swing music

What Makes This (Swing) Song Great?

Be sure to tune in to “What Makes This (Swing) Song Great?” this Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. EST, where Jonathan Stout, Michael Gamble, and I will reprise our panel discussion/musical geek out session from Cal Bal in an online format so that more people can enjoy this during these isolated times! Thanks to much to Pasadena Balboa and Jam for sponsoring this – the cost is $15, for more information and to register in advance, visit the Facebook invite.

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Trebuchet on El Juego de Las Llaves

I am excited to announce that the Mint Julep Jazz Band’s recording of Trebuchet, Keenan McKenzie’s original tune featured on our second album Battle Axe, will be featured in the Amazon original series El Juego de Las Llaves!  Tune in for the hot story line and some hot jazz…

Check out this tune and more music from the series on Spotify and Amazon Music.

Lindy Focus XVIII Videos

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.

I’m posting the three late night performances below.  If you’re looking for a nice, long listen, you can revisit the live stream broadcasts for each of 5 nights of big band music (Basie, Ellington, Webb, Hampton, and anything goes on NYE) on the Lindy Focus YouTube channel.

A Bull City Holiday

75126698_10104799216927851_801859686809731072_nA Bull City Holiday, an album of Keenan McKenzie’s original holiday swing and jazz music featuring 30 Triangle area musicians, will be out on November 25!  You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp and check out one of the tracks as a preview of things to come.  If you will be at the Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers show in Richmond on November 16 or at the International Lindy Hop Championships over Thanksgiving weekend, you can also pick up a copy there.

I am one of seven vocalists on this album, check out the incredible list of album personnel on the Bandcamp page – you can find me singing on four tracks: Santa’s Cap, You Can’t Lock the Chimney, As the Nights Grow Longer, and A Charming Winter Town.  Enjoy!

A Bull City Holiday Album Release at Motorco – December 3, 2019

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Kick off your 2019 holiday season with some original and classic swinging holiday music – Motorco Music Hall plays host to the album release of A Bull City Holiday on December 3, 2019!  The show will feature Keenan McKenzie’s original holiday swing tunes as well as some holiday classics, with a cast of Triangle musicians in configurations from trad combos to big band, including vocalists Shana Tucker, Tamisha Waden, Mark Wells, Dave Wright, and yours truly.

Doors open at 7:00 p.m., show starts at 8:00 p.m. – get your tickets now on Motorco’s website, $12.00 advance, $15.00 at the door.

You’re going to love this music – Keenan’s creative lyrics, melodies, and arrangements – don’t miss this one-time, one-of-a-kind show!

Live at Jammin’ on the James

Now that we’ve recorded A Bull City Holiday and can look forward to that release in November, 2019, I’m on to the next recording project!  Looking forward to recording a live album with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Jammin’ on the James in Richmond, VA over the weekend of October 18 and 19, 2019 – we’ll be working with sound engineer Rob Moreland (who we’ve worked with at Lindy Focus and the Nevermore Jazz Ball) to capture the energy of this band in a Craftsman era ballroom that will be filled to the brim with dancers.  Thanks so much to the Jammin’ on the James organizers for conceiving of this project and going above and beyond to make it a reality!

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A Bull City Holiday – Kickstart an Album of Original Swing Music by Keenan McKenzie

img_8926Keenan 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.

Exhibit on Early Jazz and Swing at the Museum of Durham History

As part of Durham, North Carolina’s 150th anniversary this year, the Museum of Durham History invited the community to submit ideas for community curated exhibits.  I’m excited that I was selected to curate one of these exhibits, based on my Early Jazz and Swing in Durham, NC blog post!  The exhibit will open on July 5, 2019 with a reception from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (with dancing under the gazebo to recordings of all the musicians and bands featured in the exhibit), and will be on display throughout the month of July.

If you’re already in town or will be in town for the Bull City Swingout, swing by the museum and check it out!  I’ll also have an interactive downtown map that you can pick up if you’d like to do a self-guided walking tour of some of the locations named in the exhibit.

EDITED to add that the museum exhibit got a little love from IndyWeek with a featured article in their Music Issue.

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Late Night Eats and Cocktails at the Bull City Swingout

Bull everything, Bulldega in the background.

For all of you coming into town for the Bull City Swingout who are unfamiliar with Durham, NC, we are a food town – a foodie town, if you will.  You will have the utmost advantage because much of Durham’s foodie food is located within walking distance of all the venues for this workshop and swing dance weekend.  I’m not here to tell you where to eat because it would take too long, there are too many good options – pull up Yelp and figure out what type of food you want to eat and just go.

Three pro tips: 1) If you want to eat at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, you need to make a reservation in advance and prepare to either have leftovers or be destroyed in the best possible way.  2) Get the ribs at Blue Note Grill on Sunday night for John Dee Holeman’s show from 6-8 p.m. 3) There’s a small grocery store a block from the Armory called the Bulldega if you need to grab drinks (regular and alcoholic), snacks, or something quick to eat.

Late night food can be hard to figure out and I’d also like to highlight some of my favorite cocktail places within the walkable area, so let’s take a little jaunt around downtown Durham to some of my favorite haunts:

The neon sign lights the way to the Jack Tar Diner, named for the original hotel chain that built this building.

LATE NIGHT FOOD

Jack Tar Diner (202 Corcoran Street) – this is a 1/2 block from the Armory and they serve food until midnight.  Both main dances end at 11:30 p.m., so you’d have to go directly there to get seated and fed, but it’s worth it if you need a full meal after the dance.  The menu is diverse and delicious, they serve breakfast all day, and the cocktails at their adjoining bar, the Colonel’s Daughter, are excellent.  This is a two-for, since it’s also a cocktail recommendation – say hi to Kenny Smith the bartender for me, we went to college together.

Pie Pushers (117A W. Main Street) – the restaurant space itself isn’t open, but on Fridays and Saturdays they have a pizza window on the street level that’s open from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. where you can buy slices.

Parts & Labor (723 Rigsbee Avenue) – serving until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, this is the restaurant attached to Motorco Music Hall, which used to be an automobile dealership.  They offer a number of small plate style to-go foods (1 for a snack, 2-3 for a meal), everything from poutine to Bahn mi to vegan tacos to cheeseburger sliders.  Step up to the bar and order, opt to dine indoors or outdoors on their picnic table patio (or they may have the doors open and really everything becomes outdoor eating).  This is across the street from the Living Arts Collective.

The bar at Hutchins Garage.

Hutchins Garage (402 W. Geer Street) – serving pizza and beer until 2 a.m., large table seating.  I am less familiar with this place because it’s the newest, but the pizza I had there was good!  It’s also next door to the Living Arts Collective, just walk past the Crossfit place and the unoccupied portion of the building, which also used to be an automobile dealership.

The Accordion Club (316 W. Geer Street) – maybe you need a little cocktail and a late night snack and want to do it like a local?  Several of my friends claim this as their favorite bar in Durham, but what sold me on recommending this place is the Frito pie.  Open until 2 a.m.

If you’re looking for something outside of downtown, go to Cosmic Cantina (the one on Perry Street, open until 4 a.m.) for delicious burritos and nachos or Cook Out (3 locations in Durham, open until 3:00 a.m. or 3:30 a.m., depending on which one) for burgers, BBQ, and epic milkshakes.

I love sitting on the right side of the corner of the bar, you can watch the magic happen…

COCKTAILS

Bar Virgile (105 S. Mangum Street) – this is my favorite cocktail bar because it’s the total package for me – classic cocktail menu, seasonal cocktails, a bar staff that can make me anything I throw at them, excellent food menu ranging from bites to entrees, cool and cozy decor, and it’s 3 doors down from my office. 🙂

Alley Twenty-Six (320 E. Chapel Hill Street) – my favorite chef, Carrie Schleiffer, presides over the kitchen at Alley Twenty-Six, which is a cocktail-focused bar and restaurant with an excellent cocktail program and Carrie keeps things seasonal and adventurous with the food menu.  If you are looking for a stellar dinner and cocktails before the dance, this is my recommendation and it’s just around the corner from the Durham Armory.  Would recommend making a reservation just in case, but even if you forget you still may be able to get a table or a seat at one of the dual bars.

The Roof at The Durham Hotel (315 E. Chapel Hill Street) – the cocktails are good, but I’m recommending this for the decor and the view.  The Durham is a renovated bank building turned into something out of Mad Men, with impeccable MCM exterior and interior.  Take the elevator up to the rooftop bar for one of the best views of Durham and recline on the couches with your cocktail as you take it all in.

Can I just hang out by the Unscripted pool all day?

The Unscripted Hotel’s poolside bar (202 N. Corcoran Street) – this is another one I’m recommending for the experience, which is also straight out of Mad Men, perhaps even more overtly since they have left the second floor poolside/balcony area pretty much intact from the 1960’s.  There’s a cocktail hour planned here as part of the Bull City Swingout festivities from 6-8 p.m. prior to the Saturday night dance, but I’d also recommend coming here for a poolside cocktail and swim during the day if you’re not taking classes.  You don’t have to be a hotel guest to use the adorable pool.  Grab a Frosé (rosé and strawberry slushy) and don’t forget your sunscreen.

There are even more incredible restaurants serving wonderful cocktails downtown, so feel free to explore and make your own decisions.  Also, feel free to weigh in on your favorites in the comments.  Cheers and enjoy!

Jazz Lives – Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at the San Diego Jazz Festival

One of the most delightful human beings and ardent jazz fans is also a prolific blogger – Michael Steinman of the blog Jazz Lives covers the news and music of early-jazz performers of today and yesteryear.  I was fortunate enough to be at the San Diego Jazz Festival on all accounts, but particularly because Michael is a delightful conversationalist and happened to be in same space with his video camera.  He caught Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders‘ first set and persevered, in spite of the dance noise, dancer chatter, and a herd of children in tap shoes, to capture 10 videos from the set and write this lovely blog post.  Check it out and spend a set at the San Diego Jazz Festival in the comfort of your home.