Thursday, May 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Frankie

Happy birthday to Frankie Manning, who would have been 97 today.

H/t Swifty for the link to this new documentary about Frankie.

Friday, May 20, 2011

fodder for a charleston choreography

Jennifer writes:
Thank you so much for your great blog! I'm wanting to choreograph a girls solo Charleston routine, but I've kind of hit a wall in terms of finding a song. I like Yam Brown by Bob Hunt's Duke Elington Orchestra, but I'm just not sure. Do you have any recommendations for a 2-3 min. charleston-ish song?
That recording of Yam Brown is really good--great janky feel from the banjo, great Bubber Miley-style trumpet solo at the start. The thing that makes this track really good for a choreography is all of the changes--it shifts mood several times, as if different characters were talking to each other.
A while back, my friend & sometime co-conspirator Jenna choreographed a fantastic routine to a recording of Shake That Thing by Vince Giordano's Nighthawks (check it out). What makes it so engaging is how she used the different voices in the piece as inspiration to create different characters in the dance--she and her troupe even have names for some of the characters. Without that sort of texture in the music, I think it is much harder to hold an audience's attention for 3 minutes. 2 minutes maybe, but 3 no. So Yam Brown is really good in this respect.
You might check out other Duke Ellington tunes like Demi-Tasse and Downtown Uproar, both off The Duke's Men: Small Group Recordings, Vol. 1. You might not be interested, but I would really like to see someone do a routine (partnered or solo) to the version of Caravan on the same album. One of my favorite Ellington compositions.
Here are some other suggestions:
  • South Rampart Street Parade - Bob Crosby and his Orchestra - South Rampart Street Parade - 3:34 - 225 bpm. It does sound like a street parade--a bit march-like for your taste, maybe--but it has lots of character.
  • Jitter Bug - Cab Calloway - The Early Years 1930-1934 - 3:12 - 230 bpm. More of a swing feel than charleston, but it's very driving and energetic. Actually, this would probably make a better partnered group routine than girls solo charleston.
  • Lawd, Lawd - Cecil Scott and his Bright Boys - Harlem Big Bands - 3:13 - 215 bpm. Great rhythm, though certainly a novelty tune.
In terms of contemporary bands, you might check out these:
  • Six Feet Down - Tuba Skinny - Six Feet Down - 3:25 - 235 bpm
  • I Can't Dance - The Smoking Time Jazz Club - Quarter Note, Vol. 1 - 4:14 - 210 bpm
  • Jada - The Palmetto Bug Stompers - Live @ DBA - 4:34 - 210 bpm
Picking a song for a choreo is a little bit like picking someone to go with on a two week long camping trip in the back country. The most important thing is definitely finding a tune that you find fun & interesting, because you'll be listening to it a LOT. In fact, you'll probably be sick of it by the time you've got it choreographed and taught to your girls. Don't worry about that though--even if you're sick of it for a while, you'll come back sooner or later and make friends again, and be glad that you took the trip together. Whatever you pick, let me know how it goes, and send video once you've performed it. Good luck!
P.S. If you're having trouble finding a song that's the right length (or just slightly too fast), you can always trim it down. If you're not familiar with sound editing, have a look at Audacity, a software program for editing digital sound. It's free, easy to use, and has lots of fancy features.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First Friday at Big City Swing

As I mentioned, It's been about two months since I was last out dancing, so as you can imagine, I was pretty excited to get out of the house and DJ at Big City Swing. We had a crowd full of fresh new faces, which explains certain of my track choices below--yes, I played Zoot Suit Riot, and the crowd LOVED it. Early in the evening, I had some problems with JRMC (version 15) crashing on me and ended up having to DJ straight from iTunes, with no preview capability. That made for a little bit of a rough night, and also led to some sound quality issues. Here's my set (plus the usual BPM sparkline and frequency distribution):
  1. My Baby's Sweet - Stompy Jones - The Swing Session - 3:08 - 155
  2. Oo Poppa Do - Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers - One Hour Mama - 3:13 - 160
  3. I Cried For You - Stephanie Nakasian - Billie Remembered: The Classic Songs Of Billie Holiday - 3:51 - 160
  4. Put A Lid On It - Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot - 2:39 - 198
  5. Nice Work if You Can Get It - The Boilermaker Jazz Band - Nice Work If You Can Get It - 3:19 - 170
  6. Rosetta - The Baby Soda Jazz Band - Cures Everything But The Blues - 4:34 - 165
  7. My Blue Heaven - The Cangelosi Cards - Clinton Street Recordings, I - 4:11 - 145
  8. Bennie's Bugle - 4Beat6 - The band that plays the music of Benny Goodman - 3:01 - 195
  9. 5 Foot 2 - Davina & The Vagabonds - Songs From Thomas Ave. - 3:42 - 175
  10. Cole Slaw - Louis Jordan - Louis Jordan And His Tympani Five, Volume 1 - 2:44 - 135
  11. Zoot Suit Riot - Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Zoot Suit Riot - 3:53 - 185
  12. Hey! Stop Kissin' My Sister - Fats Waller - The Unique Mr. Waller - 2:50 - 190
  13. Banana Split for My Baby - Louis Prima - The Wildest! - 2:31 - 137
  14. 8, 9 And 10 - Slim Gaillard - The Very Best Of - 2:43 - 175
  15. In the Mood - Glenn Miller - Best of the Lost Recordings & The Secret Broadcasts - 3:15 - 180
  16. Take The "A" Train - Duke Ellington - The Blanton-Webster Band - 2:54 - 168
  17. On Revival Day - Lavern Baker - LaVern Sings Bessie Smith - 3:16 - 143
  18. Honeysuckle Rose - Gordon Webster - Live In Philadelphia - 3:59 - 150
  19. Money's Getting Cheaper - Jimmy Witherspoon - Jimmy Witherspoon - 2:59 - 135
  20. At Long Last Love - Carmen McRae - The Great American Songbook - 2:27 - 132
  21. Number Two - The Hot Club Of San Francisco - Yerba Buena Bounce - 3:42 - 180
  22. Deed I Do - Katharine Whalen - Jazz Squad - 2:42 - 170
  23. Tain't What You Do - Jimmie Lunceford - Jimmie Lunceford - 3:06 - 160
  24. Peckin' - Benny Goodman - Benny Goodman - 3:30 - 180
  25. Blue Drag - The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn - Permanent Magic - 3:40 - 190
  26. When I Get Low I Get High - Chick Webb - Stomping At The Savoy (Disc 2) - 2:29 - 205
  27. Shake That Thing - The Smoking Time Jazz Club - Quarter Note Vol. 1 - 4:25 - 125
  28. Short Dressed Gal - Preservation Hall Jazz Band - New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1 - 2:38 - 160
  29. Everybody Loves My Baby - Sippie Wallace - Sippie - 3:11 - 145
  30. Flat Foot Floogee - Benny Goodman & His Orchestra - The Fabulous Benny Goodman - 3:22 - 160

Monday, May 9, 2011

Been busy with other things

I realized that I haven't shared the news with all of my readers (meaning the three of you, besides my wife, who knows the news)...I've been a bit busy lately. Specifically, I've been DJing only for a very specific audience, and dancing a lot with one particular girl.

She's 6 weeks old now and rather fond of Django Reinhardt. Last Friday was the first night I went out dancing (and got to DJ) since she was born. I'll post my set-list from that soon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Amazon mp3 jazz album deal

On a tip from Swifty, I learned that Amazon has about 400 jazz albums on sale for $5 a pop during May. Most of it is stuff I'm not terribly interested in, but there's definitely some good music available there. Here are the two that I just bought:

Oscar Peterson with the Stephane Grappelli Quartet, vol. 1. Nearly every time I hear Stephane Grappelli, I 1) curse and 2) then think to myself, "Man, Grappelli really is the most swingin' jazz violinist in history." Of course, then I hear Stuff Smith, curse, and think to myself, "Stuff Smith is undeniably the world's greatest jazz violinist!" And then again I'm kind of partial to Ray Nance too. (He was the quadruple threat: trumpeter, violinist, vocalist, and dancer!)

Jimmy Witherspoon & Jay McShann - 24 tracks for $5.00! That's 21 cents a track. How can you not buy this one?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

one cool dude

Check this video out:

The singer is Matt Lewis, one of my favorite jazz musicians in Chicago. How cool is this guy, that he can just walk up to some street musicians in a foreign country and sound so good with them?!?!

Matt is often featured--as both a trumpeter and vocalist--with the Swing Shift Orchestra, the knock-your-socks-off big band that plays Thursdays at the Green Mill. I've been out on performance gigs with him many times, and the music he makes is always a pleasure to dance to--he's an amazing soloist and quite the showman as well. Oh and he swing dances too.