Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fat Babies

I'm at a bit of a loss for words, other than cusses. Last night was the best night of music I've heard in months...maybe even in a year. I went to the Black Rock Tavern, not far from my house, where Nicolle Wood (of the Galaxie) was hosting a dance with a live band called the Fat Babies. The line-up was as follows:
Andy Schumm--cornet
John Otto--clarinet
Dave Bock--trombone
Joel Paterson--guitar
Beau Sample--bass
Alex Hall--drums
They were brilliant. Masterful, energetic, and joyous. They played a lot of familiar trad. jazz tunes, in a style that was pitch-perfect for dancing. And the crowd there was appreciative, hooting and hollering after solos, applauding and screaming until they gave an encore, which makes it even more fun. Several times during the night folks stopped dancing during a song just to listen and clap along--I know that's become common in many places but it is a rare happening in Chicago.
There was one particular moment in the middle of the second set. In the middle of the tune, the rhythm section dropped out entirely, leaving just the horns and clarinet to play a sort of instrumental "a capella." I've heard bands do this before, though I'm not sure what it's called. It was such a striking change that I just stopped dancing to listen, along with several other couples around me. This sort of collective improvisation is really striking for its intricacy, the way they keeps the rhythm going just by implication, the tension that builds because you worry that they're going to end the number by trailing out. Then of course when the full band came back in it bowls you over like your big brother in a backyard wrestle-fest: ferocious but in a loving way. Knocked-off socks were strewn everywhere after that one.
What a night. I can't wait to hear more from this group.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

CodeBLUE contest music

Last night I went dancing at CodeBLUE, the newest venue addition to the Chicago dance scene. The organizers had invited me and Jenna to judge the low-key strictly lindy contest that evening (they've been running a series of different contests at the dances), and we were happy to oblige. We've got some fairly developed opinions about contests and contest music--not just from a competitors point of view but also in terms of how contests affect an event. We tried our best to keep to our guns: choose music that will make the competitors look good, have somebody to count them in for spotlights, make the whole thing as short & snappy as possible.
Here's a run-down of the music and a play-by-play of the contest:
  1. Look-a-There - Slim Gaillard - The Very Best Of - 2:18 - 180. After clearing a space and telling the competitors how the contest was going to work, we introduced all 8 couples and did a short all-skate warm-up. Then line back up and get ready for a spotlight round.
  2. Moppin' & Boppin' - Fats Waller - 100 Swing & Big Band Classics - 4:27 - 170. The spotlights were a standard jam format, with each competitor getting eight 8-counts. Since there were 8 competitors, that meant the song had to be 4 choruses long to squeeze everyone in. I knew Moppin' & Boppin' was long enough, and had a good energy, but the drum solo introduction slipped my mind. It's ten 8-counts long (ugh!), so we just let it run before the first spotlight. Unfortunately that meant leaving Phil & Jame in the middle of the floor waiting to start--sorry you two!
  3. Lindyhopper's Delight - Chick Webb - Strictly Jive - 2:45 - 195. We did another round of spotlights with this song. I picked this one because it's an old standby--probably all of the competitors have heard it a zillion times before, so they'd be very comfortable with it--but I bet many people in the audience were not very familiar with it.
  4. Forty Days & Forty Nights - The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn - Forty Days & Forty Nights - 2:52 - 215. We had planned to just do a very short all-skate at the end, but on the spur of the moment, we decided to do make it a tap-out. All eight couples started dancing, then we tapped them out one at a time until there were only two couples left. The audience cheered for their favorites between these two, and then we tapped out one of them to leave a winner.
The top three couples were:
  • 3rd - Phil & Jame
  • 2nd - Blake & Kristine
  • 1st - John & Kathryn
Congratulations to all eight couples who competed--you all looked great and pulled out some great dancing.
On the whole I think things went down pretty well, though the whole thing could have been slightly shorter, and there was the one hiccup with the music I picked. Start to finish, I think the contest took about 15 minutes. With a little more forethought/coordination, we might have been able to get it down to 10 or 12 minutes. I'm not sure how we could have made it shorter than that, since I wouldn't have wanted to shorten it to one spotlight a piece, and we didn't really have enough couples to do a prelim round. Hmmm....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fizz 11/08/2010

With the crowd last night at Fizz, a monkey with an iPhone probably could have kept the floor full. People seemed very eager to move. On nights like this, it can be hard to tell whether you're actually doing an amazing job and are the Best DJ Evar or are just a lame DJ whose music everyone puts up with because they have no choice. On the basis of very ephemeral impressions, I'm gonna go ahead and categorize last night in the former category. I felt like I flowed in and out of different feels well, I covered a variety of styles, and rode the wave over a big tempo range, and people came up to the booth to ask about the tunes I was playing. Pusto +1.
Here's what I played, along with the BPM sparkline and frequency distribution:
  1. Slap That Bass - Adrian Rollini - 1937-1938 - 2:48 - 195
  2. Blues my naughty sweetie gives to me - Gene Krupa - E0VB5554 RCA-20-4026 - 2:21 - 250
  3. Fuzzy Wuzzy - Three Peppers - 64820 DECCA-2239A - 2:45 - 205 (The room was literally empty for the first few tracks, so I just played stuff I'd like to hear but knew I'd never work in to my set.)
  4. Gettin' Some Fun Out Of Life - New Orleans Jazz Vipers - Hope You're Comin' Back - 5:30 - 120 (For Dan.)
  5. I'm Alone Because I Love You - The Palmetto Bug Stompers - Live @ D.B.A. - 3:29 - 150 (Chris Aubin and I have been going crazy on the New Orleans music lately, but last night I'd decided that I wanted to try to avoid going down that route for more than a tune or two. My hunch was bolstered because this tune didn't get a great response. Despite the title, the next tune has more of a groovy-smooth feel than janky NOLA sound.)
  6. Good Morning New Orleans - Kermit Ruffins - Livin' A Tremé Life - 3:34 - 120
  7. Cool Kind Of Poppa - Mildred Anderson - Person To Person - 2:57 - 140 (Stuck with the groovy feel, now moving into more classic big band.)
  8. Empty Glass - Lionel Hampton - Lionel Hampton Story 3: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop - 3:07 - 140
  9. No Regrets - Stephanie Nakasian - Billie Remembered: The Classic Songs Of Billie Holiday - 2:52 - 130
  10. He Ain't Got Rhythm - Benny Goodman - Benny Goodman - 2:49 - 155
  11. Christopher Columbus - Duke Ellington - Recollections Of The Big Band Era - 3:03 - 165
  12. South - The Solomon Douglas Swingtet - Live at the Legion - 3:17 - 182
  13. Comes Love - Duke Heitger - Duke Heitger's "Krazy Kapers" - 4:34 - 150
  14. Baby Won't You Please Come Home? - Crytzer's Blue Rhythm Band - Chasin' the Blues - 3:38 - 125
  15. St. Louis Blues - Benny Goodman - Don't Be That Way - 3:49 - 130
  16. All Right, Okay, You Win - Count Basie - Count Basie at Newport - 2:45 - 145
  17. Bizet Has His Day - The Solomon Douglas Swingtet - Ain't No School Like the Old School - 3:43 - 155
  18. Honeysuckle Rose - Louis Armstrong - Satch Plays Fats - 2:56 - 170
  19. Harlem Shout - Jimmie Lunceford - Jimmie Lunceford - 3:02 - 195
  20. Sweet Georgia Brown - Django Reinhardt - Swing From Paris - 3:07 - 210
  21. Big Fat Mama - Four Vagabonds - Four Vagabonds Vol. 1 (1941-1951) - 2:05 - 150
  22. I Don't Care Who Knows - Catherine Russell - Sentimental Streak - 3:18 - 125 (Vikram this was the song you asked about. Moving into a bit of a rock&roll feel for the next three songs.)
  23. Move Me Baby - Jimmy Witherspoon & The Lamplighters - Retro High School Party - 2:33 - 135
  24. Buzz Buzz Buzz - The Mighty Blue Kings - Meet Me In Uptown - 3:07 - 140
  25. Billie's Blues - Janiva Magness - My Bad Luck Soul - 3:14 - 110
  26. Stuffy - Jonathan Stout & His Campus Five - Jammin' the Blues - 3:46 - 150
  27. My Blue Heaven - Delta Rhythm Boys - The Best Of 1940-50 - 2:32 - 165
  28. Jump Session - Slim Gaillard - 1938-1939 - 2:35 - 160
  29. Madame Dynamite - Eddie Condon - Let's Swing It - 2:55 - 185
  30. The Jive is Jumpin' - The Four Clefs - BLUEBIRD 8297 - 2:26 - 200
  31. Cement Mixer - Don Byas - Jazz In Paris: Bebop - 2:54 - 135
  32. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate - Preservation Hall Jazz Band - New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1 - 4:26 - 125
  33. I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle - Lavern Baker - LaVern Sings Bessie Smith - 4:05 - 90
  34. Sugar Blues - Clarence Williams - Boogie Woogie Blues - 3:40 - 135 (I hadn't pulled this track out in ages--it seemed to get a good response.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Recent gigs

My friend Jenna and I have been spending some long hours on the road lately (listening to music ranging from this to this), since we've been teaching lindy hop all over the Midwest. I decided to map out all the places I've taught workshops (with either Jenna or Mary), hoping that if I connected the dots it would make a funny picture or something. No such luck, it's just a triangle:

View Midwestern lindy hop tours in a larger map

Saturday, November 6, 2010

First Friday at Big City Swing 11/5/2010

Last night was pretty crazy. There were about 40 very enthusiastic people in the intro lesson, and by the time I got there, as the lesson was rapping up, it was already pretty steamy in the studio. More people showed up just as the dance began, so fortunately we had both floors open for dancing (otherwise there wouldn't have been room to even sway back and forth). I had the first set of the night, and knew that I needed to cater to all the folks that were there for the first time. Nearly all of the most seasoned dancers (including our friends in from Madison, WI) migrated upstairs immediately in search of room to swing out, so I had a room full of folks who were rocking their 6-count and charleston. Consequently, I kept the tempos between about 140 and 180--comfortable for 6-count--while trying to push it a bit higher. The more uptempo numbers didn't seem to take though.

I'd also decided to throw my high-falutin' taste out the window and play music that the newest dancers would connect with and have fun to. That's why I kicked it off with BBVD, threw in In the Mood, and gave a nod to Sinatra. Here's what I played, plus the usual BPM sparkline and frequency distribution:
  1. How Big Can You Get? - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - How Big Can You Get?: The Music of Cab Calloway - 4:05 - 160
  2. Baby Drives Me Wild - The Mighty Blue Kings - Meet Me In Uptown - 2:18 - 170
  3. Choo Choo Ch' Boogie - Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five - Jukebox Hits Volume 1 1942-1947 - 2:45 - 165 (I was trying to max out on "catchy" and "familiar" with these.)
  4. Apollo Jump - Lucky Millinder - Classic Big Band Jazz - 3:26 - 145
  5. Are You All Reet? - Chu Berry - Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions - 3:09 - 155
  6. In the Mood - Glenn Miller - Best of the Lost Recordings & The Secret Broadcasts - 3:15 - 180 (My wife reported overhearing someone exclaim "I love this one!" as this tune started.)
  7. Sent For You Yesterday And Here You Come Today - Benny Goodman - B.G. In Hi-Fi - 3:05 - 155
  8. The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else - The Boilermaker Jazz Band - You Do Something To Me - 3:45 - 160
  9. Solid As A Rock - Count Basie - Count Basie Et Son Orchestre 1950-1951 - 3:03 - 135
  10. All Of Me - Della Reese - Cocktail Classics - 2:01 - 160
  11. Yes Indeed - Slam Stewart - Slamboree - 3:35 - 150
  12. Shotgun Boogie - Paul Tillotson the Love Trio - Lindy Hop Blues - 2:55 - 165 (This track may be the most perfect East Coast swing tune ever. DJ's best friend.)
  13. Sugar - Katharine Whalen - Jazz Squad - 2:57 - 182
  14. Put A Lid On It - Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot - 2:39 - 198
  15. Miss Brown To You - Stephanie Nakasian - Billie Remembered: The Classic Songs Of Billie Holiday - 3:15 - 145
  16. Did You Mean It? - Benny Goodman - Benny Goodman - 2:22 - 150
  17. I Get A Kick Out Of You - Frank Sinatra - The Very Good Years - 3:14 - 175
  18. All Right, Okay, You Win - Count Basie - Count Basie at Newport - 2:45 - 145
  19. Rose Room - The Solomon Douglas Swingtet - Ain't No School Like the Old School - 3:09 - 153 (I got a surprisingly good reaction to this track--I always thought of Rose Room as an anonymous, relaxed tune, but evidently folks were listening really closely and liked what they heard.)
  20. Yacht Club Swing - Echoes of Swing - Harlem Joys - 3:19 - 160
  21. Oh! Babe - Lucky Millinder - Apollo Jump - 2:56 - 170
  22. Killin' Jive - Cats & The Fiddle - We Cats Will Swing For You - 2:50 - 180
  23. Minor Swing - The Boilermaker Jazz Band - Give Me Your Telephone Number - 3:41 - 195
  24. If You'se a Viper - John Sinclair - No Money Down : John Sinclair's Greatest Hits , Volume One - 3:55 - 150
  25. Last Night On The Backporch - The Palmetto Bug Stompers - Ol' New Orleans Home - 4:10 - 150
  26. Hello, Dolly! - Bobby Darin - Ultra-Lounge, Vol. 5: Wild Cool & Swingin - 3:14 - 165
  27. Onion - Louis Jordan - Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five, 1938-1940, Volume 1 (Disc - 2:55 - 170
  28. Walk 'Em - Buddy Johnson - Jukebox Hits 1940-1951 - 2:53 - 125
  29. It Ain't The Meat - The Swallows - Risque Rhythm: Nasty '50s R&B - 2:35 - 140 (It was after 10 p.m., and I didn't see any children in the room, so I figured this was okay.)
  30. Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti) - Jimmie Lunceford - Jukebox Hits 1935-1947 - 2:45 - 155
  31. Swing Brother Swing - Count Basie - America's #1 Band - 1:50 - 150
  32. Cavernism - Mora's Modern Rhythmists - Mr. Rhythmist Goes To Town - 3:24 - 185
  33. Let's Misbehave - The Boilermaker Jazz Band - You Do Something To Me - 2:52 - 188 (This song was a performance from Big City's Solo Charleston class. They were awesome.)
  34. T'aint What You Do - Sy Oliver - Yes Indeed - 3:02 - 165 (Right into the shim-sham.)
My friend Bob took over after this, around 10:30. He'd promised to "bring the thunder" and I'd say he delivered. I may have to start calling him Thor.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rock Ya Body

This past weekend Jenna and I taught at Truman State College in Kirksville, Missouri, at an event called Rock Ya Body. It was fun to work with such an enthusiastic group of dancers--doubly so because they picked stuff up really quickly and because they had some very clever Halloween costumes.

Here's the song we used for the routine class on Sunday Morning:
  • Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho - Sidney Bechet - Sidney Bechet: 1949 - 3:20
You can get the mp3 on Amazon here. Here's the (fast) song we used for the Big Apple:
  • The Big Apple Contest - The Solomon Douglas Swingtet - Swingmatism - 2:58
You can get Solomon's albums from CDBaby here, on Emusic here, or Amazon here. Do yourself and your friends a favor by getting the whole albums, because they have lots of great music.