It’s the most wonderful time of the year in many ways, but one special annual tradition for me for over 10 years at this point has been Lindy Focus, first as a dancer, then DJ, then vocalist. This year I’ll be re-joining Jonathan Stout‘s Lindy Focus All-Star Orchestra for the main dances and Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders for late night on December 30. I am excited that we will debut Jimmie Lunceford night on December 29, with chart transcriptions funded by the swing dance community, because Jimmie’s swing orchestra is one of my favorites.
I will also be participating in a panel discussion on December 30 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. called “Ain’t She Sweet? Issues of Gender for Musicians in a Male Oriented Jazz World” with some of my favorite jazz women, and you should also check out all of the discussion series led by Breai Mason-Campbell on issues of race in the Lindy Hop community. Lindy Focus is always fun and educational and I’m glad that the event continues to push us towards our better understanding and our better selves as a community.
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!
Be sure to pick up a copy of Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders new self-titled debut album, featuring some of my favorite swing jazz musicians and yours truly. We recorded this album right after Lindy Focus in Asheville, NC at Isis Music Hall – we were all in town, so why not record an album? You can find me on 4 tracks on the album, but if you purchase the album through iTunes you get bonus tracks, including another vocal tune! I am so fortunate to have opportunities to record and perform, both through my own band and with Michael, and for this I am truly grateful, and grateful for all the support we have received from the swing dance community, who make all of these musical endeavors possible.
I sat down with podcaster Ryan Swift in December at Lindy Focus for an interview for The Track, which features in-depth interviews with pivotal persons in the swing dance community, and the fruits of that interview appear in Episode 14 of The Track! I’m flattered and delighted to join the ranks of people I admire as a dancer and vocalist who have been featured on the podcast before me, including my DJ mentor Rob Moreland, Renaissance woman Naomi Uyama, the unparalleled Sylvia Sykes, and the inimitable Dawn Hampton. Take a listen, Ryan is an intuitive and fun interviewer and the topics always swing. 😀
What could be better than five nights of big band music featuring a different swing era bandleader each night? Doing it all over again, getting another crack at those charts, and delighting dancers, both who loved the experience before and dancers who missed the joy of this event last year. I am delighted to be returning to Lindy Focus to sing five nights with the all-star Lindy Focus edition of the Jonathan Stout Orchestra and I’ll be lending my voice to Michael Gamble and his Rhythm Serenaders at one of the late night dances. I’ll also be DJ’ing in the Balboa room at some of the late night dances – this will be a very DO ALL THE THINGS kind of Lindy Focus for me! See you in Asheville December 27-31, 2015 to ring in the new year!
Here’s the lineup of musicians this year, in case you were curious:
Albert Alva (Saxes & Clarinet)
Gordon Au (Trumpet & Music Instructor)
Lucian Cobb (Trombone)
Josh Collazo (Drums & Music Instructor)
Paul Cosentino (Saxes, Clarinet, & Music Instructor)
Jonathan Doyle (Saxes, Clarinet, & Bandleader!)
Michael Gamble (Bass)
Craig Gildner (Piano)
Ryan Gould (Bass & Music Instructor)
Jake Handelman (Trombone)
Noah Hocker (Trumpet)
David Jellema (Cornet)
Jason Jurzak (Bass & Music Instructor)
Ken McGee (Trumpet)
Keenan McKenzie (Saxes, Clarinet, & Music Instructor)
Dean Mitchell (Saxes)
Ben Polcer (Trumpet & Music Instructor)
James Posedel (Piano)
Brooks Prumo (Guitar)
Hal Smith (Drums)
Jonathan Stout (Guitar & Bandleader!)
Allan Vache´ (Clarinet)
Dave Wilken (Trombone, Music Instructor and Program Overseer)
Russ Wilson (Drums, Vocals on “Basie Night”!)
Laura Windley (Vocals & DJ)
I decided to put together a playlist of all the tunes I sang with the Jonathan Stout Orchestra (aka Jonathan Stout and the Lindy Focus All Star Orchestra) that have been published on the Lindy Focus YouTube channel for my personal reference, then decided it might be good to share it with followers of this website. Here they are, videos available (there were many more performed than recorded, but we are grateful that so many were recorded) from each night of Lindy Focus XIII – I’ve made a YouTube playlist or you can watch them individually below:
COUNT BASIE NIGHT, December 27, 2014 (which was really Billie Holiday night for me, since there were no available old testament Basie female vocal charts):
ARTIE SHAW NIGHT, December 28, 2014 (no videos were filmed of my songs from this night)
DUKE ELLINGTON NIGHT, December 29, 2014
BENNY GOODMAN NIGHT, December 30, 2014
NEW YEAR’S EVE, December 31, 2014 (unofficial known as Kitchen Sink night)
It’s not every day that you get to sing with a big band, much less FIVE NIGHTS of big band music! This year I return to Lindy Focus to lend my vocals to the Jonathan Stout Orchestra, which will be featuring the music of a different bandleader each night of the event – Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and New Year’s Eve will feature all the other great tunes in Jonathan’s big band book. The lineup of musicians has been referred to as a “murderer’s row” of jazz/swing musicians and I’m delighted to be among their ranks – to have the opportunity to work with all of them and perform for so many wonderful dancers is such a joy! I’ll also be lending my DJ skills to the late night Balboa room – see you soon!
Singing with the Jonathan Stout Orchestra at Lindy Focus, New Year’s Eve 2013. Photo courtesy of Mike Thibault.
Lindy Focus was such a tidal wave of positive energy this year – even though I didn’t have a lot of down time, all that energy kept me going and going! I got to work with some of the most amazing musicians and dancers, and even spin some tunes in the Balboa room. 🙂 It was an honor to be invited to be in the New Year’s Eve show, done to live music for the first time, and to work with Evita Arce, who is the creative genius who put together the show from scratch. It was a pleasure to perform with Jonathan Stout and his all-star band of musicians – the energy from the band performances was immense and infectious!
I’ve posted below my contributions to the New Year’s Eve show – a recreation of the Duke Ellington Short “Bli Blip” with whiz kid Jon Tigert and a performance of “Sunny Side of the Street” featuring tapper extraordinare Mike Herring – and a version of “Me Myself and I” performed with Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five. Campus Five first:
I’m excited to announce that I will be DJ’ing and singing at Lindy Focus this year! I’ll resume my spot, along with DJ Kristy Milliken, at the Avalon Balboa Dance Party, the late night Balboa room at Lindy Focus. I’ll be joining Jonathan Stout‘s bands on vocals for three nights, singing with Campus Five, the Rhythm Busters, and the Jonathan Stout Orchestra on New Year’s Eve! To say that I am excited would be an understatement – looking forward to it and all the dancing, as well! 😀