North Carolina

Keenan McKenzie Releases Album of Original Swing Music

23659509_10103419847799641_1131617545580786145_nIf you love Keenan McKenzie’s original tunes and arrangements on the Mint Julep Jazz Band albums, you can now get even more of this great music in your life – Keenan is releasing a brand new album of original swing music written by the maestro himself called Forged in Rhythm, available now for preview and pre-order on Bandcamp and full release coming December 5!  I am excited that Keenan decided to write 7 original vocal tunes (in addition to the 8 instrumental tunes) and invited me to sing on his debut release – what a magical thing to be the first to sing a song!  We had such fun recording this album in Los Angeles in August and I’ve been eagerly anticipating sharing this album with all of you.

Here’s Keenan’s post about the album release:

“If you’d asked me a few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined my first album would be 15 radio-length songs, all in 4/4 time. I now owe so much to the dance community that it’s hard to imagine it going any other way. Swing music has provided some unforgettable experiences and introduced me to a world of wonderful people, including Allison Meeks (you make my heart go thump thump thump!)

I’m thrilled to announce the upcoming release of FORGED IN RHYTHM. This album of original tunes is a celebration of my favorite ‘30s/‘40s musicians and a love letter to the swing dance scene. I got to work with some phenomenal players and great friends, and we had a blast making this record. I can’t wait for you to hear it!

Keenan McKenzie……………reeds
Gordon Au…………………..trumpet
Lucian Cobb……………..trombone
Jonathan Stout……………….guitar
Chris Dawson………………….piano
Seth Ford-Young………………bass
Josh Collazo………………….drums
Laura Windley………………..vocals
Miles Senzaki……………..engineer

Artwork and design by Ryan Calloway Art

Available December 5th on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and more!”

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Photograph by Brad Nathanson Photography

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St. Louis and San Francisco

I feel like it’s a year of firsts in terms of travel for me, so my next “first” is my first time not flying home between weekend gigs.  I’ll start my week of travel adventures in St. Louis for the Nevermore Jazz Ball, performing at the Saturday night and Sunday night main dances with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders.  Saturday night is at the historic Casa Loma Ballroom, where many great bands from the swing era performed.  Check out the video below for some footage of us performing in this amazing ballroom last year at Nevermore (video thanks to Voon Chew):

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Once Nevermore wraps, I’m heading to San Francisco to perform with the Rhythm Serenaders again at Fog City Stomp at the Thursday night and Saturday night main dances.  I’ll also be DJ’ing at the Friday night dance (with Clint Baker’s Golden Gate Swing Band on the bandstand) and participating in a panel discussion before the Friday dance on live music and the swing dance community.  This will be my first trip to San Francisco and I’m excited to have a few days to see the sights, shop the shops, and eat the eats!

See you soon Mid-West and West Coast!

Fall 2017

There’s a nice mix of performances coming up, a little dancing, a little listening, a little of both – hope to see you at one of these upcoming dates!

September 29-30, 2017 with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Classic City Swing, Athens, GA – a wonderful workshop weekend at the University of Georgia, it will be a mix of visiting with family and performing with this swingin’ band.

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MJJB at the Duck Jazz Festival in 2015

October 7, 2017 Mint Julep Jazz Band at the Duck Jazz Festival, Duck, NC – the festival is expanding to add a performance on Saturday afternoon (us!) with a swing dance lesson between sets, come join us on the coast for this wonderful festival with enthusiastic jazz fans.

October 8, 2017 Ella at the Savoy: A Centennial Tribute, UNC’s Kenan Music Building rehearsal hall, Chapel Hill, NC – one of my pet projects honoring the unparalleled Ella Fitzgerald and her early work with the Chick Webb Orchestra and with Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra.

October 19, 2017 Mint Julep Jazz Band at the North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh, NC – this is not only our first performance at the State Fair, but my first time ever at the State Fair!  As a lifelong North Carolinian, I’m looking forward to finally being able to attend.

October 20-21, 2017  Mint Julep Jazz Band at Jammin’ on the James, Richmond, VA – excited to be performing for the first time with the Mint Julep Jazz Band at an event that is near and dear to my heart.  My very first workshop weekend as a baby Lindy Hopper was at JOTJ and organizers Rita Shiang and Andy Nishida put on a top notch event, now in its 15th year.

New Album: Get Rhythm in Your Feet by Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders

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Excited to be a part of Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders second album Get Rhythm in Your Feet, 17 tracks of classic swing music, expertly served up by Michael Gamble and a crew of all-star swing musicians!  We recorded this album right after Lindy Focus this past year and it’s so great to go into the studio after a week of blissful performing for one of the best audiences on the planet.  I’m singing on 6 tracks, pick up a copy on your favorite digital music platform today!

Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders – July 12, 2017

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MSNS Damrosch Park bandshell photograph courtesy of Ryan Swift

It was an incredible honor for the Mint Julep Jazz Band to be hired to perform at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing summer concert series for 2016, so when Michael Gamble asked me to perform at this year’s event, I was floored – on July 12, 2017, I’ll be singing with Michael Gamble at the Rhythm Serenaders at this truly amazing outdoor event, one that many New York dancers say is their favorite dance event in the city.   Midsummer Night Swing is three consecutive weeks of social dances to live music, highlighting musicians from all over the US and the world, under the stars at a lighted dance pavilion set up at the bandshell at Damrosch Park.  It’s a gorgeous event and I hope you will join us in New York for a night of awesome swing music and dancing!

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Nashville Dance Congress – May 5-6, 2017

We don’t see a lot of arts grant money going to social dance events, so it’s rare and wonderful that organizers of the Nashville Dance Congress have been the beneficiaries of a grant allowing them to provide a weekend of FREE dance classes from renowned instructors and social dances to live and DJ’ed music!  Featured dance genres are Salsa, Bachata, Ballroom Cabaret, West Coast Swing, Kizomba, Tango, Zouk, Lindy Hop, Balboa, and more!  I’m excited that the Mint Julep Jazz Band was invited to be a part of this inaugural event  – we’ll be performing three sets over the weekend, Friday and Saturday nights from 11:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., and a Saturday afternoon set from 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

If you are staying at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel, this event is free!  For more information or if you are not staying at the hotel, visit the Nashville Dance Congress website.

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Ella at the Savoy: A Centennial Tribute – April 23, 2017

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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.

11767807_4Laura 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

The Carolina Shout Podcast with Ethan Uslan

the-carolina-shout-logo_origMy friend Ethan Uslan, he of the ragtime/old time/stride piano playing World Champion fame, received a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council and the Mecklenburg Arts Council to produce a podcast on ragtime and early jazz piano, which he has named The Carolina Shout.  Over the summer when the Mint Julep Jazz Band performed in Charlotte, I stopped by Ethan’s house and recorded two duets with Ethan that now appear on episodes 3 and 5 of his podcast.  All 10 episodes are available on iTunes, Stitcher, or via his website, and are chock full of Ethan’s humor, wit, early jazz knowledge, and his ebullient piano performances.  If your day needs a pick-me-up, this is where to get it!

Featured on Peter Lamb and the Wolves’ New Album “Carolina Tiger Milk”

1A couple of years ago my friend Peter Lamb of Peter Lamb and the Wolves invited me and Lucian Cobb to contribute a track to a bootleg album, featuring many local North Carolina musicians collaborating with his band, to be released as a reward for his second album’s Kickstarter.  Fast forward to this year and Peter Lamb decided that the album was too good to be kept a secret and has released the bootleg as a bona fide album, Carolina Tiger Milk.  Lucian did the arrangement and trombone performance on the track “I’m Evil” and yours truly provided the vocals for this Una Mae Carlisle cover.  You can pick up a copy of the album on iTunes or wherever the Wolves are performing.

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Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders Debut Album

artworks-000166341762-hqhg9n-t500x500Be 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.