I love visiting these two cities and, in particular, these two events – I hope will be a mix of performing and dancing for me. First, on April 20, 2018, I’m singing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra (our second performance after a fantastic debut at School of Hard Knox) at the Washington DC Lindy Exchange, in the historic Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park. On Saturday, April 21, 2018, join me and Alexandre Abdoulaev at Cafe Jovial in Baltimore from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for some tunes, coffee, and brunch. Then I head to New York to catch the end of Bal Week, performing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders on Friday and Saturday nights, April 27 and 28, 2018, and I’ll be hanging out the day before and couple of days after taking in all the good music and dancing this city has to offer. See you soon!
I’ll be Knoxville-bound soon enough, but this is an extra special weekend because Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra will have its debut performance at the Saturday night main dance at School of Hard Knox! If you’ve been following the transcriptions projects and Indiegogo.com campaigns for Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford, and (soon to be launched) Lionel Hampton, you’ll know that Michael has spearheaded this endeavor and has all these great big band charts that should really continue to be heard outside of once a year at Lindy Focus. It is my understanding that his new orchestra will be a showcase for these charts and bandleaders, so that more people can hear them, learn about them, and spread the love to other bandleaders, educators, music lovers, dancers, really anyone who may take an interest in this music. Michael will probably also have some other things up his sleeve, so this will, at least in part, be a surprise for me as well!
If you are interested in learning more about what charts are available right now, visit the Heritage Sounds website – we are still in the process of clearing licenses for many more arrangements (which takes a long time), so stay tuned!
If you are interested in dancing, come take classes and dance at School of Hard Knox – there’s a stellar instructor lineup for the weekend, great DJs, and shenanigans to be had!
In the second installment of transcribing arrangements for an entire night dance music from one swing era bandleader, Jimmie Lunceford is on deck and the Indiegogo campaign is live to raise the funds to transcribe all these arrangements and then make them available to the public for bandleaders to purchase for their own bands to perform (or, as in some cases, for dance communities to purchase for their local big band to perform!) Michael Gamble covers a lot of bases in the video (posted below and in the Indiegogo campaign, about how the Chick Webb project worked from start to finish (and to print) and how we are doing it all over again to bring Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra back to life for one dance-long night of music. Please do watch the video, there are a lot of interesting things about this project, some digging into the national archives for existing arrangements (in whole or in part), and some unique things about Lunceford’s band. Once again, I’m delighted to be working on the transcription project with a team of people dedicated to making sure this music is performed again! #teamLunceford
I had an amazing time performing at New York Bal Week, an event that runs from Monday to Sunday, highlighting New York’s fantastic live bands and venues and focusing on Balboa, offering Balboa workshops over the weekend of the event. This is one of those “only in New York” type of events and it was a delight and an honor to be asked to come up and perform for this event with Glenn Crytzer’s New Yorkers and his Orchestra. Here’s a clip of me with the orchestra doing “When I Get Low I Get High” from the Saturday night dance – enjoy!
In 1934, Ella Fitzgerald was a homeless teenager on the streets of Harlem with an incredible voice – she was discovered at the Apollo Theater’s famous amateur night that year and was quickly picked up by drumming powerhouse Chick Webb to perform in his orchestra. Chick Webb’s band was the most prominent of the house bands at the Savoy Ballroom, one of New York’s largest ballrooms, the only integrated ballroom in New York, and the birthplace of Lindy Hop. Before she was the First Lady of Song, Ella honed her skills as a big band singer with some of New York’s top working jazz musicians of the 1930’s.
April 25, 2017 marks Ella’s 100th birthday and, as a centennial tribute, a group of Triangle musicians has come together to celebrate her early work with the Chick Webb Orchestra and, in the years following Chick Webb’s death in 1939 at the height of the orchestra’s fame, leading the orchestra under her own name – Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra.
Come see the show on April 23, 2017 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Sharp Nine Gallery/Durham Jazz Workshop, 4608 Industry Lane, Suite L, Durham, NC – tickets are $20.00 and you can purchase them through Brown Paper Tickets. For more information, visit the Sharp Nine Gallery website.
Laura Windley – vocals
Kobie Watkins – drums
Jim Crew – piano
Peter Kimosh – bass
Chip Newton – guitar
Keenan McKenzie – reeds
Aaron Hill – reeds
Dan Hitchcock – reeds
Taylor Savage – reeds
Lucian Cobb – trombone
Evan Ringel – trombone
Jim Ketch – trumpet
Kyle Santos – trumpet
Paul Rogers – trumpet
Here it is, 3 sets (and two encores!) of Chick Webb music in all its glory at Lindy Focus 2016! As with any tribute, we hope that the band was able to capture the magic of a night at the Savoy Ballroom, with the most famous of the Savoy’s house bands. Much love to everyone who contributed to the transcription project to make this dream a reality!
One of my favorite swing era bandleaders is Chick Webb, the king of the Savoy Ballroom and jazz drumming trailblazer, who incidentally hired my favorite jazz vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald, for her first gig as the “girl singer” in his band. Chick Webb left this planet too early in 1939 and his legacy of songs lives in the recordings we listen and dance to, but the book of his arrangements is long gone. Seeing a need and an opportunity to bring this music to life again, Michael and Jaya Gamble spearheaded an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money to transcribe 33 Chick Webb arrangements and make them available to the public following transcription and performance at Lindy Focus 2016. The crowd funding goal of $17,000 was met in less than 24 hours and the swing dance community’s love and adoration of Chick Webb’s music is evident in this feat!
On December 29, 2016, the fruits of these labors will come to fruition in a performance of these transcribed Chick Webb charts, with Jonathan Stout leading the change with his Lindy Focus All Star Orchestra and I am beyond any measure of excited to be performing Ella Fitzgerald’s vocal tunes. There is so much love in this project, so many people who want to share in this experience on many levels, it’s almost overwhelming for me to think about. It’s all summarized here on the Lindy Focus page dedicated to this project, detailing the helpers, the backers, the list of songs and people who sponsored them, and the excitement continues to build up to the performance and, for some, the release of these charts so that other bands may carry this music into the future and perform it for an even bigger audience.
I am honored to be a part of the team putting all of this together, both as vocalist and working on the copyright aspects of the project. Cheers to you all, I hope to see you on December 29 in Asheville!
We’ll be opening the Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Cars from the 1930s and ’40s exhibit with a soiree on September 29 featuring food, cocktails, and hot jazz amongst the rolling sculptures featured in the exhibit. Band plays from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This is the first of many cool events surrounding this exhibit, check out the NCMA Rolling Sculpture exhibit webpage to see what’s in store in the coming months!