Jen Hodge

Three New Music Videos for CalBal Live

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:

COWBELL SERENADE

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.

Laura Windley – vocals, Lucian Cobb – trombone, Paul Rogers – trumpet, Keenan McKenzie – tenor saxophone, Aaron Hill – alto saxophone, Ben Lassiter – guitar, Peter Kimosh – bass, Aaron Tucker – drums

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

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!