Doing antiracism in lindy hop

image source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01883-8

I’ve been chasing down as many of the antiracist groups in the lindy hop world as I can find. I want to make a list here, so people can have it as a resource. And by people I mean me, and by have, I mean share.

I’m thinking the groups that are specifically anti-racist in ideology and practice (rather than groups that have inclusive policies but other goals – eg Mobtown, Swingopedia, etc), and groups that focus on Black dance.

So far I’ve thought of:

  • Balboa In Color
    (FB group for balboa dancers of colour, focussing on balboa)
  • Black Lindy Hop Matters
    (based in Baltimore, USA, including Black board members, focussing on linking up Black jazz dance resources)
  • Black Lindy Hoppers Fund
    (based in the USA, Black board members, focussed on fund raising for Black artists and presenting dance workshops)
  • CVFC – Collective Voices for Change
    (international group, including Black board members, focussing on presenting anti-racism talks)
  • Guardian Baltimore
    (based in Baltimore, USA, Black board members, focussing on Black dance culture and history as a site for social change)
  • HellaBlackLindyHop
    (based in USA, Black board, focussing on Black dance orsm)
  • Integrated Rhythm podcast (based in USA, including Black board members, focussing on discussing race and Black experience in jazz dance.) NB no website/fb, but podcast link
  • MOVE TOGETHER: Dancing Towards Inclusivity & Global Social Justice
    (based in the USA, including Black board members focussing on hosting discussion forums and fund raising)
  • Obsidean Tea (based in the USA, Black staff, focussing on Black culture and dance today)

I’ve also been thinking about what we do with all this information. There’s lots to read and learn, but integrating it in our teaching practice can be harder. Especially if you’re not teaching at the moment.
I’ve been thinking that it’s good to combine one of the practical dance classes with one of the talk-and-think classes. eg the Harlem Renaissance link from Guardian Baltimore with a tap dance class from Josette Wiggans; Black Lindy Hoppers Fund with Collective Voices for Change. There are also some great Black DJs doing sets at various online parties (Global Online Social, Track Town Swing’s online party, etc etc), and they frequently speak a few words between songs. And of course, there’s the Blues In a Flat fundraiser/collab with Maputo Swing.

I’m feeling it’s essential to get up and do something, rather than just thinking or listening. Thinking and listening quietly is a very Anglo-European (settler) approach to learning. Getting up learning-through-being-and-doing is a cornerstone of Black dance culture. Most of the modern lindy hop world prioritises white ways of learning, where the ‘lesson’ is spelled out explicitly. It’s worth undoing that by taking a class or dancing to a set with Black artists, to undo that.

So my feel, generally, is that simply ‘adding Black history’ to your dance class isn’t anti-racist. It doesn’t change anything. To be really anti-racist, you need to make radical paradigm changes. And the most important one of those is for teachers to take classes and to focus on learning. Because the idea that a teacher is beyond learning is not only a BIG problem, it’s also really dull.

As I write this stuff, I’m super conscious of who is reading, and who I am, writing. I am a white woman. So I need to engage with that in my own thinking and practice. It’s a sad fact that most of the members of this group are not Black. So most of us have a lot of work to do; most of us need to be questioning everything we think we know about lindy hop and about teaching.

But what if you are a Black teacher or dancer? I know that there is an argument for decolonising your own thinking, as a Black artist. That might mean unlearning the ways of teaching you’ve learnt as a student in white-run classes. Which carries with it all sorts of risks. And I do not want to encourage Black dancers to doubt themselves!

I feel supremely uncomfortable writing those sorts of suggestions, as a white woman aware of my power and privilege. But perhaps Audre Lorde’s piece ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’ is the best piece to read for more on that. I’d like to end by saying to Black dancers: trust yourself, and trust your history and culture. You know much more about it than someone like me does. And I’m happy to clear a space so you can do what you need to do.

nb this is a useful unit drawing together some of these ideas in Black feminist thinking.

DJing for Tracktown Swing

More lovely DJing, this time with the very nice Track Town Swing at their Online Jazz Party (which is on every month).

I didn’t have a plan, or anything in particular prepared, though I did plop some songs in my maybe list while I was listening to the DJs before me. I have had an overall goal of ‘play more old music’ and to stop leaning on the hifi Basie and Ellington. And I managed that. Well done, me.

This is what I played:

(title year artist bpm album)

Let Yourself Go 1936 Bunny Berigan and his Boys (Chick Bullock (vcl), Bunny Berigan (tp), Bud Freeman, Forrest Crawford, Joe Bushkin, Eddie Condon, Mort Stulmaker, Dave Tough) 168 The Complete Brunswick, Parlophone and Vocalion Bunny Berigan Sessions (Mosaic disc 4)

Jack, I’m Mellow 1938 Trixie Smith acc. By Charlie Shavers, Sidney Bechet, Sammy Price, Teddy Bunn, Richard Fullbright, O’Neil Spencer 199 Charlie Shavers and The Blues Singers 1938-1939

It Ain’t Like That 1941 Una Mae Carlisle 190 Complete Jazz Series 1941 – 1944

I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise 1945 Eddie Condon and His Orchestra (Yank Lawson, Lou McGarity, Edmond Hall, Joe Dixon, Joe Bushkin, Sid Weiss, George Wettling) 163 Complete Commodore And Decca Eddie Condon And Bud Freeman Sessions Mosaic [disc 07]

Shake That Thing 1930 Barbecue Joe and his Hot Dogs (Wingy Manone, George Walters, Joe Dunn, Maynard Spencer, Dash Burkis) 162 Wingy Manone: Complete Jazz Series 1927 – 1934

With a Smile and a Song (-1) 1937 Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Hot Lips Page, Pee Wee Russell, Chu Berry, Sally Gooding (v)) 110 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 03)

Chasing Shadows (-1) 1935 Putney Dandridge and his Orchestra (Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Nappy Lamare, Harry Grey, Artie Bernstein, Bill Beason) 137 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 01)

Mutiny In The Parlor 1936 Gene Krupa’s Swing Band (Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman, Jess Stacy, Allan Reuss, Israel Crosby, Helen Ward) 137 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 01)

Sing, Sing, Sing 1936 Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang (Pee Wee Russell, Joe Catalyne, Frank Pinero, Garry McAdams, Jack Ryan, George Pemberty) 212 Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Louis Prima and Wingy Manone (1924-1937) (Mosaic disc 02)

Big Apple 1937 Teddy Wilson and his orchestra (Harry James, Archie Rosati, Vido Musso, Allan Reuss, John Simmons, Cozy Cole, Frances Hunt) 164 Classic Brunswick and Columbia Teddy Wilson Sessions 1934-1942 Mosaic (disc 3)

C-Jam Blues 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra (Ben Webster) 185 At The Hollywood Empire

Georgianna 1938 Count Basie and his Orchestra (Ed LEwis, Karl George or Bobby Hicks, Bennie Morton, Eddie Durham, Dan Minor, Earle Warren, Jack Washington, Lester Young, Herschel Evans, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones, Jimmy Rushing) 164 Classic 1936-1947 Count Basie And Lester Young Studio Sessions Mosaic (disc 02)

Woodchopper’s Ball 1954 Billy Jack Wills and his Western Swing Band (Tiny Moore, Vance Terry, Dick McComb, Kenny Lowery, Cotton Roberts) 233 Sacramento 1952-1954

Big Noise From Winnetka 1938 Bob Crosby and his Orchestra South Rampart Street Parade

The Wedding Samba 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 187 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript

Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho 1946 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band (Barney Bigard, Helen Andrews) 160 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46

Stars Fell On Alabama 1946 Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Billy Butterfield, Joe Dixon, Bud Freeman, Joe Bushkin, Jack Lesberg, Dave Tough, Brad Gowans) 142 Complete Commodore And Decca Eddie Condon And Bud Freeman Sessions Mosaic [disc 07]

Atlanta Blues 1946 Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Max Kaminsky, Fred Ohms, Joe Dixon, Gene Schroeder, Jack Lesberg, Dave Tough, Bubble Sublett(v), James P. Johnson) 123 Complete Commodore And Decca Eddie Condon And Bud Freeman Sessions Mosaic [disc 07]

Don’t You Leave Me Here 1939 Jelly Roll Morton’s New Orleans Jazzmen (Zutty Singleton) 143 Jelly Roll Morton 1930-1939

Don’t Tetch It! 1942 Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O’Neil Spencer 191 Una Mae Carlisle: Complete Jazz Series 1941 – 1944

Goin’ Out The Back Way 1941 Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Blanton, Sonny Greer) 155 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 12)

W.P.A. 1940 Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers (Harry Mills, Herbert Mills, Donald Mills, Norman Brown) 155 The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (Mosaic disc 06)

The Breaks 1944 Albert Ammons Rhythm Kings (Hot Lips Page, Vic Dickenson, Don Byas, Israel Crosby, Sidney Catlett) 135 Best of Hot Lips Page

Pound Cake 1939 Count Basie and his Orchestra (Lester Young) 186 Classic Columbia, Okeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940) (Mosaic disc 02)

Pound Ridge 1941 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Jimmy Maxwell, Billy Butterfield, Al Davis, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Clint Neagley, Skip Martin, Vido Musso, George Berg, Chuck Gentry, Mel Powell, Tom Morgan, John Simmons, Sidney Catlett) 185 Classic Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (1939-1958) (Mosaic disc 04)

The Huckle Buck 1949 Hot Lips Page and his Orchestra (Pearl Bailey) 143 Jump For Joy!

DJing on the internet! I LIKE it!

Yesterday I DJed a really nice zoom party/listening session for the San Antonio Swing Dance Society in Texas. I was in Sydney (still am), but perhaps one unexpected perks of a pandemic, is dance scenes’ refocussing on their local community. Quite a few local scenes have been running regular online meet-ups for the crews, keeping social and creative bonds alive.
In the days before COVID, it’s unlikely I’d have had a chance to DJ in San Antonio. I wouldn’t have travelled so far for a small gig that can’t defray costs, and I would have found it hard to make friends with the San Antonio peeps from Australia. But now – I can!

Anyhoo, the session was about 1.5 hours long, and is run weekly. It was so NICE to see a bunch of brand new people, and to make new friends! This sort of social interaction has just become so important for me during COVID. I’m used to traveling a lot during the year and meeting lots of new people. But it’s been a year of no traveling, and very little socialising. I’ve met far too few new people. But for this set, I only knew ONE of the participants!

I’ve done quite a few of these online/zoom sets now, and I’m really enjoying tailoring the session to the group and expectations of the organiser. Do they want solid party hits for dancing? Do they want a radio show style session with back announcing songs? Do they want history stuff? This session involves a fair bit of conversation in the chat, and there’s less dancing that pure social engagement. If everyone else is like me, they’re just soaking up all those faces on the screen.

Anyway, this one was a bit of talking (more than I usually do, but I checked with the organiser mid-set a few times to see if they wanted less talking, more music), but lots of good music, played the way I’d play a normal social dancing gig.

This is what I played:

(title year artist bpm album length)

Tippin’ Out 1946 Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) 112bpm Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant 2:54

Hootie Boogie 1945 Jay McShann 148bpm Jay McShann: Complete Jazz Series 1944 – 1946 2:55

Tempo de Luxe 1940 Harry James and the Boogie Woogie Trio 130bpm New York World’s Fair, 1940 – The Blue Room, Hotel Lincoln 3:19

Ridin’ On The L&N 1946 Lionel Hampton and his Quartet (170) Lionel Hampton Story 3: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop 2:53

A Touch Of Boogie Woogie 1944 Teddy Wilson Sextet (Emmett Berry, Benny Morton, Edmond Hall, Slam Stewart, Sidney Catlett) 196bpm Teddy Wilson: The Complete Associated Transcriptions 1944 4:49

The Count 1941 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Jimmy Maxwell, Billy Butterfield, Al Davis, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Clint Neagley, Skip Martin, Vido Musso, George Berg, Chuck Gentry, Mel Powell, Tom Morgan, John Simmons, Sidney Catlett) 169bpm Classic Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (1939-1958) (Mosaic disc 04) 3:15

Take It 1941 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Jimmy Maxwell, Irving Goodman, Alec Fila, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshall, Gus Bivona, Les Robinson, Georgie Auld, Pete Mondello, Bob Snyder, Johnny Guarnieri, Mike Bryan, Artie Bernstein, Dave Tough) 174bpm Classic Columbia and Okeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions (1939-1958) (Mosaic disc 03) 3:13

If I Could Be With You 1948 Kay Starr featuring Novelty Orchestra (Joe Venuti, Les Paul) 124bpm Best Of The Standard Transcriptions [Disc 1] 1:53

No Regrets 1936 Billie Holiday and her Orchestra (Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw, Cozy Cole) 130bpm Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 01) 2:38

When Day Is Done 1935 Mildred Bailey and her Swing Band (Chu Berry) 218bpm Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Mosaic disc 01) 3:32

Rose Room 1944 Esquire Metropolitan Opera house jam session (Barney Bigard, Art Tatum, Al Casey, Oscar Pettiford, Sidney Catlett) 196bpm Sid Catlett: Chronological Classics 1944-1946 5:56

Well All Right! 1939 Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra 183bpm Ella Fitzgerald In The Groove 2:31

Flying Home 1940 Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra 185bpm Charlie Barnet : Skyliner 2:57

Redskin Rhumba 1940 Charlie Barnet and his Orchestra 186bpm Charlie Barnet : Skyliner 2:41

Algiers Stomp 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band (Lucky Millinder, Henry ‘Red’ Allen, JC Higgenbotham, George Washington, Edgar Hayes) 219bpm Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 3:08

Apollo Jump 1943 Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra 143bpm Apollo Jump 3:27

Harlem Air-Shaft (Rumpus in Richmond) 1940 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 191bpm The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 08) 2:59

Barney Goin’ Easy (I’m Checkin Out Goom-Bye) (WM 1036-A) 1939 Barney Bigard and his Jazzopators (Rex Stewart, Juan Tizol, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Billy Taylor, Sonny Greer, Fred Guy) 151bpm Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion and Okeh Small Group Sessions (Mosaic disc 06) 2:59

Harmony In Harlem 1937 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 151bpm The Complete 1932-1940 Brunswick, Columbia And Master Recordings Of Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra (Mosaic disc 08) 3:08

Hello Little Boy 1950 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 180bpm Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 2:50

Hi Ho Trailus Boot Whip 1946 Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) 224bpm After You’ve Gone 2:46

All She Wants To Do Is Rock Wynonie Harris 145bpm Greatest Hits 2:34

Froggy Bottom 1957 Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) 155bpm Goin’ To Kansas City Blues (Mosaic) 2:37

C Jam Blues 1994 Statesmen Of Jazz 161bpm Statesman Of Jazz 6:32

Every Day I Have The Blues 1959 Count Basie and his Orchestra (Joe Williams) 116bpm Breakfast Dance And Barbecue 3:49

Hallelujah, I Love Her So 1958 Count basie and his Atomic Band 133bpm Complete Live at the Crescendo 1958 (disc 2) 3:03

What did you do?

I began with an acknowledgement of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, traditional custodians of this land (where I was speaking from), and a shout out to the Black history of jazz music and dance, to the elders of that community.

Why did you play that?

Then I played one of my favourite songs, Hootie’s Boogie.
It has good energy, but isn’t too up in your face crazy loud/fast. Also it’s LOLsome.

Then Tempo deLuxe, which is another of my faves. It’s a song I’ve started a jillion sets with in the past, because it builds from a mellow intro to an upenergy, fun finale with shouting and shit. It’s a live recording from the 1939/1940 New York World Fair. This is a pretty fun connection for dancers, as the Savoy Ballroom had an exhibition at the fair. And there’s footage of it:

Yep, that’s women dancing with women, and men dancing with women. Always has been, always will be.

There are HEAPS of photos of people dancing lindy hop (and of lindy hoppers and jazz musicians), including this one:

You might recognise that jacket logo from the repro Chloe Hong from Seoul did a few years ago for Frankie100. When you think about the fact Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers were promoting the Savoy, it makes complete sense that they were basically walking billboards.

Apparently working the World Fair gig was HARD WORK, with long hours, few breaks, hot sun, and bullshit working conditions. It gave us footage like the Hot Mikado, but it also pushed the Black dancers far too hard. Check out Frankie Manning’s bio for stories about his experiences, and the Alan Lomax bio, ‘Man Who Recorded the World’ for stories about how Lomax’s original ideas for showcasing Black music were curtailed by bullshit.

There’s a heap of stuff from the World Fair in the NY Public Library, so you should defs hunt that down!

Anyhow, I played that song second because it’s by Harry James’ Boogie Woogie Trio (though I think it’s more than three musicians :D) and I dig the boogie vibe.

Then it was Ridin On The L & N, which is one of my most faves. It also has a boogie piano feeling, this time feeling like a train (the L&N) riding down the track.

Then we had radio transcript, ‘A Touch Of Boogie Woogie’ by Teddy Wilson and his Sextet. I had intended to play the 1941 Wilson Orchestra version, because it’s such a surprise to hear that band play something so chunky and exciting and pulse-poundingly good. But the sextet version is equally good, BUT it features some interesting musicians: Sidney Catlett and Slam Stewart. We all know Teddy Wilson for his work with Billie Holiday, and then Benny Goodman’s small groups, but Catlett is a drummer who played in Goodman’s band too. But only for a few months.


Apparently Catlett was so charismatic, so exciting, and so popular, that Goodman fired him in a fit of jealousy. I don’t know if it’s true. But luckily we have some of his recordings with Goodman’s band, including the live album ‘Roll Em!’ from 1941. I don’t have that album, but there is photographic evidence of the gig:


(from the Gottlieb Collection in the Library of Congress)

And of course, Slam Stewart we know from Slim and Slam, and thinking of him in Mr Tighty-Whitey Rules Mc Rulesington Benny Goodman’s band is just weird. But there are recordings of him with the Goodman orchestra, and they are FANTASTIC.


(Stewart and Goodman waiting for something in 1945 (source)).

Anyway, I played ‘The Count’ by Goodman’s orchestra, featuring Catlett, so we could feel just how exciting the band was with this drummer. Incidentally, this song is a nice follow-up to the previous one, as it carries that big energy, lindy hopping fun with it. NB it’s just as great for balboa :D

I followed up with another Goodman Orchestra recording from the same year, this time with Dave Tough (our beloved Dave) on drums. Still amazing, but also different. Two songs by one artist in a row? Don’t mind if I do!

A Note: Catlett and Stewart are Black. Goodman was putting mixed race bands on stage for years, and copped flack for it.

After that, it was a complete change of pace, with Kay Starr singing ‘If I could be With You’. This is another transcript, and the band features Joe Venuti, which is weird, because I associate him with gypsy jazz. But by this point, he was major famous. But it’s also wonderful. This photo of them in the ABC Studios was taken ~1945, while the song was recorded in 1948.

circa 1945: EXCLUSIVE American jazz violinist Joe Venuti (1903-1978) and American vocalist Kay Starr smile and sing while playing a violin together. They stand by an ABC microphone. (Photo by Metronome/Getty Images)

Onwards!
Then we had some Billie Holiday, because I wanted to hear some more nice female vocals, with a bit of charm. 1936 put us back into the period I wanted to explore next.

Then ‘Day Is Done’ by Mildred Bailey and her band, featuring her husband Red Norvo.

This song is a nice companion to the previous two female vocals, and she and Holiday match well. But I wanted to play these two artists because they were important in the story of Goodman’s small groups. The story is that Bailey used to host great parties at her house, and at one of these in 1935, Goodman and Teddy Wilson met, and started jamming together. Later that year the Goodman Trio was born.

Bailey herself is super important as this sort of social lubricant, but also as a musician.

Then I played ‘Rose Room’ by an Esquire band, because it’s a live recording, and it features Catlett talking to the audience directly. And it has an epic drum solo at the end.

Then I just went with that exciting big band sound, and another live recording, this time Ella Fitzgerald with Webb’s band in 1939. I wanted to just play some good hard party music. YEAH!
Same for the next song, really: straight up party music. I ADORE this version of Flying Home.
And again – just another uptempo party song.

Then a slight change in tone, with Algier’s Stomp by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band. I do recommend reading up about them. This song features Lucky Millinder.

Which was my segue to playing Apollo Jump, classic lindy hop party song.

Then I switched it up a smear, to play Harlem Air Shaft, by Ellington of course. I like this song for the story about it: that Ellington composed it to reflect the sounds that carry up the internal shaft in an Harlem apartment building.

Now I’m reading about airshafts in Harlem, it’s FASCINATING! Here’s a little article about them.

I dropped a word here about the extreme crowding in Harlem in that 1920s-40s period, where thousands of Black Americans travelled north in the Great Migration, fleeing lynching and violence, and looking for jobs. This crowding led to extremely high rents, rent parties, and competition for housing. It also led to the burst of creativity and political activism that was the Harlem Renaissance.

[I didn’t say it, but in my mind, I was thinking about how these close conditions, everyday stuff like Mildred Bailey’s parties, etc all led to people living and working and writing and thinking and playing music in very close quarters. Harlem really was an important place in that moment.]

Then on to something else by Ellington, but one of his smaller groups, playing something calmer. Here, I wanted to chill us out a bit, emotionally, but stick to Ellington and that period and sound.


And another Ellington, Harmony In Harlem. Because Harlem. Musically, it’s a bit chill, but it grows in energy. It’s a nice dancing song at first, because it’s quite simple and calm, but it gets louder and more exciting. Break over. Party time.

ANOTHER Ellington, but this is one of my super faves. It has a chill start, but a snappy tempo, and what makes it really interesting and fun, is the combination of characteristically weird Ellington harmonies with a solid, chunking beat, all over an old school blues structure and blues vocals. It’s about as Ellington as Ellington can get. You can enjoy it for the stompy rhythm and salty lyrics, for the clever harmonies and almost-dissonance, or all of it combined.

Then I just went hardcore with ‘High-ho trailus bootwhip’, which is loud and fun and exciting. In my head, I was thinking ‘let’s strengthen that blues structure and element, and go further towards jump blues. But I didn’t say that. I was just thinking it.

That song is quite quick, but it feels EXCITING. So I pulled a standard DJing stunt, and built energy with that, then followed up with a solid party hit at an accessible tempo, with shouting and clapping. Something that would fill the floor after the faster song. Wynonie Harris is straight up party music.

Then I just felt like it was a party.
So Witherspoon.
Then I realised I hadn’t cued up a song :D So I fumbled, and pulled out the Elder Statesmen of Jazz, playing ‘C Jam Blues’.

Then back on party track with ‘Everyday I have the Blues’ from Breakfast Dance and Barbecue, the first Basie album I bought. It has a great story: held at about 3am, a party held by the American Disc Jockey’s Association, and everyone was drunk and tired. Then Basie’s band hit the stage, and it was PARTY TIME. Worth buying the CD for the liner notes!

And then the final song, a party version of Basie’s Atomic band playing ‘Hallelujah I love her so’. This is from a huge, multi-CD set, ‘Complete Live at the Crescendo 1958’, which you can listen to on youtube. Or buy for the liner notes.

WHAT a fun set. Lots of nice people talking and having fun. I love it.

Small Axes

I’m part way through ep1 of Small Axe, a BBC short film series about the West Indian community in London in the 1960s-80s. It’s directed by Steve McQueen and has a w o w cast (incl. Letita Wright and John Boyega).
If you want to know about the Black migrant history of the UK during this period, AND want regular doses of everyday eating, dancing, singing, and FIGHTING THE MAN, i reccomend. It’s a great companion piece to that BBC podcast series about Black music in Europe.

Hello Sidney Catlett

After yesterday’s extra fun set for Tracktown Swing’s zoom party (fun), I’m feeling interested in jazz again. Overhearing Andrew’s interest in Sid Catlett’s drumming, I’ve been digging through the Catlett in my own collection.

I can’t remember listening to this song ‘How High the Moon’ by Al Casey and his Sextet (1945) before. The band has a pretty impressive line up:
Al Casey And His Sextet
Gerald Wilson (trumpeter), Willie Smith (alto sax), Illinois Jacquet (tenor sax), Horace Henderson (piano), Al Casey (guitar) John Simmons (bass), Sid Catlett (drums).

Every time I listen to a band like this I have to look up the personnel. Thank goodness for google. This isn’t Willie The Lion Smith, it’s another one. And I always forget what Horace Henderson played. I often forget he’s Fletcher Henderson’s brother too.

Things I noticed:
– There’s a bit in an Illinois Jacquet solo (at about 0.45) where the first few notes sound just like his famous part in Flying Home (with Hamp). I’m assuming it’s Jacquet. I have no clue tbh.
– The guitar is extra nice. I’m digging guitar in these sorts of swinging jazz songs atm, not as rhythm, but as soloists.
– The drumming _is_ nice.
Anyhoo, this is a nice song.

Here is Sid looking a bit over it.

It’s ok, mate, 2020 is nearly over.

There are a few recordings by Benny Goodman’s big band in 1941 that are off the charts HOT. Like, the best, tightest band, and they really swing.
I’ve just discovered that Sid Catlett was the drummer in the band for a few months in 1941, which explains a few things.
These recordings include Pound Ridge, The Count, a few others, an ROLL EM.

And, apparently, this live CD is pretty fricking great.

I really like this. I feel like this might be something I’d like to see Rikard dancing too.
It’s got some of the gun musicians from that song in the OP, and you can hear the musicians shouting and calling out.
‘Henderson Romp’ (1945)
Big Sid Catlett’s Band
Joe Guy, Ben Bull Moose Jackson, Hubert Bumps Myers, Illinois Jacquet, Horace Henderson, Al Casey, John Simmons, Sid Catlett.
I think I might be really into Al Casey.

And Sid Catlett is playing in this recording of ‘Madame Dynamite’ by Eddie Condon’s band in 1933. It’s worth noting that this is a mixed race band. The connection is, of course, Chicago.

Catlett also played in bands led by Teddy Wilson, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Hot Lips Page, Lester Young, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins…
Basically, he was the shit.

Some of these Days

I’m doing some prep for my set with Track Town Swing tomorrow, and I’m starting with songs I never DJ, but adore.
I do love this song, and Bing Crosby’s voice… sigh. The band features Bix, Trumbauer, and Eddie Lang, among others. 1932 in Chicago.

Encyclopaedia of the Spanish Flu in America

I don’t know how, exactly, but this online encyclopaeda of the Spanish Flu pandemic in the US (1918) might be useful.*
Information is organised in a range of ways, but you can do a search for ‘dance halls’ and see newspaper articles about public dances being closed because PANDEMIC.

*I just have this niggley feeling that this historic example could be useful/interesting in the contemporary context…

Balancing safety with community impatience online talk

Now we’re opening up in Sydney, I’m seeing an (understandable) impatience to ‘return to normal dancing’ that has some problems. People pushing to social dance in public bars, talk that normalises dancing, misreading public health guidelines in ways that support their POV. After all, to _have_ social dancing, individuals need dance partners. As many as possible.
A consequence of this public talk has been an increasing ‘normalising’ of the idea that it’s fine to ‘return to normal’ dancing. If enough people are talking about whether the band is playing at x venue, or what time doors open at y venue, the more marginalised questions like ‘is it _safe_ to dance at all?’ become.
A big challenge for fb group moderators has been dealing with these complex social and medical issues while themselves under covid stress. It’s hard to parse the govt’s covidsafe info and public health restrictions, it’s even harder to do that _and_ juggle your own worries about safety, the increasing frustrations and arguments of other people, _and_ a year of shitty stress. Tensions are high, and there’s no clear model for handling these issues.
Or is there?

This is a fascinating article about the role of internet discussion boards in the gay community during the AIDS crisis. There’s a chunk about how these were moderated to prevent the spread of misinformation, and to encourage collaboration.

What about solo jazz classes in Sydney?

It’s still very high risk, because:

  • we’re still very close to each other (we need a lot more space than other activities)
  • the puffing and huffing spreads more respiratory droplets than normal breathing
  • we spend more time indoors together (two risk factors)
  • you have to clean up the space before and after the class, which is a lot of work
  • you need to have staff to manage crowding and lines

…and so on. This is why the actual _class_ is high risk. All this, and then the business has to handle contact tracing and other covidsafe regulations. The teaching model that was happening before covid barely (if ever) managed to handle insurance and other safety stuff. This added layer of work is too much for most dance businesses.

But in addition, the businesses that ran classes before have all been devastated by the shutdowns. No support from the government means businesses have failed or had to close down. Teachers have had to look for other work. So the _businesses_ have had to pause.

There’s no money to fund class expenses: advertising, insurance, rent/room hire, etc etc. All dance classes take a financial risk on this stuff, and then if numbers aren’t solid, they make a loss. Solo jazz has always been a higher financial risk because it doesn’t attract as many students as lindy hop.
I’ve run a dance business, and taught for my own business and others. Including the first weekly solo jazz class in Australia (brag! brag!). At this stage the safety issues of covid are a big deterrent, but it’s all the other administrative issues that are the real killer. We don’t make much money from single classes; to make money you have to run a bunch of classes and/or big classes. That’s not going to happen during this moment.

But hold on. We need a vaccine, and we need 100% take up, before we start teaching classes safely.

Things you can do to get lindy hop happening again:

  • Hassle your local MP to get arts bailout packages for small businesses like dance schools;
  • Make sure you and your family and all your friends are ready to get vaccinated, and then get vaccinated. If you’ve got anti-vaxer friends, or an anti-vaxer yourself, you’re a big health risk for all of us;
  • Don’t spread misinformation about covid (because that leads to outbreaks which slows things down again);
  • Support teachers, DJs, and other dance professionals who are working online: always pay for classes (even if they don’t ask for money), share and recommend good classes and organisations, drop supportive notes to people who are doing this work;
  • Encourage support for local venues where people run classes: independent venues (like our beloved Ruby’s), bars where live jazz lived (because it’s another important part of the lindy hop ecosystem).

Time lines of Black dance as white patriarchy

Someone on fb recently asked:

“Question: has someone made a visual timeline/lineage of Lindy Hop? Is this a good idea?”

I dislike the linear timeline model because:

  • It puts Africa in the past, when helloooo it’s not;
  • It uses a very western hierarchy of value with a particular dance or people as the apex or cumulation of different dance. Soz but lindy hop has never stood still or existed in a singular ‘true’ form. It is meaning in motion.
  • Who gets to decide when the line begins and ends? If it ‘begins’ in Africa and ‘ends’ with the white observer, then that is some fucked up racist social Darwinist crap. Stop, white person. That ways lies revivalist colonialism.
  • linear notions of time are white patriarchy.

There are other, far more interesting notions of ‘time’. The Aboriginal idea of the Dreaming is a good one: it is now, then, to come, and always. So, eg, when we tell a creating Dreaming story/dance/song, we are at once telling history and engaging in that act of creating as well.

If we take this way of understanding (the assumption that time needn’t be linear) to jazz dance, we have multiple dances existing at the same time in different and the same spaces. Specific shapes move through time and between generations, but are also moving laterally between siblings of different ages. So different aged people dance the same movements at the same time, but it has different meanings, depending on who is dancing where.

If we use a linear model, elders are in the past, superseded by successive generations of ‘improvers’, all focussed on a single point/form in time: lindy hop.
But we know it doesn’t work like that. Frankie teaching a bunch of white people the electric slide to Easy Does It, at the same time (day, even!) Black families might be dancing it to disco at a party. White people may separate generations and social spaces and learning, but other cultures do not.

So i say no to time _lines_, because they force western ideas and hierarchies of meaning onto Black culture.

It’s more useful to get up and dance, and feel those changes. Or to think of those dancers from all over Africa leaping up to share a step like the ones Al and Leon were demonstrating, all of them ignoring Marshall Stearns’ voice, and sharing ideas and feelings in a single moment of inter-continental, cross-generational immanence.
Africa isn’t in the roots of lindy hop. The nations of Africa are dancing now, in conversation with lindy hop.