Vocals

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!

Lindy Focus XVIII Videos

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

75126698_10104799216927851_801859686809731072_nA 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!

A Bull City Holiday Album Release at Motorco – December 3, 2019

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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!

Live at Jammin’ on the James

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!

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A Bull City Holiday – Kickstart an Album of Original Swing Music by Keenan McKenzie

img_8926Keenan 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.

Lindy Focus Live Streams

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Chick Webb night 2018, thanks to the fab Hilary Mercer Photography

My biggest recurring gig of the past few years is definitely Lindy Focus – five nights of big band music with the Jonathan Stout Lindy Focus All Star Orchestra, with new songs added each year and, for the past three years, an entirely new bandleader’s night of music is performed, thanks to crowd funding from our stellar community of swing music supporters.  This year’s lineup from start to finish was Jimmie Lunceford (crowd funded in 2017), Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton (crowd funded in 2018), Chick Webb (crowd funded in 2016), and “Kitchen Sink Night” on New Year’s Eve, featuring an array of swing era arrangements.  All of the main dances are Lindy Focus are live streamed on YouTube, which means you can always go back and listen to the music from each night of dancing later!  Here are all the live streams from December 27 through December 31, 2018 – I’m featured, in some way or another, as a vocalist on each night, with a vocal trio on Lunceford night and as a featured vocalist on the other four nights.  Put some on while you’re doing chores or on a long drive for some toe-tapping tunes!

Jazz Lives – Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at the San Diego Jazz Festival

One of the most delightful human beings and ardent jazz fans is also a prolific blogger – Michael Steinman of the blog Jazz Lives covers the news and music of early-jazz performers of today and yesteryear.  I was fortunate enough to be at the San Diego Jazz Festival on all accounts, but particularly because Michael is a delightful conversationalist and happened to be in same space with his video camera.  He caught Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders‘ first set and persevered, in spite of the dance noise, dancer chatter, and a herd of children in tap shoes, to capture 10 videos from the set and write this lovely blog post.  Check it out and spend a set at the San Diego Jazz Festival in the comfort of your home.

The Michael and Evita Show

Last year at Lindy Focus I recorded a podcast interview with international swing dance instructor and human of effervescence and light Evita Arce for her podcast The Michael and Evita Show, which she shares with her dance partner Michael Jagger.  The episode (#28) was just released this month, so take a listen!  We talk about clothing, jazz, copyright law, and more – tune in on their website or subscribe on Apple podcasts.

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Holiday Season Shows

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Photograph courtesy of Jessica Keener Photography

As we approach the end of 2018, I have some great gigs coming up, some new, some familiar, but always enjoyable – hope to see you on the dance floor or at a holiday soiree…

November 2-3, 2018  I’m performing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders and Orchestra at The Nevermore Jazz Ball, in St. Louis, Missouri.  Nevermore always cultivates an inviting and local event that draws dancers from all over the U.S. and beyond, with top instruction, great local bands at their Saturday afternoon jazz crawl on Cherokee Street, and some fantastic venues, like the historic Casa Loma Ballroom.

November 24, 2018  The day after Thanksgiving I will board a plan to San Diego to perform with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at the San Diego Jazz Festival.  This is my first time at a west coast jazz festival and really my first time at a jazz festival that focuses on traditional jazz – of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this long-running festival has incorporated dance-focused concerts into its lineup, which is where you can find me, both singing and dancing!

December 1 and 8, 2018 The Mint Julep Jazz Band will be performing a private holiday parties – we still have some open dates if you’d like to book us!  Email mintjulepjazzband@gmail.com.  Otherwise, I’ll use that free time to decorate and make holiday cookies. 😉

December 27-31, 2018 I’ll be with the Jonathan Stout and the Lindy Focus All-Star Orchestra and with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at the Disney World of Lindy Hop events, Lindy Focus, in Asheville, NC.  As I’ve posted previously on this blog, we’ll be debuting the newly transcribed charts of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra (who featured a very young Dinah Washington in his band in the 1940’s) and his all-stars and smaller groups, thanks to the generosity of the swing dance/music/fan communities that help support live music via the Indiegogo campaign and keep these charts in the hands of musicians who can continue to perform them.  If you can’t be there, you can tune in and hear the orchestra on the Lindy Focus live stream!

Cheers and Happy Holidays!