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!
Rhythm Relief: The Swingtacular Show (which you can now watch on YouTube in its entirety, linked here) was a resounding success – at last count, the funds raised approached $100,000 and grants have already been given out to full-time swing instructors and musicians affected by COVID-19. Please consider donating, these funds are still being distributed where they are needed – you can do so at the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation website. I have been working on the grants committee for this fundraiser, which I am honored to be a part of, and just know that there are so many people who sustain and enrich our community around the world as their full time job, know that your money is going to be well spent with these artists who, we hope, will return to us and continue to enrich the world with dance and music once we return to some semblance of normalcy and global health.
The music from this show was so well-received and the demand for an EP resounded – so you can now download Rhythm Relief: The Swingtacular Show EP from the PSDF website and the proceeds go directly to the Rhythm Relief fundraising efforts listed above. I’m singing on two tracks, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”
While all of my in-person events are slowly being canceled amidst the pandemic, I am excited to report that there are two upcoming virtual events you can watch, enjoy, and interact with!
On May 9, 2020, I’ll be making a cameo in a virtual Rent Party, which you can find on Facebook under the event An Old-School Fundraiser for Swing Artists. The idea is that we will create a virtual Rent Party, with dancing, live music, shenanigans, and we hope that you’ll contribute to the “rent” with donations that will go to the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation’s relief fund. Our cast includes Jonathan Stout, Gordon Au, Keenan McKenzie, Nick Williams, Lauren Smith, and Peter Flahiff. Thanks to our hosts, dancer and author Jodi Daynard, who conceived this event and will emcee, and the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation. Tune in from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.!
On May 23, 2020, I will be a part of Rhythm Relief: The Swingtacular Show, a large scale virtual swing dance and swing music live show, featuring a cast of some of my favorite musicians from the US and dancers from around the world. My fellow virtual band-mates for this show are Keenan McKenzie, Josh Collazo, Jonathan Stout, Paul Cosentino, Gordon Au, and Marquis Howell. The show will run from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT. Rhythm Relief is spearheaded by Nick Williams and hosted by the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation. For information about the relief fund, how to donate, and how to apply, visit the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation’s website.
It’s amazing how time has seemed to stand still, yet fly by. I have remained busy, as my day job is deemed essential, but I have also been busier than I thought I would be with various music and other projects. Here’s a recap of the past month’s projects:
Gordon Au’s Tribute to Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars – Live at Lindy Focus was released on April 15 – this was such a special night of music and we are all very pleased with how this album came out, particularly since none of us had anticipated releasing the recordings from that night and we had only really run through half the tunes in rehearsal that day before performing Gordon’s wonderful arrangements. This album is full of joy, so if you need some of that in your life right now, this would be a great investment in happiness. Visit Bandcamp to download this digital release.
Keenan McKenzie put together a virtual collaboration of video/recording of his lovely song The Dwindling Light by the Sea, with yours truly reprising vocals, Lucian Cobb on trombone, Jonathan Stout on guitar, James Posedel on piano, William Ledbetter on bass, and Dan Faust on drums. Here’s another recording, this time with visual, to add some joy to your day. If you’d like to see more collaborations organized by Keenan, please consider donating to his virtual tip jar at VENMO: @keenanmckenziemusic OR
On another musical note, Bandcamp is doing musicians affected by the pandemic another solid and reprising their waiver of the revenue share for all sales on Bandcamp – this is in effect May 1, June 5, and July 3 (the first Friday of each month) from midnight to midnight PDT on each day. If you’ve been planning to buy music, you can do the most good for musicians by purchasing on these particular dates.
On April 9, 2020, I DJ’ed (along with several of my fellow swing band leaders- Jonathan Stout, Michael Gamble, Brooks Prumo, Jonathan Ng, and house DJ Rickard Johansson) for the Global Online Social, a DJ’ed virtual dance party on Zoom and Twitch organized by Paul Riding that features new DJs every Thursday, playing swing music for a good portion of the day. Maybe you dance, maybe you just need some swing music to keep you motivated as you work, but it’s a lot of fun – consider tuning in!
Finally, I’ve released three more episodes of Lindy Shopper’s Closet, the YouTube series spinoff of my Lindy Shopper blog, covering the topics of moth prevention, my favorite swing dance shoes, and dance undergarments, all posted below – please subscribe to my YouTube channel (I’ll eventually get back to posting music, too) and enjoy!
In light of the present pandemic and the cancellation of events and gigs for so many musicians everywhere, Gordon Au decided that his “involuntary unpaid sabbatical” project would be to put together an album from the live recordings of his Louis Armstrong All-Stars Tribute at Lindy Focus and give the proceeds to the musicians who participated in this tribute who rely on music income to meet their needs. The lineup for the Armstrong tribute includes our fearless leader, transcriber, and arranger Gordon Au plus Jonathan Stout, Josh Collazo, Jen Hodge, Jacob Zimmerman, Keenan McKenzie, Lucian Cobb, Jim Ziegler, and yours truly.
You can pre-order the album and listen to the first track on Bandcamp now – the album is $15 with an option to give a larger donation and all the pre-order profits will go to the musicians on the album. The album is scheduled to be released on April 15, 2020.
This performance was not live streamed from Lindy Focus because it was a late night, but I can tell you that the energy in the room was a unique electricity felt by all and I’m eager to hear the mixes for this album because we had a blast performing it. Did I mention we only had one rehearsal and didn’t get to run all the songs? I’m blessed to work with such pros to pull something like this off. I don’t know if you’ll get to hear any of Gordon’s insightful narration, but I hope that his thoughtfulness and love for Armstrong shine through even without the words.
I love this quote from Gordon on the Bandcamp page:
“I grew up listening to Louis Armstrong. Last year I had the chance to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: bring the music of Louis & the All-Stars to swing dancers. I heard a few hip DJs play Louis for lindy hoppers over the years, but I always wished there was more, and I knew that I myself would love dancing to the All-Stars. I wanted to give dancers the chance to hear the music of the All-Stars with a live band, and to dance to it and fall in love with it.
Last December, that wish came true. At Lindy Focus XVIII, I presented a tribute to Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars with a dream team of 10 musicians, and finally got to share that music I love with hundreds of people dancing their hearts out, late at night in a packed ballroom, surrounded by smiling faces, at the largest lindy hop event in the nation. And I now I’m happy to share it with all of you.”
I’ll also give a shout out to the incredible artist Conan Zhao who painted the album artwork before this album was even a thought – the timing of its completion and the pandemic hitting the US is rather serendipitous and it’s just perfect.
Consider supporting this project by pre-ordering the album – if you love jazz and/or you’ve always wanted a Lindy Focus live album, this is the ticket!
Always a huge highlight on my calendar, Lindy Focus did not disappoint this year. I performed at each main dance with the Jonathan Stout Lindy Focus All-Star Orchestra, but also did two late night dances – one with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders and another with Gordon Au‘s tribute to the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Dance performances kicked off each late night social dance, with the performers having the option of doing a routine with the live band of the night. I was delighted to be a part of three of these late night performances: first, with the Rhythm Serenaders performing Mildred Bailey’s “Lover Come Back to Me” with Peter Kertz and Elze Visnevskyte dancing; second and third with Au’s Armstrong tribute, performing “Squeeze Me” and “All That Meat and No Potatoes” with co-vocals by Jim Ziegler and a cast of Lindy Focus instructors and performers.
I’m posting the three late night performances below. If you’re looking for a nice, long listen, you can revisit the live stream broadcasts for each of 5 nights of big band music (Basie, Ellington, Webb, Hampton, and anything goes on NYE) on the Lindy Focus YouTube channel.
A Bull City Holiday, an album of Keenan McKenzie’s original holiday swing and jazz music featuring 30 Triangle area musicians, will be out on November 25! You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp and check out one of the tracks as a preview of things to come. If you will be at the Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers show in Richmond on November 16 or at the International Lindy Hop Championships over Thanksgiving weekend, you can also pick up a copy there.
I am one of seven vocalists on this album, check out the incredible list of album personnel on the Bandcamp page – you can find me singing on four tracks: Santa’s Cap, You Can’t Lock the Chimney, As the Nights Grow Longer, and A Charming Winter Town. Enjoy!
Kick off your 2019 holiday season with some original and classic swinging holiday music – Motorco Music Hall plays host to the album release of A Bull City Holiday on December 3, 2019! The show will feature Keenan McKenzie’s original holiday swing tunes as well as some holiday classics, with a cast of Triangle musicians in configurations from trad combos to big band, including vocalists Shana Tucker, Tamisha Waden, Mark Wells, Dave Wright, and yours truly.
Doors open at 7:00 p.m., show starts at 8:00 p.m. – get your tickets now on Motorco’s website, $12.00 advance, $15.00 at the door.
You’re going to love this music – Keenan’s creative lyrics, melodies, and arrangements – don’t miss this one-time, one-of-a-kind show!
Now that we’ve recorded A Bull City Holiday and can look forward to that release in November, 2019, I’m on to the next recording project! Looking forward to recording a live album with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Jammin’ on the James in Richmond, VA over the weekend of October 18 and 19, 2019 – we’ll be working with sound engineer Rob Moreland (who we’ve worked with at Lindy Focus and the Nevermore Jazz Ball) to capture the energy of this band in a Craftsman era ballroom that will be filled to the brim with dancers. Thanks so much to the Jammin’ on the James organizers for conceiving of this project and going above and beyond to make it a reality!
Keenan McKenzie has assembled over 20 North Carolina-based musicians (including yours truly) to appear on his album of original holiday swing tunes written by the maestro himself. I had the honor of providing vocals for Keenan’s debut album of original music, Forged in Rhythm, and I’m excited to be working with him again on new material for dancers and also to be working with some of my favorite local musicians. We’ll be recording at Overdub Lane in August, 2019 with ensembles ranging from small group swing to big band.
As with any recording project, nothing is free, but Keenan’s crunched the numbers and launched a reasonable Kickstarter campaign – only $5,500 – which I like to think of as pre-sales for an album you’ll want to buy anyway. Keenan’s also got some great rewards, like private lessons or him transcribing a big band arrangement of your choice that will debut at Lindy Focus this year! Don’t tarry, the campaign is only up until August 21.