I had a few gigs on the calendar in the fall of 2021 that quickly evaporated once the COVID Delta variant hit. One of these was a Saturday gig with Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers, which left us without a gig and with a wide-open Saturday. Keenan decided to make lemonade with those lemons and set up a recording session for us at Butler Knowles’ studio, Worry Less Music, in Raleigh. We recorded three of Keenan’s arrangements and I’m singing on “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
When I was young, I wondered why each subsequent band album seemed to have more and more years between albums, but now I understand. When a band does well, they are busy, then the members are busy contributing to other endeavors, and then people need a break after being so busy, so the thought of a new album is definitely lower on the priority list, particularly when other work is steady.
In 2020, we decided that 5 years was enough time gone by since the release of Battle Axe and that we should record another album. You know how the rest of this story goes with the global COVID-19 pandemic essentially putting a halt to life as we knew it.
We scheduled this recording a couple of times during the pandemic and had to keep pushing it back, but we believe it’s for real this time, so we are launching a Kickstarter today for album pre-orders and swag. I know some of you have told me that you need a new tee shirt, so we got you! I’m also excited to add enamel pins, Burt’s Bees, a sponsorship option, and some quality time noshing with yours truly as rewards, in addition to some of our recurring rewards.
What will this album be? It’s a dance album, of course, but it’s also the culmination of efforts aggregated just prior to the pandemic that still feel new to us, plus some new-to-us arrangements created during the pandemic, and some old favorites that should be put on tape. The project feels fresh to us, so we hope you enjoy it as we slowly re-open our jazz dance and music community.
It’s also a celebration of our 10th anniversary as a band! Our first gig was in February of 2012 at the (now defunct) Hot Club of Durham weekly swing dance in the Trotter Building in Durham’s DIY district. I look at videos of that night and think about how far we’ve come, but also how we did a respectable job for a very first gig. It’s been a wild ride and we thank you for all the wonderful musical experiences we’ve shared since then.
Visit our Kickstarter page for more information about the tracks on the album, swag, and how to get your copy/copies of our recordings – we’re offering digital, CD, and vinyl this time!
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!
Photo credit to the wonderful Atsuki Takizawa!
Fresh off the presses this past Friday, May 7, 2021, Michael Gamble has released a new EP of the tunes his regular lineup and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra recorded for CalBal Live. Featuring a lineup of incredible swing musicians from around the US (nay, the globe, if you’re counting Noah Hocker, expat in Beijing), I’m singing on three tunes – Born to Swing, Without Your Love, and When You’re Smiling. Bring a smile to your face this week and head over to Bandcamp to pick up a copy! 🙂
Here’s another video from Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, this time paying tribute to Billie Holiday’s arrangement for CalBal Live. When I started working on this tune I couldn’t find any other recordings to reference for the melody. Since Billie takes obvious liberties with the melody, I didn’t want that to be my only frame of reference, so I sought advice from Michael Steinman and he directed me to the Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville, New York, which has a substantial collection of sheet music of yesteryear. Sure enough, they had it and were able to email me a copy!
I’m glad I took the time to locate the sheet music because the melody is lovely – I think I’ve taken a bit from the original and a bit of Billie, put it all together with my wonderful music friends, and we made something good. Enjoy!
Thanks to CalBal Live, Michael Gamble was able to put together a 13 piece band and record a transcription of Mildred Bailey’s wonderful “Born to Swing,” which I was elated to be able to perform. I pitched the idea of this song to Michael after I was gifted the 78 of this song and fell in love. He thought it was great, too, so here we are – enjoy!
The Mint Julep Jazz Band cordially invites you to a jazz picnic at historic Orchard Park! Join us on June 12, 2021 from noon to 3:00 p.m. for an afternoon of music under the trees, enjoy the provisions in your picnic basket, do a little dancing (pursuant to the current safety guidelines), and then recline on your picnic blanket six feet away from the nearest attendees. This event is all ages and open to the public.
Through crowd funding from our wonderful community, we were able to cover the bare minimum costs of this event, but we will continue to take donations toward musician compensation and any unforeseen expenses – please send your donation to me with a note for “picnic” or “jazz picnic” to Venmo @Laura-Windley or via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org (select friends and family so there is no fee). We will also have a virtual tip jar at the show and hope that you will support this live music endeavor.
Orchard Park is a park owned by the City of Durham and we want to be sure that the event is enjoyed by everyone and hope that we could potentially do this again. The city’s guidelines are applicable to attendees as follows:
- Please wear a mask when you are not eating.
- If you are feeling sick, please stay at home.
- Please make sure your picnic area is 6 feet away from the nearest groupings of people. If we reach attendance of 100 people, we may ask newcomers to set up in an adjacent section of the park.
- At this time (4/23/21), the city’s guidelines say “no shaking of hands,” so this means no social dancing. I hope this changes, but make plans to do solo dancing.
- Hand sanitizer is encouraged, please bring some with you, as we will have port-a-potties and no facilities for hand washing.
- There is a water fountain at the park, but you should also plan on bringing enough water for the afternoon.
- Please pick up your trash and dispose of it appropriately; otherwise, Lucian Cobb and Laura Windley will be picking up your trash and that makes for a long day.
To RSVP to the Orchard Park Jazz Picnic, ask questions, and for more information and updates, please visit our Facebook invite for this event.
Orchard Park is located at 1000 S. Duke Street in Durham, North Carolina.
I’m excited to announce that my first in-person gig since March 1, 2020 will be with the Glenn Miller Orchestra at the Newberry Opera House in Newberry, SC on April 24, 2021 for a matinee and an evening show! Please check out the Newberry Opera House website for details and COVID precautions and I’ll cautiously hope to see my South Carolina friends there.
We’ll also be performing on April 25, 2021 for the Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community in West Columbia, SC – I’m assuming this is not open to the public, but will definitely be a treat for the residents!
The remote recordings continue with the release of Remote Riffing: Volume 2 (CalBal Live), an EP of the five tunes Keenan McKenzie assembled for the CalBal Live virtual Balboa workshop in January, 2020. I’m singing on two tracks, both original swing tunes written by Keenan McKenzie – If I Wrote a Song for You with Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers and Transcontinental with the Keenan McKenzie Orchestra. I have previously recorded both of these songs for Keenan’s album Forged in Rhythm, but it was fun to revisit these, perform them now that I’ve had them under my belt a couple of years, and hear the new arrangements, particularly Transcontinental with a big band! Please go to Keenan’s Bandcamp page and check out the incredible lineups of musicians for each song – I know we have been weary of this pandemic for some time, but this is one of those silver linings, essentially being able to record anywhere and have someone create this alchemy of recordings.
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:
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.
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