vintage

FAQ About Mint Julep Jazz Band

Starting a new band raises a lot of questions – in conversations with people, these questions have come up most frequently, so here’s a little FAQ to get you more acquainted with the Mint Julep Jazz Band:

What kind of music will you play?

We will focus on music from the 1920’s and 1930’s, but some early 1940’s tunes may creep into the mix. The band will be playing arrangements that are either transcribed from original recordings or reproductions of original recordings (or a combination of both – sometimes having a hi-fi reference helps a lot) and arrangements that our maestro Lucian Cobb creates on his own, based on songs from this era. We will be playing a few arrangements Lucian has done in the past and songs you may have heard vocalist Laura Windley perform, but the majority of the material will be new. Most importantly, this music will swing!

How many people will be in the band?

Right now, we really like the idea of having either a 7 or 8 piece band, giving us either a 3 or 4 piece rhythm section with 3 horns, plus a vocalist. With this format, we are able to play arrangements of big band or smaller group charts, giving us a fuller sound than a jazz combo. We are also able to offer a more affordable alternative to a big band.

Will you have a smaller group?

Unfortunately, we will not have a smaller group. We understand that this limits the venues we can play, especially locally, but we are more interested in creating a specific sound.

Who is going to be in the band?

We’d like to have a set lineup, but in the jazz world this is not always possible – some of our band members have bands of their own, so we are fortunate enough to have other jazz musicians that we have worked with in the past to fill their shoes. You can be sure you will see Peter Lamb (sax), Al Strong (trumpet), Aaron Tucker (drums), Jason Foureman (bass), Aaron Hill (sax), Rich Willey (trumpet), Kyle Santos (trumpet), Mark Wells (piano), and other great jazz musicians from the Triangle and beyond who we enjoy performing with and will lend their unique talents to this endeavor.

When will you be ready to play?

The goal is to be ready in March and, indeed, we’ve already got gigs in March 2012 and beyond! For more details, see our calendar page. We do have a show on February 23 for RDU Rent Party – we invite everyone to come to this sneak preview!

Where will you play?

Our bread and butter will be swing dances, and we’ve already got a wedding on the books. We are also available for community events, outdoor festivals, jazz societies, schools, private parties, charity events/fundraisers, historic and reenactment-related events, and, really, anywhere that people enjoy music. We are looking to travel outside of the Triangle area of North Carolina and would welcome gig opportunities in other cities.

Eastern Balboa Championships 2011

This weekend, November 3-6, is the Eastern Balboa Championships, the epic Balboa workshop and competition weekend that takes place in Raleigh, NC every year. I’m pleased to be a part of the DJ roster again this year, along with head DJ Kyle Smith, DJ Kristy Milliken, and DJ Abigail Browning. I am also excited to be a featured vocalist with Russ Wilson’s Nouveau-Passe Orchestra on Saturday night.

On Saturday, I have made arrangements with the Raleigh Vintage Collective to have a trunk show at EBC from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. that will feature clothing and accessories for men and women from the 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s. This is an exciting prospect because everything offered will be era-appropriate for swing dancing! Lindy Shopper will be reporting, of course.

Closed Doors, Open Windows, and Starting a New Band

In light of recent events and a lot of questions from friends and fans, I feel the need to clarify a few things. A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Atomic Rhythm All-Stars bandleader, George Knott, terminating my involvement with the band as the vocalist and as the marketing person for the band. My involvement was terminated over a dispute regarding intellectual property rights. As of two weeks ago, I will no longer be performing with the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars and have been removed from all future performance dates.

I’d like to thank those of you who have been supportive of me during this time. It’s tough to pour your heart and soul into a project for three years, use your contacts to obtain gigs for the band, invest time and effort into developing an online presence and fan base, share in the joys and woes of being part of a band, and see something you got into on the ground floor grow and flourish, only to have your efforts and talents be deemed unnecessary.

To borrow from lyrics, the song is ended, but the melody lingers on…after hearing the news, my friends expressed that I should start my own band. I discussed this with my husband, trombone player and arranger Lucian Cobb, who is leaving the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars as well, and we both decided that we love this music too much to stop playing it. As our options for joining other bands as regular members are non-existent in Raleigh/Durham, we will be forming our own group to play 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s jazz, featuring Lucian’s arrangements from Atomic and many more new arrangements. We will also need a band name, equipment, ideas for songs, a book, a website, and gigs, among other things I’m sure we haven’t considered. It’s hard to start all over again, but, hopefully, we will continue our dreams of playing vintage jazz music and share the joy of this music through a different conduit.

We already have a gig on the books for next year and are accepting gigs for dates in March 2012 and beyond. Thank you to everyone who has faith in my abilities as a vocalist, organizer, and business-woman. I look forward to performing for you again!

Jammin’ on the James 2011

The Blue Crescent Syncopators are playing the Saturday night dance at Jammin' on the James

This weekend I will be traveling to Richmond, Virginia to DJ and sing at this year’s Jammin’ on the James, Richmond’s annual swing dance workshop weekend, featuring instructors Carla Heiney, Nick Williams, Casey Schneider, and Mike Faltesek.

I’ll be sharing DJ duties with Bill Speidel and hopefully grab some time to go vintage shopping with this infamous sartorialist. I’ve been invited to share the stage for the first time with Washington, D.C.’s Blue Crescent Syncopators, so I will be singing a few tunes with this band on Saturday night. It’s also my birthday this weekend, so there’s a lot to look forward to at Jammin’ on the James!

Reminiscing About Swing: How I Started Swing Dancing

I occasionally get asked the question, “How did you start swing dancing? What’s your story?” Everyone has a story about how they came to this subculture and, if you’ve been dancing for over a decade, that story must be like ancient history to the new generation of dancers. Prompted by both the Wandering and Pondering and ‘Taint What You Do blogs, I’ve put my story into words.

My story begins with a love affair with jazz music. In 1996/1997 I was in the 10th grade at Davie County High School, the only high school in a very rural North Carolina county. I was heavily influenced by the music on an alternative rock radio station based out of Winston-Salem, NC, but I can’t remember the call letters and I’m not sure they even exist anymore. I would listen to their music getting ready for school in the morning and it was through this radio station that I was exposed to North Carolina’s own Squirrel Nut Zippers. I loved the sound, bought the CD, immersed myself in it, and shared it with others. I developed a curiosity for this music and began to seek out other artists in this vein, but this was before widespread internet use so my resources were limited. At the end of 11th grade I did a project for my U.S. History class on my grandfather’s adventures as a Merchant Mariner during WWII and used SNZ’s “Good Enough for Grandad” as the background music for my video montage of photos. My grandfather would frequently talk about jazz and musicians from the 1930’s and 1940’s, as well as play music from this era on his turntables, and I slowly began putting all the pieces together in a historical context, where SNZ got their inspiration. This was just before all hell broke loose.

I remember riding around the next summer in my 1990 Honda Civic DX with my best friend Caroline, squealing whenever we heard the Brian Setzer Orchestra or Cherry Poppin’ Daddies on the radio – “Turn it up! We have to get this CD!” Somewhere in this time frame of 1998, the GAP debuted its “Khakis Swing” commercial and I was completely smitten, bitten, and infected with the jitterbug. There was a dance I could learn that went with all this great music? I had to do it, right then. But how? I was 17, living in rural North Carolina with overprotective parents, where was I going to find someone to teach me?

The ever resourceful Caroline had the idea that we would host our own swing dance at our high school. After a little digging, we discovered that we could use the gym after a football game for about an hour and that the high school band director did ballroom dancing with his wife and would be willing to teach an East Coast Swing lesson. We befriended the A/V guys who put together mini-commercials for the dance that aired during morning announcements, using dance clips from A League of Their Own and Swingers. I put together a set of my swing music (my first DJ gig!) and with a boom box we were set. Caroline and I donned our GAP khakis, took the basic lesson, did dangerous aerials with our friends, and left with a feeling of accomplishment – we learned how to swing dance!

Winston-Salem's Millennium Center, the site of my first real swing dance

I forget how the word trickled down to me, but a few weeks later I learned that the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem had swing dances. I rounded up a group of my friends to head into “the city” to attend a Supermurgatroid Productions dance at this wonderful venue, an old post office converted into an event space with miles of wood floors. I took another beginner lesson, this time with Joel Domoe and Salima Owen, and I was bursting with excitement. I’d get to dance with REAL swing dancers, not just the boys at my high school. I was in heaven. After the lesson, my friends were not as into it as I was and I remember leaving the dance earlier than I wanted, but I did manage to sneak in a few dances with more experienced dancers.

I continued to watch the swing craze play itself out over television, catching broadcasts of the Brian Setzer Orchestra and other neo-swing bands that may have appeared on shows (see video above from 1998 MTV Music Awards, dancers enter around 5:20 – do you know any of the dancers? Do they still dance?) and on late night TV. I remember seeing dancers in these productions, with brightly colored outfits, flipping and turning with gusto. I remember reading articles about the swing dance and vintage culture in Los Angeles, California, seeing photographs of men in zoot suits or three piece suits and women in beautiful vintage dresses and accessories. I watched Swing Kids and started collecting a few traditional swing and jazz CDs, in addition to neo-swing.

I didn’t return to swing dancing until after golf season and a bout with mono, but as I headed to my freshman year of college at East Carolina University, I sought out swing dance lessons on campus and discovered that the campus Methodist minister taught weekly lessons at the Methodist student center. The response for these lessons was overwhelming and we all packed into the tiny auditorium at the student center to get our weekly dose of East Coast Swing. There were only a handful of actual social dances at the student center, in spite of the amazing turnout, and some of us wanted more. Two Air Force pilots from Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro who commuted to the weekly swing dance lessons at ECU told some of the dancers about a weekly dance in Raleigh they had been commuting to, where all the best dancers in the state would come and dance every week. It was at a place called The Warehouse. I’d only been to Raleigh a handful of times in my life and I was dying to see people dance like the GAP ads. I was in.

Lindy Shopper storytelling shopping detour: I couldn’t show up to a big dance in Raleigh wearing just anything, especially after seeing the L.A. women in their beautiful dresses. Surely, the sophisticated dancers in Raleigh would all be wearing vintage! On a trip home to visit my parents, my mother took me to Winston-Salem to a vintage store called, I believe, Hello Betty. I had no idea what to look for, but my mother did, thanks to her sewing experience, her penchant for historical costumes, and her childhood during the 1950’s. Looking back, we actually found two really great dresses – the first was a pale pink late 1940’s rayon dress with mother of pearl buttons on the the bodice and black stitching detail (lost to moths a few years ago, tears ensued); the second was an early 1960’s black cocktail dress from Montaldo’s, which we later discovered (after ripping out the lining to tailor the dress) was a Ferdinando Sarmi design.

When we made it to the Warehouse, late on a school night, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. It wasn’t the GAP ad, but, in my opinion at the time, it was real swing dancing. Being around these dancers was intimidating, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the dance floor. I danced with the guys who came with us and maybe one other person, but kept to the side of the dance floor. I think one person commented on my vintage dress. I was the only person wearing vintage and stuck out like a sore thumb. Some things never change around here. 😉 I went to the Warehouse one other time before the flyboys were transferred to another Air Force base.

Guzzo and I at our GAP khakis best

During the second semester of my sophomore year of college, the campus Methodist minister started teaching us Lindy Hop, based on the Frankie Manning videos. A small group of us struggled to get the steps right, and it slowly began to make sense. At the end of the semester the minister sat us down and told us he had taught us everything he knew and that he wouldn’t be able to teach next year because of his duties. Would a couple of us be willing to take over the lessons? Somehow, the torch was handed to me and my dorm-mate of the past two years, Mike Guzzo, to take over the East Coast Swing lessons.

Mike and I started the semester with that same packed auditorium, but by the end of the semester it had dwindled down to a core group that would eventually become the ECU Swing Dance Club. It was about this time that I met Dave Fillmore at a local dance, who had a profound influence on my Lindy Hop. Dave spent a few months out of every year living in San Francisco, dancing and taking lessons from Paul Overton and Sharon Ashe (who, ironically, now live in the same town as I do). Dave took me under his wing, taught me some proper technique, turned me on to what the national DJs were playing at the time, and, most importantly, got me traveling to dance. We would ride together to the weekly dances in Raleigh, which had moved to a restaurant/brewery called Greenshields, and I slowly overcame my awe of the dancing there and joined in. We’d commute to the Triangle Swing Dance Society dances at the Durham Armory. In 2003, I attended my first Lindy exchange, DCLX. The rest, as they say, is history. In 2005, I moved from Greenville to the Triangle and I’ve been an active member of the swing dance community here for years and continue to travel to swing dance events all over the United States.

An early photo, with Dave Fillmore at right, from the rained out U.S.S. North Carolina swing dance in Wilmington, circa 2001/2002. Sharpie tattoos courtesy of my neighbors, Cape Fear Tattoo.

The Best of Our State at Pinehurst

The Atomic Rhythm All-Stars are looking forward to playing at the historic Pinehurst Resort on August 6, 2011 for Our State Magazine‘s “The Best of Our State,” an event that is “a celebration of North Carolina music, history, humor, art, and food.” Atomic is appearing as part of a weekend of special events at the Pinehurst Resort, featuring storyteller Donald Davis, author Michael Parker, historian Dr. Tom Hanchett, singer/songwriter Laurelyn Dossett, author Libby Bagby, author Diane Daniel, and artist/musician William McNeill. For more information on the weekend, visit the Our State Magazine website: http://www.ourstate.com/events/pinehurst

Atomic Plays TSDS and TCF Perform at Summer Solstice Festival

There’s another busy weekend in the works, with The Atomic Rhythm All-Stars taking the stage at the Murphey School in Durham, NC this Saturday, June 18, 2011 for a night of swing dancing, thanks to the Triangle Swing Dance Society.

On Sunday, June 19, The Carolina Fascinators will be performing their Shortenin’ Bread routine at Greensboro, NC’s Summer Solstice Festival, around 4:30 p.m. TCF member Abigail Browning will also be performing social swing dancing with her dance partner and partner in crime, Adam Speen. Looking forward to being a part of this outdoor festival!

All Balboa Weekend 2011

This weekend I’m heading to Independence, OH for the eleventh annual All Balboa Weekend. I’ll be pulling triple duty at the event: DJ’ing for my favorite group of dancers, co-coordinating a fashion show based on whatever credibility the Lindy Shopper blog has given me, and two performances by The Carolina Fascinators. Needless to say, it will be a busy week! Looking forward to all the wonderful dances, old friends, and some serious vintage and repro shopping in Cleveland and from vendors at the event.

The Southside Stomp: Carolina Invasion with Atomic’s Trio and The Carolina Fascinators

This coming weekend I’ll be heading to Norfolk, Virginia for The Southside Stomp: Carolina Invasion swing dance on Saturday, May 21, 2011. The Atomic Rhythm All-Stars‘ trio offshoot, commonly known as George Knott’s Square Trio, will be playing the dance, with George Knott on Guitar, Mark Wells on piano, and Lucian Cobb on trombone. The Carolina Fascinators will also be debuting their new routine at this event, so this is all very exciting! Great jazz, a new performance, and a great dance hosted by Bill Speidel and Victor Celania.