djing report

Last night I did one of the funnest sets ever. It was the first night of the balboa weekend (there are a couple of big name bal couples in town) and I was given a ‘lindy/bal’ brief. I figured I’d play hot jazz that makes for spankin’ lindy hop, with some more ‘complicated’ ones in there for bal. I have only ever DJed for bal dancers once before, but I’ve been asking people and looking up the sorts of things that bal people like to dance to. From what I can gather, they like hot jazz that makes for spankin’ lindy hop. There used to be an emphasis on New Orleans revival stuff, but I think that’s shifted a bit.
2nd set, 9-10pm Fri 1 May, Roxbury, Sydney Balboa Festival 2009
(title artist bpm year album last played)
Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 164 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 1/05/09 9:10 PM
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 160 1946 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46 1/05/09 9:13 PM
Whoa Babe Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra with Lionel Hampton, vocal 201 1937 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 1) 1/05/09 9:16 PM
A Viper’s Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 153 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 1/05/09 9:20 PM
Truckin’ Henry ‘Red’ Allen and His Orchestra 171 1935 Henry Red Allen ‘Swing Out’ 1/05/09 9:23 PM
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and his 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 The Duke’s Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 1/05/09 9:25 PM
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 1950 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 1/05/09 9:28 PM
Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra 135 1945 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 1/05/09 9:32 PM
St. Louis Blues Ella Fitzgerald 183 Ella Fitzgerald In The Groove 1/05/09 9:37 PM
Call Me A Taxi Four Of The Bob Cats 175 1938 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 1/05/09 9:40 PM
Bearcat Shuffle Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy with Mary Lou Williams 160 1936 The Lady Who Swings the Band – Mary Lou Williams with Any Kirk and his Clouds of Joy 1/05/09 9:43 PM
Jive At Five Count Basie and his Orchestra 174 1939 The Complete Decca Recordings (disc 03) 1/05/09 9:46 PM
Shortnin’ Bread Fats Waller and his Rhythm 195 1941 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 1/05/09 9:48 PM
Algiers Stomp Mills Blue Rhythm Band with Henry ‘Red’ Allen, J.C. Higgenbotham, George Washington, Edgar Hayes, Lucky Millinder 219 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 1/05/09 9:51 PM
Mr. Ghost Goes To Town Mills Blue Rhythm Band 192 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: 1933-1936 1/05/09 9:55 PM
Seven Come Eleven Benny Goodman Sextet 234 1939 Charlie Christian: The Genius of The Electric Guitar (disc 1) 1/05/09 9:58 PM
Stomp It Off Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 190 1934 Swingsation – Jimmie Lunceford 1/05/09 10:01 PM
Peckin’ (-3) Duke Ellington and his Orchestra with Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams 164 1937 Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion and Okeh Small Group Sessions (Disc 2) 1/05/09 6:09 PM
mbrb-hra.jpg
(that’s the Mills Blue Rhythm Band there (well, part of), stolen from the internet)
I started with some NO revival stuff to follow up from Sharon’s set (she’d just played some Boilermakers and something else in the same vein). I’m also a bit nuts about that Bob Crosby album atm, especially that great ‘Rag Mop’ song. I’ve never played that version of Jericho so early in a set before – it was interesting to see how it went down. I’ve found that this NO revival stuff doesn’t work at the Roxbury, ever. But Sharon had warmed the room and the bal nuts (including a lot of out of towners) were up for it. Yay.
Then I played ‘Whoa Babe’, which I freakin’ love: it makes me feel like dancing like a crazy, manic fool. Kind of dodgy transition from Bechet, but I wanted to ditch the NO stuff and get back to the Savoy. Then ‘Viper’s Moan’ to drop the tempos a little, but get us towards the sort of sound I’m really into atm (that song isn’t as overplayed here as elsewhere). Plus, Willie Bryant = A1. I love ‘Truckin” and Henry Red Allen. I love the lyrics. This was sort of my homage to all that truckin’ business that’s been getting about in the US at gigs like ULHS, etc. Plus, I was half planning to play ‘Peckin’ next, for the comedic value. ‘Truckin’ is actually a bit mellower, and feels more laid back, which I think the crowd needed as they were getting a bit frenetic and the non-hardcore-bal doods were looking a bit forlorn. That mellower feel tricks people into thinking the song is slower than it is, and I didn’t want to let the tempos get below 160 if I could help it.
But then I played ‘Back Room Romp’. It sounds and feels higher energy, even though it’s slower. Again, I wanted to get the people on the sidelines up with something a bit slower. I’d also noticed the people dancing every song were looking a bit shagged. ‘Solid As A Rock’ and ‘Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop’ were crowd-pleasing favourites. I wanted a ‘newer’ sound (funny how 1950 and 1945 are ‘new’ in this context) with the ‘smoother’, hardcore swinging sound of that later classic swing period. Lower tempos to revive people, higher energy to get them up and dancing.
‘St Louis Blues’ is still my fave from that Ella album. I’m not sure what’s happened to the date on that one – gotta chase it up now I’m home. It’s mid-30s, though, or perhaps ’38, ’39, after Webb had died and Ella was leading his band. It’s a fucking great song: high energy, live at the Savoy, absolutely A1. I keep meaning to play other stuff from that album, but I’m not sick of this one yet. And I rarely get to play faster stuff. It got people pumped.
‘Call Me A Taxi’: my 2nd Crosby song of the night, and perhaps a mijudgment. People were still dancing, but I’m not sure it did what I wanted. I should have stayed mega highenergy. But this is a great song for bal as well as lindy and it has lots of rinkytink piano, which I love, and which I wanted to use to get to Mary L Williams and Fats. ‘Bearcat Shuffle’ is lighter and feels kind of friendly – it’s not a big wall of sound. It has a lovely piano line that makes me want to shorty george. It also screams ‘swing out, bitch!’ This was a resting tempo song.
‘Jive at Five’ because I was thinking of Frankie. This is a nice song – lighter and friendly, and while it’s a bit quicker than ‘Bearcat Shuffle’, it actually feels a bit slower. It went down with bal doods really well last time I played it, so I gave it another whirl. Also, I love it. And: more piano-centred stuff.
Fats and my overplayed version of ‘Shortnin’ Bread’. Which I still freakin’ love. It starts mellower and tinklier (like the last few songs), but it ends with a nice, fat, full shouting chorus that makes people crazy.
‘Algier’s Stomp’ is so great. I’m not sick of it yet. Lighter, but chunkier than the previous songs. Less with the piano, more with the chunky rhythm section (yeah! great dancing!) and the brass, incl best baritone sax solo ever (well, after Zonky). Why, hello there Mr Henry Red Allen, it’s good to see you again. This is something I know bal doods have liked in the past, plus it screams ‘lindy HOP MOTHERFUCKERS!’ to me.
Then ‘Mr Ghost Goes To Town’ by the MBRB again. Russ was hanging shit on me for thinking about playing a 2nd song by Fats earlier, so I was all ‘HA! I mock your DJing rules!’ The hi-fi Mora’s Modern Rhythmist version of this song gets played a lot (esp up here), so I played this original, chunkier, aweseomer, faster version. It was familiar for the crowd (so they got up to dance if they hadn’t been), it feels a bit slower, but it’s actually chunky and driving. I have some reservations about the bunch of solos in the middle, but the sax solo redeems it.
Energy was way up in the room by then, so I went hardcore with the Benny Goodman sextet and ‘Seven Come Eleven’. I love this song more than anything. It’s a bit too complicated for lindy hop, and doesn’t really have that badass, driving energy that makes you swingout. But I figured it’s just right for balboa. It went down well. At this point Dave said to me “Hammy! In their face!” because it was so quick. It’s not _that_ quick, for baldoods, but it’s complicated so it feels like hard work.
Then I played ‘Stomp It Off’ because I wanted some Lunceford. This is another lighter sounding song, but it’s still quite quick, so it doesn’t drag. This is one I’ve played a lot, and tend to play after something very fast because it sounds slower and allows me to keep the tempos up but also keep people dancing. Bal doods like it.
Then I closed with ‘Peckin’ because it’s GREAT and in honour of Ellington’s birthday this week. I didn’t get to play it directly after ‘Truckin’, but still, it rocks (“well you talk about the truckin’ when the peckin’ is (ill?)!” At this point Russ and I were heckling the crowd and demanding pecking. They failed, so we obliged ourselves.
Ah, DJ humour. How sophisticated it is.
This was a really, really fun set to play. I love the bal doods: they eat up the tempos. I get to play the more complicated stuff I tend to leave off for lindy hoppers. They’re also interested in the early 30s stuff I really love. This is where my musical passions lie atm. It was a crowded room with lots of crazy dancing. I had an absolute ball.
I did worry that I was playing too much fast stuff, but people told me I wasn’t. And reviewing the set, I did vary the tempos more than I thought I did. I think it was lots of fun to DJ because I was actually in the set properly. I worked the tempos in the wave, but I also worked the energy levels in the songs, and this is something I haven’t had the brain to do lately. I felt like I did a much better job last night than I have in ages. It was a bit tricky to see the crowd, though (the lights were on over our heads in the DJ booth, but the floor was dark) and sometimes I felt I couldn’t quite work the people who were sitting down.
Seeing as how it was MayDay, I was thinking ‘fight the power’ and ‘for the workers!’ but I’m not sure how well that came through. But I figure 2 tracks by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band – the hardest working gigging band of the 30s – were a pretty good flag-flyer for that.
And while I didn’t get to play ‘Shiny Stockings’ for Frankie (Russ handled that – phew), I figured he’d have dug a hardcore Savoy set like that. Also, I saw some knickers when the follows were twirling, and I _know_ he’d have liked that.
Then Russ played a fun set that worked a different vibe, which was really nice – I think he did a lot of stuff I didn’t in my set, so between us we managed to cover a wide range of styles. Also, I danced TWO SONGS and then danced some solo stuff a bit. I’m paying for it today, but man – those endorphines!
BTW, this is a useful site for info about early jazz. Thing is, it’s about the worst, most terribly un-userfriendly site in the universe. This is the problem with a lot of jazznick sites: crappy layout. But if you do manage to navigate it, you’ll find some fab pics, info and even sound.

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