Vocals

New Album: Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers – Remote Riffing: Volume 1

Keenan McKenzie has been releasing remotely recorded videos throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and compiled these recordings and two brand new original swing tunes into Remote Riffing: Volume 1, an EP released on Bandcamp on October 18, 2020. I’m singing on three tunes – The Dwindling Light By the Sea, My Well-Read Baby, and The House on Hawkins Drive. The latter is a Halloween tale of epic proportions, released just in time for your remote festivities!

The album personnel are musicians from all over the United States, including Lucian Cobb (trombone), Jonathan Stout (guitar), James Posedel (piano), William Ledbetter (bass), Daniel Faust (drums), Noah Hocker (trumpet), Josh Collazo (drums), Chris Dawson (piano), Gordon Au (trumpet), Peter Shilliday (utensils), Lynn Grissett (trumpet), Haruka Kikuchi (trombone), Annie Erbsen (guitar), Mark Wells (piano), Chip Newton (guitar), Riley Baker (drums), Renée McGee (trumpet), Shaena Ryan Martin (baritone saxophone), Billie Feather (guitar), and Chrishawn Darby (drums). While I know we all miss performing with each other in-person, it’s exciting to see and hear the possibilities that can be facilitated by pandemic limitations.

Enjoy!

New Videos from The Riffers and Mint Julep Jazz Band

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!

Michael Gamble and his Very Swinging Friends – Four EPs of Remote Recordings

Conceived and executed entirely during the pandemic, Michael Gamble has assembled four lineups of musicians from across the US for a remote recording project and is releasing four EPs, two at a time, on the September 4, 2020 and October 2, 2020 Bandcamp Fridays (where Bandcamp donates their share of the proceeds to the artists)!  I’m excited to be the featured vocalist on each EP with an incredible lineup of musicians, so many I’ve met over the past decade of performing at swing dance events all over and, while we can’t make music together in person, it is so nice to hear these familiar “voices,” who have been such a wonderful part of my life.

Michael wrote a post that sums it all up nicely, so I’ll share that here and I’ll update with links as they become available:

“ISOLATION SESSIONS, PARTS 1-4

All recordings from this series were made remotely, each of the 18 musicians (from 9 states) playing either in their homes, home-studios, or whatever they could make work! Despite the obvious logistical hurdles, we were determined to make an artistically cohesive and exciting project. Sections of music were pieced together painstakingly to make sure that no part was recorded prior to something that it needed to react creatively to, which often required multiple takes by the same musician on the same tune, spread over weeks. We believe the result — while certainly different in feel than prior Rhythm Serenaders albums which were recorded live in a single room — is a special set of recordings with their own completely unique flavor. We hope they’ll be enjoyed for years to come!

RELEASE SCHEDULE AND PERSONNEL
As many of you know, bandcamp.com allows one day per month where all sales go to benefit the artists. Since many of us are struggling to make ends meet without gig income, I am making sure to time my releases of these sessions to match those days. That way you know all of your money is going straight to the musicians.
Each session has a unique combination of performers that you’ll recognize from their lifelong contributions to our scene.
SESSIONS #1 & 2 RELEASE DATE: Friday September 4th, 2020
Laura Windley – Vocals
Dan Levinson – Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
Noah Hocker – Trumpet
Jonathan Stout – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Chris Dawson – Piano
Michael Gamble – String Bass
Hal Smith – Drums
Laura Windley – Vocals
Dan Levinson – Clarinet, Tenor & Alto Saxophone
Chloe Feoranzo – Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
David Jellema – Cornet
Charlie Halloran – Trombone
Jonathan Stout – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
James Posedel – Piano
Michael Gamble – String Bass
Hal Smith – Drums
SESSIONS #3 & 4 RELEASE DATE: Friday October 2nd, 2020
SESSION #3 PERSONNEL:
Laura Windley – Vocals
Keenan McKenzie – Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
Gordon Au – Trumpet
Jonathan Stout – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Craig Gildner – Piano
Michael Gamble – String Bass
Riley Baker – Drums
SESSION #4 PERSONNEL:
Laura Windley – Vocals
Keenan McKenzie – Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone
Jacob Zimmerman – Clarinet & Alto Saxophone
Gordon Au – Trumpet
Lucian Cobb – Trombone
Jonathan Stout – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Chris Dawson – Piano
Michael Gamble – String Bass
Josh Collazo – Drums”

Virtual Camp Hollywood – September 4-7, 2020

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.

Laura on Podcasts – Desert Island Jams and Hey Mister Jesse

A couple of months ago I sat down with UK-based swing DJ, MC, and instructor Sarah Spoon, who had conceived of a brand new, not yet launched podcast called Desert Island Jams, which would feature swing community personalities picking the 10 songs they would take with them to a desert island and talking about those tunes.  Given that dancers are music loving creatures and who doesn’t love a top 10 list, I thought this was brilliant and delighted in my hour or so chatting with Sarah about my list.  Subsequently, Sarah has released episode 1 featuring Ryan Swift of The Track podcast and swing DJ fame and episode 2 featuring swing and house dance powerhouse instructor LaTasha Barnes, both stellar episodes – thus, I’m so very excited that I am episode 3, which came out today!  Come hang out with me and Sarah while we talk about tunes I love and share a lot of fun and laughter.

I also got a shoutout on the August 2020 episode of the long-running Hey Mister Jesse podcast, hosted by Jesse Miner and Manu Smith, featuring music that is of interest to swing dancers.  There have been a number of COVID-19 pandemic album releases and this episode features 8 of them, including Gordon Au’s Tribute to Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars/Live at Lindy Focus, and you can hear me and Jim Ziegler sing and banter on “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” – enjoy!

Profile in The Syncopated Times

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 Update

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.”

Enjoy!

Online Events in May – Rent Party and Rhythm Relief: The Swingtacular Show

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.

April 2020 COVID-19 Update

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
PAYPAL: paypal.me/keenanmckenziemusic

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!

Tribute to Louis Armstrong & His All​-​Stars / Live at Lindy Focus

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!