Last month Lindy Focus released just about every song from the 2019 event as individual videos! If you’ve been wanting to hear something, but didn’t feel like scrolling through a 3+ hour live stream, head over to the Lindy Focus YouTube channel and browse the multitude of new content. I’m most proud of “I’m a Slick Chick,” featured on Lionel Hampton night and originally performed by Dinah Washington with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. Dinah absolutely kills on this recording from a live performance, it’s so inspiring and I was excited to be able to perform it live. The transcript was sponsored by the incredible LaTasha Barnes, to whom I am so grateful for this!
Also new on the Lindy Focus YouTube channel are the live streams from this past year’s Lindy Focus – a little smaller lineup, a little smaller in dancer attendance, fully masked and vaccinated, but nevertheless a celebration of early jazz and swing!
Picking up where we left off, we cautiously move back into position, changed forever, but hopeful that our community can once again be together in a meaningful way. While Lindy Focus may more likely resemble a regional Lindy exchange this year, I have a feeling that the impact will still be strong, particularly for those of us who are still working from home and whose scenes are not running regular dances yet.
Per usual, I am most excited about the music – the musicians and bandleaders this year are all from North Carolina! Our state has a history of producing incredible jazz musicians (Coltrane, Simone, Monk, to name a few) and, for the modern swing dance community, you are already familiar with several bands based in NC – Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers, and the Mint Julep Jazz Band. We’ll have some new-to-you faces that we’re excited for you to hear (including bandleader Sean Mason!) and I’m sure there will be some new-to-you tunes that we’ve added to our books during the pandemic.
Above all, be safe – Lindy Focus will be requiring masks/vaccinations and we’ll have to do air hugs, but it will be so good to see any number of you and share in the collective and creative energy that has been missing for so long.
If Lindy Focus is not in your risk budget, we all understand and we’ll see you again in the future – if it is in your risk budget this year, registration is open, the hotel is taking bookings, and I’ll see you soon!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, I’ll use that free time to decorate and make holiday cookies. 😉
A lot of this music that we love from the swing era isn’t available in chart form to purchase for big bands to perform.
This Indiegogo campaign goes to fund the transcription of the songs listed in the campaign (and the associated music publishing licensing fees), usually 30 songs, which equates to an entire night of big band swing music for the length of a swing dance; this year there are two extra sets of small group material included. Fund as little or as much as you like – get some swag or fund an entire song of your choice. You can listen to all the songs that are a part of this project here.
These charts will be performed at Lindy Focus on December 29 – if you can’t attend in person, there’s a live stream on YouTube
Licenses will be pursued for these charts to be published and available for purchase at a reasonable cost on the Heritage Sounds website for you and/or your local swing/big band to perform for your dancing and listening pleasure.
I am personally excited to be delving into the songs performed by Dinah Washington, who appeared with Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra in the 1940’s. Dinah never recorded any records with Lionel’s orchestra (she did with his small groups), but a number of air check recordings exist of varying audio quality – I’m excited that these big band charts will be getting a second chance, to be heard in greater fidelity, and maybe someone will even record them someday!
Thank you in advance and thanks to everyone who has already donated – the music means so much to all of us, it’s amazing that this level of support exists from all of you who love swing music and want live swing music to continue to be a part of your lives.