This will be my 12th All Balboa Weekend, attending and/or working in some capacity, and it’s always a joy to bring excellent swing music to these particular shuffling feet. This year I’ll be singing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders octet on Friday night (June 15) and with the Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra on Saturday night (June 16). Michael always works in some new material for Balboa dancers and I’m excited to see what he brings to the table for this weekend and also excited to revisit all the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald charts that Michael utilizes to showcase the Heritage Sounds collection of charts (which you can buy on the Heritage Sounds website!). See you soon, Cleveland!
May kicks off the season for outdoor concert series and the Mint Julep Jazz Band will be joining the ranks of bands braving the elements to bring you tunes in (hopefully) sunny and pleasant weather! On May 16, 2018 we return to Booth Amphitheater’s Hob Nob Jazz Series for a performance on the back deck from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. – admission is $5 (free for kids 12 and under) and you can either bring a picnic or buy wine and refreshments at the amphitheater. There’s always plenty of room at the amphitheater, both on the deck and in the grass, and the deck is good for dancing!
On May 20, 2018, we’ll be performing as part of the Got to be NC Festival at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds – find us on the stage outside of Dorton Arena playing two sets from 4:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Best of all, admission to the festival is free!
I am honored to be invited to speak and perform as part of a collaborative show in Durham called The Artist’s Role, with some incredible performers and historians who I will be humbly and respectfully in awe of for the duration of the show, for their work, their knowledge, and their contributions to the arts.
What is this show? Here’s the story from the source:
“The Urban Artistry Preservatory Project, an initiative of Urban Artistry, An International Culture and Education Project, presents The Artist’s Role, an evening of music, dance, narrative, and visual art. Featured performers include three generations of tradition-bearers and innovators: NEA National Heritage Fellows Phil Wiggins and John Dee Holeman, Shana Tucker, Laura Windley, Joe Seamons and Ben Hunter. Featuring visual art by Darius Quarles and co-hosted by Greg Adams of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Junious Lee Brickhouse of Urban Artistry, An International Culture and Education Project.
Tickets $12 in advance, $15 at the door theartistsrole.eventbrite.com
For The Artist’s Role, the Preservatory Project has chosen artists who, along with being talented and entertaining performers, are also historians, tradition bearers, and modern-day griots. The musicians span a range of genres and eras, from acoustic country blues to swing to soul. They all share a commitment to elevating the artists and communities who inspired and taught them. It is The Preservatory Project’s hope that the audience will find new ways to engage with and connect with communities that are often marginalized but to whom we owe so much artistically and culturally.”
I’m going to share some of my favorite stories and artists from women’s jazz history, sing a little, dance a little, and collaborate with the other musicians in the show. I hope you will come and be inspired, engaged, and energized by what you hear and see!
January 20, 2018, 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at The Vault, 1104 Broad Street, Durham, NC
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.
See you soon!
If 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!
Artwork and design by Ryan Calloway Art
Available December 5th on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and more!”
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):
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.