Gary Chyi.
Lucian Cobb – trombone, Matt Fattal – trumpet, Keenan McKenzie – tenor saxophone, Aaron Hill – alto saxophone, Chip Newton – guitar, Jason Foureman – bass, Kobie Watkins – drums, Laura Windley – glockenspiel
I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER
This is an original arrangement of I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, written by Lucian Cobb, with vocals inspired by the Boswell Sisters. Thanks so much to Kevin Wang, Lian Tarhay, Ursula Hicks, Kevin Nguyen, Matt Mitchell, and Jennifer Reed, all swing dancers in Austin and Dallas, Texas, who joined forces to sponsor this song for CalBal Live.
RAGGIN’ THE SCALE
When we started talking to the CalBal Live organizers it became clear that they were excited about everything the bandleaders proposed and were up for funding big band charts. While the Mint Julep Jazz Band isn’t a big band, Lucian really wanted to do a big band song because it would be fun to put together. He had already transcribed Raggin’ the Scale (from an Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra live recording from the Savoy Ballroom) for Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra and Michael gave his blessing for us to record Lucian’s transcription, so here we are! Thanks so much to Pasadena Balboa and Jam for sponsoring Raggin’ the Scale, this song is an absolute blast.
Trumpet – Renee McGee, Jay Meachum, and Jim Ketch; Trombone – Lucian Cobb and Evan Ringel; Alto Saxophone – Brian Miller and Aaron Hill; Tenor Saxophone – Keenan McKenzie and Annalise Stalls; Drums – Dan Faust; Bass – William Ledbetter; Guitar – Ben Lassiter; Piano – Clark Stern; Glockenspiel – Laura Windley
The pandemic recordings keep coming – we had to be doing something this whole time, right? In non-COVID times, the Mint Julep Jazz Band would have performed over Labor Day weekend at Camp Hollywood, but this year Camp Hollywood put on a four day virtual event that was as close to the real thing as we can get right now. We decided to put together a remote recording with video and audio of the band performing “Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet” to premiere at Virtual Camp Hollywood and now you can watch it on YouTube.
Keenan McKenzie (who not only appears in the MJJB video above, but also graciously coached us in how to put together a remote video) released his next in a series of remote recordings, featuring his original tunes and musicians from around the U.S. – “My Well-Read Baby” is one of those songs I love to sing and love to hear, so I hope you enjoy this fresh take!
In an alternate timeline I would be boarding a plane this Friday morning to fly to Los Angeles to spend Labor Day weekend days poolside at the LAX Marriott and evenings DJ’ing and singing with my band and Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Camp Hollywood. In our current timeline, Hilary Alexander has put together an incredible weekend of competitions, classes, discussions, and music for a Virtual Camp Hollywood that will be streamed on YouTube for free and classes/events will be donation-based! Find the entire event streaming on the Camp Hollywood YouTube channel, starting at 8 p.m. PDT/11 p.m. EDT this Friday, September 4, 2020 through Monday, September 7, 2020.
I’ll be kicking off the music for the weekend with a DJ set on Friday from 8-10 p.m. PDT/11 p.m.-1 a.m. EDT, you can find me as part of the Bandleader Summit with Jonathan Stout and Michael Gamble on Sunday, September 6, 2020 from 4-5:30 p.m. PDT/7-8:30 p.m. EDT, and at some point over the weekend the Mint Julep Jazz Band will have a little surprise for everyone – tune in!
Photograph courtesy of Piqant Photography.
I’m excited to be profiled in the August 2020 issue of The Syncopated Times by UK writer, dancer, early jazz enthusiast, and Annette Hanshaw fan Dave Doyle. I suppose even without the pandemic we might have had to conduct this interview via FaceTime or Zoom, but it was lovely to connect with someone across the pond and to be featured in The Syncopated Times, one of very few publications focused on ragtime and pre-bop jazz. Enjoy!