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August 19, 2009

recent djing (is this politics?)

Posted by dogpossum on August 19, 2009 12:25 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (0)

I haven't been terribly happy with my DJing lately. I think part of the problem has been that I've been acquiring vast blobs of music from emusic and not properly assimilating them before DJing. I've been doing a lot of DJing (once a week at least, often more) and I haven't had a chance to spend time with my music getting to know it properly. I've also done some sets at venues with very difficult sound (churchpit is the main offender here - the speakers/amp just can't handle the huge hall), so I've not been able to DJ the older stuff I really love with any confidence. All this has lead to my doing sets which are 'easy' and lacking inspiration.

(that fabulous photo is from this site).

These fairly uninteresting sets have leaned a little too heavily on the jump blues, and blues structures generally. There's also been far too much Jimmy Witherspoon. But I've also been flogging the New Orleans revival stuff like the proverbial, and recent recreationist NOR stuff at that. Not making for terribly great sets, right?

The set below is one I did at Canberräng the weekend before last.

Canberräng 7 August 2009 9:00-10:30pm

Blue Monday Jay McShann and his Band with Jimmy Witherspoon 125 1957 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 3:40
Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra with Sonny Parker 134 1949 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 3:24
King Porter Stomp Kansas City Band 170 1997 KC After Dark 4:38
Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker 120 1958 La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 3:11
Big Fine Girl Jimmy Witherspoon with Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis 156 1959 The 'Spoon Concerts 4:55
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 143 1999 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke 3:34
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra 144 1958 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 3:13
Sent For You Yesterday Count Basie and his Orchestra with Joe Williams 163 1960 The Count Basie Story (Disc 2) 3:10
Roll 'Em Pete Count Basie and his Orchestra with Joe Williams 215 1957 At Newport 3:01
I Ain't Mad At You Mildred Anderson 158 1960 No More In Life 3:04
Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 164 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 2:15
The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else Boilermaker Jazz Band 161 2006 You Do Something To Me 3:46
Paper Moon Monica Trapaga with Bob Barnard, Paul Furniss, David Blenkhorn, Peter Locke, David Seidel, Andrew Dickeson, Monica Trapaga 140 2006 Sugar 4:05
Tishomingo Blues Carol Ralph 128 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 4:15
If You're A Viper New Orleans Jazz Vipers 156 2004 Live On Frenchmen Street 3:57
Lavender Coffin Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra with Sonny Parker and Joe James 134 1949 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 2:47
On Revival Day Lavern Baker 144 1958 Lavern Sings Bessie Smith 3:16
The Jumpin' Blues Jay McShann and his Band with Jimmy Witherspoon 155 1957 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 3:04

It was actually just the right set to play for that crowd at that time. It was the second set of the night (and weekend) at a crowded bar/restaurant where there wasn't much room for dancing. The venue management was a bit very intrusive, commenting on the music (and turning the volume up and down!) and generally making things difficult. It was a mixed crowd of dancers, but not a whole lot of experienced dancers who're interested in older music. There wasn't really room to bust out with badass lindy hop either. So I went for the 'partyhardy' beer-and-laughs approach. I quite like this sort of set for starting off a weekend - loud, shouting choruses, simple rhythms, call and response sections, familiar songs, lots of energy, lots of hi-fi. It went down very well.

(Image lifted from here.
EDIT: If you're liking this Bill Steber photo, I've linked to a few more here.)

After I'd warmed them up a bit, I shifted to the NOR stuff (well, that's how I'm thinking of it, even though it's not strictly accurate for most of these bands). That went down quite well as well. I also tried to get with the wave, moving up and down through the tempos, which I've not been doing so well lately.

Overall, I was happy with the set - it did as it should, the organisers were happy with it, the venue manager was happy with it, the dancers had fun. It wasn't totally awesome for lindy hop, but then there wasn't really room for awesome lindy hop. It was a beer and laughs partyhardy set.

But this is the sort of stuff I've been DJing lately, and I'm just not happy with it. As a dancer I'd be very disappointed. Partly because it's just the same old same old; there's nothing new or interesting there.

In contrast, here's a set I did at the Churchpit gig last Friday:

Swingpit 14 August 2009 10:30pm-midnight

Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 1950 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 3:04
Oh! Gram'pa Cab Calloway and his Orchestra 147 1947 Are You Hep To The Jive? 3:04
Shout, Sister, Shout Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Buster Bailey 140 1941 Apollo Jump 2:45
Just Kiddin' Around Artie Shaw and his Orchestra 159 1941 Self Portrait (Disc 3) 3:21
Davenport Blues Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra with Jack Teagarden 136 1934 Father Of Jazz Trombone 3:14
Madame Dynamite Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Sidney Catlett) 176 1933 Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 2:56
Summit Ridge Drive Artie Shaw and his Gramercy Five 128 1940 Self Portrait (Disc 2) 3:21
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 153 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:26
Hot Spot Blues Leo Mathisen's Orkester 167 1942 Leo Mathiesen 1942-43 Terrific Rhythm 3:06
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 146 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 3:01
Paper Moon Monica Trapaga with Bob Barnard, Paul Furniss, David Blenkhorn, Peter Locke, David Seidel, Andrew Dickeson, Monica Trapaga 140 2006 Sugar 4:05
Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker 120 1958 La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 3:11
Keep On Churnin' (01-09-52) Wynonie Harris 146 1952 Complete Jazz Series 1950 - 1952 2:56
Sent For You Yesterday (And Here You Come Today) Count Basie and his Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing 172 1952 Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings (Disc 2) 3:13
Big Fat Mama Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra with Trevor Bacon, Buster Bailey 135 1941 Apollo Jump 3:09
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 3:01
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra 165 1937 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 3:10
Truckin' Henry 'Red' Allen and His Orchestra 171 1935 Henry Red Allen ‘Swing Out' 2:54
The Basement Blues (low-downer than any low down blues) Nobel Sissle and his Orchestra with Sidney Bechet 153 1931 Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Sidney Bechet 3:16
Georgia Bo Bo Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band 137 1952 Graeme Bell the AMI Australian Recordings 2:40
Bli-Blip Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five 140 2007 Moppin' And Boppin' 2:44
Flat Foot Floogie Carol Ralph 186 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 3:44
Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan 147 1956 A Tribute To Andy Razaf 3:19
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra 144 1958 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 3:13
John Silver Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra 155 1938 Swingsation: Charlie Barnet and Jimmy Dorsey 3:15
Turn It Over Bus Moten and his Men 148 1949 Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Disc 3) 2:38
Don't Falter At The Altar Cab Calloway 138 Are You Hep To The Jive? 2:44
All This Beef And Big Ripe Tomatoes Julia Lee, Cleophus Berry, William 'Bill' Nolan, Franz Bruce, Clairborne Graves, Elmer W. Price 143 1951 Kansas City Star (disc 5) 2:09
Laughing In Rhythm Slim Gaillard and his Peruvians 142 1951 Laughing In Rhythm: The Best Of The Verve Years 2:56
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 3:08
I Diddle Dinah Washington 153 Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones 3:05

This is a regular fortnightly event in a large church hall. The sound can be really, really difficult as the speakers/amp just aren't big enough for this big, echoey space, but this time the room had been rearranged and the sound was a bit better. It's usually a newer crowd of dancers - people who've only been dancing less than six months or so. It can include more experienced, hard core dancers, though. The hall actually has a great floor and is really good for spreading out with big, fat lindy. But there's no bar and it really is a bit churchpit. But there you go.
I quite like doing these sorts of gigs with the newer dancers because newer dancers tend not to have any preconceptions or biases about the music. They're only just beginning to get to know the dance, and they're usually a-flush with post-class endorphines and excitement. They just love dancing. Most of the ones who do this class regularly also bring their own beer and snacks and make a bit of a party of it, which is also nice. I like DJing for these guys because they tend to just dance when the music moves them. And I've found with this crowd (as with the Funpit doods in Melbourne) that they respond best to four-on-the-floor straight-ahead swing. The less NOR the better. They like a bit of jump blues or 12-bar blues structure stuff, but they really go off with the 'proper' swing. They're suprisingly willing to tackle higher tempos and are far more flexible about this than many experienced dancers (mostly because no one's yet told them that something's 'too fast'). They don't actually say any of these things - I'm just working on what I see.

That night I followed Miss Bonnet, who was DJing one of her (if not the) first sets. She did a great job - lots of favourites, good working of tempos and volume, nice combinations of styles. I danced. I wanted to keep up her good energy, so I came in with something familiar - Solid as a Rock - something at a nice, easy tempo, with lots of clapping and fun vocals. I also wanted to segue to some older, solid swing stuff, and this is a nice, tricky way of getting there.
I've been listening to my music on the bus using an ipod lately, and it's really helped me get back into my own music. I've also been thinking about DJing more lately, and actually done some practice. I'm also dancing more myself, and that's been really important. I'm not sure I did such an awesome job with the wave, tempo-wise, though. The floor was full all night, though, and I Noticed that the dancers favoured the solid swing/four-on-the-floor stuff above all else. Which just goes to show - lindy hop is built for that action. It swings, it's simpler rhythmically (and in terms of arrangement), and it matches the stuff students learn in class. The class before had been doing 20s charleston and a range of charleston variations to faster music (though not to what I'd term 'charleston music'), so they were set up for faster, solid beats.

I challenged myself to avoid the stuff I'd played in that Canberräng set, though I did cave with Lavern Baker and Wynonie Harris, then the Basie with Rushing, but then it was back to business with a bit of Lunceford transitioning back to Andy Kirk goodness. The Wynonie Harris is very popular here atm, and it's actually great for shifting gears and injecting some energy into the room. Instead of thinking 'oh, I'll just continue on to more of this blues-type stuff', I thought 'I'll just inject this here, then get back to business'. And it worked. I currently love, love, love that Davenport Blues by Rollini and his band, partly because I have this THING for Jack Teagarden. And because I'm listening to quite a bit of hot Chicago action at the moment (finally - I move north from New Orleans!), I followed up with Madame Dynamite, which I also love. These are new songs to me, but much loved. I've found both go down really, really well with dancers.

It's round about there that I was working a sort of emotional wave - Artie Shaw had taken things up and people were nuts, but because there were a lot of noobs, I figured a little rest with the mellower Rollini was in order. During the Shaw song a few doods had gotten going with some Madison, which suited the song perfectly and spread like a virus as people started joining in and learning the fairly simple routine. It was actually a lovely moment, as all sorts of people got into it and had a really fun time. It lifted the energy in the room noticeably, and I felt the 'lindy hop vibe', the 'let's get serious' vibe. So I figured I'd keep to the olden days stuff and work that vibe.

(The Madison takes on.)

Most of the songs I played are old favourites - no surprises with A Viper's Moan. But this is a new crowd of dancers, and I've found that most of the 'old favourites' like VM aren't played much here at all. Which is fine by me, as I love that shit - they're not favourites for nothing. Anyways, I moved wave-like from Rollini through to Joog Joog. Leo5.jpg

Hot Spot is something I rediscovered lately. Mathisen is a Danish musician who sounds a lot like Fats Waller, and I lovelovelove his (marvelously restored) CDs I bought from Little Beat Records. So I gave this a whirl. The recording isn't so great for that particular space - the higher and lower parts get lost - but it's such a fun song, it worked out ok. It's the type of song that'd work well with a stroll I think.

But Joog Joog was a return to the vocals and also signalled my change in style.

Paper Moon is by a local singer (as in, from my actual suburb), and goes down well. The band in that recording are freaking A1 as well. I think of that as a real beginner's song, because I learnt to dance to it in Brisbane in 1998. Then came that brief reversion moment.

Then back to Lunceford and then to Kirk. Peckin' and Truckin' went down a treat - I love those two played together, for obvious reasons. Then some Noble Sissle (yay!). Georgia Bo Bo is another Aussie act, but this didn't work quite so well with the crowd. NOR. Bah. So some Campus Five to recover.

This crowd of noobs was getting pretty tired by now, but they were really doing well - two hours of classes then so much social dancing is tricky when you have no dance fitness. The next chunk is a bit random. I thought John Silver, my pirate song would work. Fail. People danced to every single song from here, and the floor was full. Algiers Stomp was a response to a request for 'bal', and actually sparked so much interest I regretted not playing more faster songs earlier. That'll teach me to go with my preconceptions rather than actually working the crowd.

It was a nice night, actually. There were quite a few out of towners visiting, and rather than doing a proper 'welcome dance', we paused so they could be introduced. Which was also nice, because the crowd were feeling very friendly and spontaneously applauded. Unusual, but actually very friendly. There was also a birthday, and the two birthday kids had requested a special song which was played between the two DJ sets. This can go either way, particularly when people supply their own song. But they'd worked out a sort of mini routine, and it was pretty fun. We all then carried on with the usual 'happy birthday' jam, and it was a friendly, fun one. At one point I back announced the Carol Ralph song, because she's playing at the dance this Saturday. I don't usually do this sort of thing, but I really like Ralph, and her music is always really popular with dancers. On that particular night Flat Foot Floogie went down a treat (as it usually does), so I figured people might like to know that she was playing a dance with her band, and that CDs would be available.

Overall, I was happy with this set, happier than I've been with my DJing in ages. A return to my preferred musical styles. The Squeeze sat behind me programming on his laptop through all this, not dancing or even talking to anyone. He had a lovely time. And I kept making him pay attention to how "four-on-the-floor is the BEST!" It wasn't the best set I've ever done, and I didn't push any boundaries, music-wise, but I hope this is a return to the good stuff of yore. And that I'll stay hard enough to play it. Or, more importantly, I'll work on my DJing and music knowledge a bit more so that I can make it work, regardless.

I have a bit of DJing this Saturday - doing band breaks for the Carol Ralph dance and then a set at the after party. I hope it goes well. I'm mostly just happy to get into the gig for free!

Posted by dogpossum on August 19, 2009 12:25 PM in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music


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