Saturday, August 8, 2009

Set list from First Friday at Big City Swing, 8/7/2009

First Friday last night was a really interesting evening from a DJ's perspective, for two reasons that each bear a little explaining. First off, after observing the "Flashback Night" at Fizz the week before last, Jenna (who runs the First Friday dance) was keen to try something a little different. The idea of Flashback Night was to take things back to circa 1998, with all the fashions, styles, and music of that point in modern swing dance history. Think Bleyers, track pants, Skants, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I couldn't make the evening myself (yes, I'm a curmudgeon), but Jenna reported that the floor was packed with the beginners from her Swing I class for the ENTIRE evening. She wanted to use a little of that same flavor for the first hour or so of First Friday, to try and keep the folks who come for the beginner lesson at the dance for more than 20 or 30 minutes. To that end, I dug out some neo-swing and other music that, while not stuff that I would want to listen to all the time, was in a style that I thought would appeal to beginners. I think it worked pretty well--the lesson ended at 8:45, and there were still a good number of those folks there at 11:00.

The other reason that last night was interesting: my friend Jason Young was making his DJ premiere. Jason is nuts about old music and has a great ear for musical details. Jenna and I had been bugging him about DJing for quite a while, and after some time and effort to get some computer equipment and to get his music organized, he was ready to spin last night. I'd given him a little coaching about how to prepare and how to think about DJing. The biggest piece of advice I had for him was to be sure to have a good list of safety songs to pull out when you need them--well-known music that you know will fill the floor. You need safety songs so that you can recover if and when you pull out that particular undiscovered gem that you've been dying to play, you finally get to slip it in to your set, and then it kills the floor because the crowd doesn't at that moment in time have the same level of cultured appreciation for a stylish saxophone counter-melody or for the raucousness of that trumpet solo. If you don't have safeties, you'll get yourself in trouble; if you do, you can recover gracefully.

Jason has very strong and defined tastes in jazz music, maybe even stronger than mine (this from a self-confessed snob), and he's very enthusiastic about his music. The challenge for him as he starts to DJ is going to be moderating his taste. He'd love to be able to share all of his favorite music (and I for one would love to dance to it all night), but in order to be successful, any DJ needs to meet the crowd where they are. Dancers just don't want to hear interesting, novel music all night long; they enjoy new tunes, but they also enjoy hefty doses of familiar music--either tunes they know or tracks that at least sound familiar (a different version of a favorite song, or a different number from a familiar band).

This is all stuff that Jason and I talked about before last night. It's good advice, right? It's also funny because I needed to apply the exact same principles myself, finding music that would be familiar and appealing to the beginners there for the lesson, rather than just trusting that they would be won over by my impeccable taste in jazz. Ah, self-reflection... All that said, Jason did a really good job last night, kept the floor full, and still managed to work in some of his favorite tracks and personal style. His set was sandwiched in between mine. Here's what I played (and here's a BPM sparkline and histogram):
  1. Deed I Do - Katharine Whalen - Jazz Squad - 2:42 - 170 (This was played at the end of the beginner lesson, just before 9 p.m. There was a good crowd there for the lesson, and they seemed very enthusiastic. To transition from the lesson to the dance, I thought what the hell let's take a trip in the wayback machine and play...)
  2. Zoot Suit Riot - Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Zoot Suit Riot - 3:53 - 185 (No he di'n't! Oh but I did.)
  3. Boog It - Cab Calloway - Are You Hep To The Jive? - 2:57 - 170
  4. Oh Marie - Stompy Jones - Stompy Jones - 2:32 - 165 (So throughout this set I'm trying to keep things appealing to beginners with lots of catchy vocals, familiar songs, and tempos that are easy for east coast swing.)
  5. Savoy Blip - Jonathan Stout & His Campus Five - Hep Cat's Best Of Modern Swing - 2:56 - 165
  6. Sure, Had A Wonderful Time - Louis Jordan - Louis Jordan And His Tympani Five, Volume 1 - 3:00 - 135 (Little lower tempo here to cool the room off, and also let some lindy-hoppers swing out nice and easy.)
  7. Honey Pie - Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers - Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout Miss Thing! - 4:10 - 150
  8. In The Mood - Glenn Miller - Ken Burns Jazz - 3:36 - 167 (This is the version that you'll find on every single Best of the Big Bands cd ever made. And you know what, people seemed to like it.)
  9. I'm Beginning To See The Light - Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington - Compact Jazz - 3:26 - 132
  10. Jersey Bounce - Benny Goodman - B.G. In Hi-Fi - 3:07 - 132 (Chilling out here. I'm now going to start climbing the tempo.)
  11. Sunday - The Boilermaker Jazz Band - Give Me Your Telephone Number - 3:37 - 150
  12. Buzz-Buzz-Buzz - Jimmie Lunceford - Jimmie Lunceford - 2:27 - 160
  13. Big John's Special - Benny Goodman - B.G. In Hi-Fi - 3:08 - 183
  14. Put A Lid On It - Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot - 2:39 - 198 (I really like this song. The floor was full too, lots of east coast swing going on, so I push the tempo up one more. When you've been lindy hopping for years, sometimes you forget that it's really fun to dance 6-count swing to peppy music.)
  15. When You're Smiling - The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn - Forty Days and Forty Nights - 3:51 - 215
  16. Solid As A Rock - Ella Fitzgerald - Swingin' Ella - 3:00 - 145
  17. I Love Being Here with You - Barbara Morrison - Live at the 9:20 Special - 3:07 - 155
  18. Don't You Miss Your Baby - Jimmy Witherspoon - Jimmy Witherspoon & Panama Francis' Savoy Sultans - 3:55 - 140
  19. Your Socks Don't Match - Louis Jordan, Bing Crosby - Sing And Swing - 3:00 - 115 (I wanted something slow here, but this track was maybe a little too smooth/crooner/pop for me.)
  20. The Spinach Song - Julia Lee & Her Boy Friends - Kansas City's First Lady Of The Blues - 2:59 - 160 (I picked this one because the lyrics are catchy.)
  21. Down south camp meeting - Svend Asmussen &Jacob Fischer - Still Fiddling - 3:41 - 145
So that was my first set, going 'til about 10 p.m. Of 21 tracks, 16 were vocals. Jason took over and kept the floor going, until just before 11. Not intentional on my part, but I kind of picked up right where I left off, with another jazz violin track:
  1. Somebody Loves Me - Stuff Smith - Cat On A Hot Fiddle - 3:42 - 150 (Looking at the crowd at this point, there were still some folks there from the beginner lesson, but more lindyhoppers had come in too.)
  2. Massachusetts - Maxine Sullivan And Her Jazz All-Stars - Memories Of You - 3:16 - 145
  3. That's What's Knockin' Me Out - Jimmy Liggins - Jimmy Liggins And His Drops Of Joy - 2:07 - 127
  4. Tutti Frutti - Slim Gaillard - 1938-46 - 2:38 - 170
  5. Jive At Five - Count Basie - The Complete Decca Recordings - 2:51 - 175 (I felt like folks would appreciate a bluesy number at this point. The next one is one of Jenna's favorites.)
  6. Georgia Grind - Louis Armstrong - Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography Disc 1 - 3:19 - 115 (Followed it up with another Louis Armstrong number, to keep the style similar but up the tempo.)
  7. My Bucket's Got a Hole In It - Louis Armstrong - An Evening With Louis Armstrong And His All Stars - 4:24 - 145 (This track has a false ending, where the band cuts out, but then does an encore for another minute or so. I should have cut out at the false ending--it tends to throw people, they say "thanks for the dance" and start walking their partner off the floor, and then when the song continues there's an awkward moment of deciding whether to keep dancing or not. Anyways, people seemed to be into the trad. jazz, so I throw on one more.)
  8. Shine On Harvest Moon - Pete Fountain - Dixieland's Kings - 2:50 - 160
  9. Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby? - Stompy Jones - The Swing Session - 3:18 - 125
  10. I Don't Care Who Knows - Catherine Russell - Sentimental Streak - 3:18 - 125 (This track has a sharp, blues-style rhythm in it, as does the next one.)
  11. Home To Mississippi - Otis Spann - Otis Spann: Best Of The Vanguard Years - 3:30 - 130 (I thought people would like something with a blues sound to it, but this one didn't really work very well. I move back towards more of a big band sound.)
  12. All Of Me - Helen O'Connell - Great Girl Singers, Sing 22 Original Hits - 2:09 - 145
  13. Too Darn Hot - Ella Fitzgerald - Mack The Knife: The Complete Ella In Berlin (Live) - 3:16 - 160 (Getting to be the end of the evening, so I allow myself a wider latitude here, pick up the tempo up and just play stuff that I really enjoy.)
  14. Madame Dynamite - Eddie Condon - Let's Swing It - 2:55 - 185
  15. When I Grow Too Old To Dream - Cats & The Fiddle - We Cats Will Swing For You - 2:47 - 200
  16. My Melancholy Baby - Honeysucklerose - Hep Cat's Best Of Modern Swing - 3:37 - 131
  17. The Raggle Taggle - Boots & His Buddies - Boots And His Buddies: 1937-1938 - 2:37 - 205 (I didn't have a last song picked out before I started dancing to Raggle Taggle--should have had one chosen, because the next one was kind of an odd way to end the night.)
  18. What Goes Up Must Come Down - Kay Starr - Kay Starr: the Best of The Standard Transcriptions - 2:35 - 140

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