The Boilermaker Jazz Band at The Jam Cellar 7/7/09 and an Appreciation

The Boilermaker Jazz Band came back to The Jam Cellar last night, this time fielding a smaller group of Paul Cosentino on clarinet and saxophone, Mark Kotision on piano, and Rich Strong on drums.  Betsy Kipperman also made a brief appearance with the band singing “Me, Myself, and I” and “I Can’t Give You Anything, but Love.”

One of these days I’m going to do a larger feature about the Boilermakers, but today I just want to talk about drummer, Rich Strong. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons in Jazz Appreciation from Lindy Focus

This is the promised follow up to the A Word on Swing episode about the most recent Lindy Focus. It’s very late and I only completed it recently because I was reminded of it after writing a bit about current music in my last post suggesting bands for Frankie100. What follows is probably the least technical illustration of what makes classic jazz great for dancing as well a behind the scenes look at the behind the scenes video about Lindy Focus and A Word on Swing.

Check out the show notes for this episode on “A Word on Swing.”

Lindy Focus was by far the most fun I’ve had listening and dancing to live music. For comparison, I think that in terms of sheer numbers and talent, Frankie95 was a beast I don’t think any event should dare try to emulate ever again. 15 bands in five days including a number of featured musicians was an over the top spectacle that was harder to juggle logistically than necessary. Plus the conflicting styles of some of the bands didn’t always create a happy balance for many of the attendees.

In contrast I think that the approach to the live music at Lindy Focus presented a diversity of sounds and genres that still maintained a unity of vision that made for a more cohesively fun week of music. But you can see and hear more about that in the latest Episode of “A Word on Swing” above.

I listened to all the music I recorded at Lindy Focus on virtual repeat the entire time I edited together the show. I sort of wish I had recorded more, but it was a dance event after all . . .

Lindy Focus 64 025

There is no spoon.

I did spend a lot of time analyzing almost every frame of every second of these videos. Combined with all the interviews I’ve been doing with musicians, I’ve learned quite a bit. It’s like auditing a graduate level class on music appreciation. I thought that I would share some of the interesting/awesome things I noticed. Read the rest of this entry »

Carla Heiney & The Boilermakers on So You Think You Can Dance

Last night Ellenore Scott & Ryan Di Lello performed a Lindy Hop piece choreographed by Carla Heiney on So You Think you Can Dance.

The dancers did a great job with the performance given the tight time constraints, but any woman that can teach me how to dance should have no problem with much more gifted performers.

I remember the years taking lessons from Carla while she was still studying biology at the U of Maryland.  When she told me about her dream of becoming a full time dancer I thought to myself “A full time Lindy Hopper?  Really?”  I was worried about her earning a living, never mind any kind of notoriety.

That was a long time ago.  Longer than I care to think about, but it was also the last time I doubted her and her drive to succeed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Video Addendum

I was just reading over my previous post on self promotion because 1) I’m a self centered, ego maniac who likes the sound of his own voice reading his words, and  2) I’m a terrible editor, and have to catch errors after the fact when I’m in mode 1.

In the process, I noticed that I didn’t do a very good job of covering the fact that I dumped bunch of stuff because, contrary to the claim in my post, I was mocking quite a few dancers.  I thought better of starting off my blog with that kind of tone, and besides, it was running a bit long anyway.

In the process I deleted two video’s that were part of my-favorite-routines-of-the-past year-list.  So because I have some time before checking out The Boilermaker Jazz Band at The Jam Cellar tonight, I present those videos here to keep Paul busy until my massive update later this week.

Karen Turman & Andrew Thigpen at Lindy Focus (Then later at Lindyfest and Frankie95)

Karen & Andrew’s routine stands out because it’s funny without being stupid.  Not just the moves, but also the movements right down to their facial expressions.  They’re clever without resorting to lowest common denominator humor.  They also do a good job of defying expectations at various points (like the moment at 2:24), while still doing something in keeping with the spirit of the routine.

The Silver Shadows at Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival

In the pole position of the biggest event in the history of our scene, the Silver Shadows decided not to deliver a big Hellzapoppin’ like aerial-fest, but instead concentrated more on Frankie’s contributions to the social side of our dance.   They opted to remind us of the dance’s emotional appeal to us.  It’s still not an easy choice one to pull off especially after the spectacular routines that preceded it, but it was still an incredible crowd pleaser.

Musicians We Should Hear at Frankie100

Frankie100 is a year away and so goes the wild speculation about what it will be like. A recent comment on Facebook got me to thinking about the possible live music for this thing. Music is  the main ingredient for any dance event, but at something like Frankie100 where you’re expecting the bulk of the existing Lindy Hop population to attend, there are a lot of “considerations,” to put it politely, that you have to keep in mind.

I should note that even though I worked for Frankie95, I don’t have any intention of working for Frankie100, so I’m not working from any insider knowledge of that particular event. This is just blatant fan speculation on my part. Read the rest of this entry »

Updates to the Wandering & Pondering-verse

Believe it or not, I am working on a few different posts, but writing is coming slower than usual these days. I was never a very quick or succinct writer, and now I’m bogged down with my new twin obsessions of video making and photography. Discovering that using a camera involves more than pointing it and pressing a button has been both the most rewarding and frustrating things I’ve done recently, but at least I’m getting a better grasp of what I’m doing (and not doing.)

DCLX 2013 Sunday 154

This picture is from this past DCLX where I also undertook a pretty ambitious video project of coordinating three other camera operators to try to capture the triple bill of Bria Skonberg, The Boilermaker Jazz Band, and DC’s own Blue Crescent Syncopators all playing on one stage. I even got to sit down and do an interview with the very talented Ms.Skonberg. I’m just starting the process of going through the footage to put together something . . . fun? Educational? Yes. Hopefully.

Although it doesn’t seem like there’s much going on here on this blog, I’m relatively busy updating across “platforms” as the kids like to say these days. This is quick run down of what I’m up to around the ether:

  • As always, the Facebook page for this blog is updated regularly. I aim for at least two posts a day (one article and one video) Monday-Thursday, one on Friday, and the odd weekend posting depending on what’s going down. Posts are usually links for and about the dance community around the world.
  • My YouTube channel is probably the next busiest with a new video every few weeks. It’s either an old dance video from the vault, or more often these days, something I’ve recorded. My most recent adventure to the wilds of The Mobtown Ballroom captured the elusive Laura Glaess and Mike Roberts cavorting to the sounds of the Boilermaker Jazz Band.

  • The Tumblr blog, New Old School Swing, hasn’t seen too much action, although I did post a couple of weeks ago about the epic Basie Ball Hellzapoppin contest in 2004.
  • My Twitter handle is J_S_Almonte, but has only seen links to new posts on this blog. I’m going to try to make it more of a habit of posting my 140 character thoughts.
  • Also, I have a vimeo page now. There’s only one video there, a short video I took at the White House in the aftermath of the 2012 US Presidential Election, but I’m going to post some of my more creative video projects there eventually.

  • I’m also contributing news items to Yehoodi’s Swing Nation, a weekly video show hosted by Manu Smith, Nicole Zuckerman, and Rik Panganiban (I refuse to refer to anyone by their Yehoodi usernames. That’s so last decade.) They talk about the current goings on across Lindy Hop and it’s extended family. I don’t actively participate in the production of the show, but I was a guest on one of the first episodes.

Speaking of news, I recently scouted out a possible new hotel for the International Lindy Hop Championships for 2014. The event gets bigger and bigger every year. We’re already past 500 registrations and on track to sell out this year. If you’re not registered, then I suggest you get on that like a duck in heat.

With all this talk of video, I should also mention that I’m honored to be part of the judging panel for this years Jazz Dance Film Festival. It’s really one of the more unique opportunities in our scene, so if you have any inkling of putting together a short video for this year’s festival, head over to the website and check it out. Putting together a short film sounds like a big deal, but you’d be surprised at how accessible they make it. At the very least, watch all the really cool videos from past festivals.

Other than a recent vacation with the family to the United Arab Emirates, I’m not travelling as much this year, so ILHC will be the next event I’ll be attending. I still DJ regularly around the DC-Baltimore area at exotic places like Chevy Chase Ballroom, The Jam Cellar, and The Mobtown Ballroom. If you can’t hang out at any of those places, then you can always drop me a message through the Facebook page for this blog.

Boom Heartedly,


Middle East Cruise 3462

2012 Swing Music Mix Tape

BMJB Mobtown 061

I’ve assembled some of my favorite musical moments into this handy dandy playlist that you can use as a soundtrack for your life. Consider this an alternative to all the holiday music you will be (or already are being) bombarded with in the next few weeks.

We have come to that season where I compile my favorite videos from the past year. I already got the blogs out of the way with the last post.  I’m discovering that the dance videos is going to be a bit more problematic since there were so many great highlights in the past year, and it’s not even over yet. Anyone who tells you that Lindy Hop is in any sort of decline, isn’t paying attention.

Since the dance videos will take awhile, I’ll start off by giving you a little mix tape for 2012. In picking out these performances I realized that I am heavily biased towards those I experienced in person. Video isn’t a completely fair representation of a performance, especially since live audio recording has yet to catch up with the leaps and bounds that video recording has made in the last few years. However, it’s still good enough to relive moments, or at least get a taste for those that you missed.

It’s interesting to hear how some musicians have a love/hate relationship with YouTube videos. Aside from the never ending entanglement of intellectual property issues, it’s surprising to hear their criticisms or even outright embarrassment about some performances, particularly ones that people rave about. Read the rest of this entry »


This is a little project I did because I recently bought a new camera, and now I am basically teaching myself how to use it in addition to learning photography and videography from scratch. It’s been something that I’ve been wanting to get into for awhile now, and just decided to jump to it.

Other than being an unabashed fan of the Boilermaker Jazz Band, I did this mostly as an exercise in learning how to cut between multiple video angles. Btw, thanks to David Soltysik for letting me play with the original files of his recordings from that night. You can see his footage on his site.

I know it’s not close to perfect, but it was a good learning experience. Looking back, I may have been too much of a slave to include certain shots simply because I like looking at them. It was a great opportunity to catch the Boilermakers in rare form as they were on fire for most of that night as evidenced by your best set in the house shot of Rich tearing apart his drum set.  Plus there was the energy of the DCLX crowd and the dancers in the circle.

Everything is in chronological order, other than two short shots, and starts with the end of the second encore song: the theme from Sanford & Son. This was a compromise from showing the whole thing, and I wanted some time to acknowledge the band and show off the fun little bits that happened in between the two songs. David cut out at the end of the song, and I was about to pack it in myself, but I kept rolling on a hunch—really a hope that they would play again and they did not disappoint.

In case you’re wondering, the camera next to the drummer, Rich is the new camera: a Panasonic Lumix GH2. I was on the opposite side of the stage recording with an old point and shoot camera, a Sony Cybershot W350. That one was an impromptu decision earlier in the evening when I realized that I had it with me and decided that if I’m going to do this, then I’m just going over the top with it. David is recording with his hand held video camera in the middle of the crowd.

For those of you trying to decide on your next camera purchase, this is actually a good opportunity to compare video between a point & shoot, a dedicated video cam, and an almost DSLR. Although, it should be noted that despite the fact that the Cybershot shoots in HD widescreen, the rendering settings I used to create the final video was not kind to that camera’s footage and made it worse than it was.

Enjoy this little love letter from me to the Boilermakers and everyone at DCLX. Comments and critiques would be appreciated.

Lindy Hop in 2011 Review

I was distinctly unproductive on this blog this year, so I’m going to make up for it by commenting on (almost) everything in one shot.

In looking up all the videos and blog links on this blog’s Facebook Page for other posts I noticed some things and was reminded of a few more. Obviously, this can’t be a comprehensive recap of the entire Lindy Hop scene, but I think it’s still pretty amazing that all this information is in relatively easy reach. Read the rest of this entry »

DCLX 2011: Encore! Encore! Encore!

So I’m working backwards for a reason. Several actually. I was going to do a recap of my self-proclaimed Greatest Lindy Exchange EVER!,but then it became apparent that I should do a separate post on the Battle of the Bands on Saturday night. After I started working on that, I turned it into an even bigger project by soliciting input from the musicians, DCLX committee members, and dancers who attended.

The good news: I’ve gotten a ton of really insightful responses, so now the challenge is weaving this wealth of information into a coherent post. Maybe more.

The bad news: This is taking longer than I thought, even as I keep getting more and more responses.

So until I finish those posts, I thought I’d give you guys a little taste. Read the rest of this entry »

« Older entries