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 »

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 »

A Word on Swing #2

Presenting the wildly anticipated second episode of A Word on Swing.

This has been a pretty fun project for us. As you’ll see, it’s still a little rough around the edges (and a little bit on the inside). What you see here, is the sum total of my video editing experience as I’m treating this video blog as a learning opportunity. Same with Bobby who put together our first episode.

This particular episode snowballed very quickly from the fact that we were going to be at the same weekend dance for the first time in awhile. If that sounds familiar, that’s because that was the premise of our first show.

In this case it was a dance that The Jam Cellar was hosting at the historic Glen Echo Park with The Blue Crescent Syncopators. Bobby came up with the idea of interviewing the band leader, Craig Gildner, the night before. Even with the short notice, and the fact that we were conducting this interview during the band sound check (another running theme), Craig was able to give us a wealth of information about the history of jazz guitar and relate it in a way that would be easy to understand by people with not a lot of technical musical knowledge. Like swing dancers.

From there we came up with a bunch of other ideas to build a bridge to the other related theme we were discussing at the time, but you’ll have to watch the show to find out what that was.

A technical note: I know the video doesn’t quite fit the regular YouTube screen. I’ve been having issues finding the right setting to get the editing program, Vegas Movie Studio HD 10, to spit out a  final video file that’s a reasonable size for upload. I have a relatively slow internet connection, so it can’t be huge. The program only has a certain number of pre-set ways to generate movies, and the best one I can find so far is a setting for iphone videos, which is why the video is cropped the way it is. I’m still finding my way around the program, and hoping to find a better setting other than forking over the extra cash for the platinum version of the program.

Thanks to everyone who gave us feedback while we put this together. We hope you enjoy this show. We already have plans for our next one which we’ll be recording this weekend live at The Boston Tea Party where we’ll be talking to a super secret boom time guest(s?).

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 »

Rhythm Method

I still don’t have a whole lot of time to devote to a long form blog post that I’ve been thinking about.  I have been updating the Facebook page on a daily basis, even multiple times a day. Its just an easier and quicker way for me to share random things I come across or that people send to me.

However, I don’t want to neglect the blog so I thought I’d keep with the drumming theme from last week and spotlight my favorite swing drummers of today. I’ve been telling myself that this would make for a great analysis of jazz drumming, but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time.

I’ll start off with Brooks Tegler, who The Jam Cellar just happens to be bringing to Glen Echo this weekend. Fancy that. I uploaded a few videos of him leading his big band the last time he played for us, but I wanted to spotlight him with a small group simply to go with the other videos I’m posting.  I found this great video of him and the Midiri Brothers re-creating a Benny Goodman Quartet version of the blazing “Runnin’ Wild.”  The video quality is a little blurry, but that won’t stop you from hearing Tegler swinging it so hard that he’s unfazed by losing his hi-hat midway through. It’s also interesting to note that the MC points out that Tegler is playing on a vintage drum kit from the 1930’s.

Next up is my perennial favorite band, The Boilermaker Jazz Band featuring Rich Strong on drums. I took this video myself when they played Glen Echo last October.  They’re here performing a hot version of “Lady, Be Good.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ernest Goes to School

I still don’t have a lot of time to do a longer blog, but I thought I’d share a few videos in addition to the pictures I took in Atlantic City this past weekend.

I don’t make it a secret that I’m a big fan of The Boilermaker Jazz Band, and one of the many reasons is bassist Ernest McCarty.  I’ve talked about him before, (there’s a lot to talk about this super interesting guy) but he’s also the main reason for these videos.  He was On from the very beginning.  Within a minute of their first song, he caused me to go grab my camera to capture the funk he was laying down.

The Boilermakers had to field a rare substitute on drums that night.  It’s not often that Paul can’t bring one of his two regular drummers (Rich Strong or Tom Davis). But even without knowing that, you could tell he never played with Ernest just from the look on his face for most of the night as he kept staring at Ernest with equal parts amazement and inspiration.

There was another band led by Michael Arenella that played right before the Boilermakers.  The bassist for that band had packed up and was in the process of leaving when the Boilermakers started this first song below.  Upon hearing Ernest, that dude stopped, turned around, put his stuff back down, and stood next to the stage by Ernest just wearing a smile of pure delight.  You can sort of hear him yelling in the background towards the end of this video.

This next video is  from the end of the second set.  Read the rest of this entry »

DCLX 2011: The Greatest Lindy Hop Exchange EVER

One of the best line up of swing dance musicians of our generation will be playing at the DC Lindy Exchange this year.

I tried thinking of different ways of writing this up without being as hyperbolic, but this is about as plain as I can make it.

The best big bands from the west coast, that have headlined the biggest Lindy Hop events in the country, will be playing here on the east coast.  Together. On the same stage.  DCLX.  I’m talking about Jonathan Stout’s Orchestra and Crytzer’s Blue Rhythm Band.  You read that right.  DCLX is bringing in TWO full big bands from the other side of the freaking country.

The likelihood of this happening again anytime soon is probably never.

The Jonathan Stout Orchestra at Camp Hollywood 2010 – Pro Strictly Lindy – Finals

Crytzer’s Blue Rhythm Band at Camp Jitterbug 2010 Lindy Hop Couples Finals

Seriously, no has their stuff together to do this on the west coast, and it’s going to happen in Washington-effn’-DC.  All of this is part of DCLX’s huge 10th anniversary.  Not satisfied with putting on a usually great event, they’re pulling out all the stops this year.

If those bands weren’t enough . . .  Read the rest of this entry »

Favorite Videos 2010: Music

Just a note: This blog is going on automatic for the next week.  There should be a post every day Monday through Thursday with the rest of my favorite videos.  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to check it while I’m at home or at Lindy Focus next week, but feel free to leave a comment and I’ll reply whenever I can.

Northeast Girl Jam 2010 Mable Lee with the Boilermaker Jazz Band

The people who organized Northeast Girl Jam did a great service by giving people the opportunity learn and be entertained by the legendary Mabel Lee.  Here she sings with the Boilermaker Jazz Band who once again demonstrate their versatility and virtuosity. Read the rest of this entry »

Swing & Soul: Serious Fun

I went to Swing & Soul last weekend.  It was big fun.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Usually event reviews detail the music, venues, and classes in order to give a recommendation or not.  But what’s the point in this case?  I don’t make it a secret that I’ve worked for Tena Morales (one of the event directors along with Manu Smithand Peter Strom) on a few events, so most anything I say has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Or at least it should be.

Besides, this event ain’t happening again any time soon.  The organizers just have too much on their plate to put on what is essentially just a party.  But that’s what made it such a fun time.

Think about this for a second.  A couple of years ago, Tena organized or co-organized the following in the span of one year

Dude, I don’t even go to six events in a year.  And these aren’t small events either.  These are big honkin’ conflagrations.

She’s also a damn fine dancer and teacher

Despite that, Tena does a good job of making sure each event she does has a slightly different flavor to it.  Swing & Soul is probably the most distinctive of them all.  Not just in terms of music, but it’s focus as a more casual gathering.  Any place that serves buffet style full scale meals is going to have a more family  feel to it for me.

In fact there, I felt a slight urge to be more involved with the event than just being there just from watching everyone in the kitchen shoot the shat while getting the food together for each late night.  Tena has a knack for getting together groups of fun hard working people or at least hard workers that know how to have fun.

It’s the reason why I didn’t mind too much paying to go at the last minute.  I’ve had a lot going on, so I wasn’t sure I was good to go until last Thursday night, just under 24 hours before I landed in Atlanta.  I went mostly to be with friends I don’t get to see often enough anymore.  Swing & Soul reminded me of the kind of people that I enjoy being around. Read the rest of this entry »

Jam Cellar: The Musical

A couple weeks ago I referenced the guest DJ show The Jam Cellar did for Yehoodi Radio a couple of years ago.  In addition to 10 of our only best DJ’s contributing their favorite songs to play at the Jam Cellar, the executive producer, Jesse Miner encouraged us to be as creative as possible with the program.

We didn’t need that much prodding.  Since a number of the Jam Cellar crew at the time were pretty musical, we decided to write and record our own theme song for the show.  Here it is in two parts.

The Opening Theme

For those of you who want to sing along at home here are the lyircs as written by Luke Albao and Naomi Uyama. Read the rest of this entry »

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