happy coincidence

normal_7iplodpassemuraille.jpgI’m doing a bit of research on youtube for this paper I’m doing (and discovering in the process that deciding to ‘stop reading’, while a fabulous tool for getting the thesis done, has left me… oh, at least a few years behind the published world of academia), and have come across this neat article on M/C by Paula Geyh. Do go read it – it’s only a little thing, and does the nicest job of combining talk about bodies, urban space and D&G I’ve seen yet.
I am a massive big nerd for anything to do with bodies and dance/gymnastics/beautiful, rhythmic movement, and this stuff on parkour (which I’ve also heard referred to as urban junglism) is absolutely right up my alley.
To quote directly from wikipedia:

Parkour (IPA: [paʁ.’kuʁ], often abbreviated PK) is a physical discipline of French origin in which the participant — called a traceur (/tʁa.’sœʁ/) — attempts to pass in obstacles in the fastest and most direct manner possible. The obstacles can be anything in the environment, so parkour is often practiced in urban areas because of many suitable public structures, such as buildings, rails, and walls.

And to continue with a quote from Geyh’s article,

Defined by originator David Belle as “an art to help you pass any obstacle”, the practice of “parkour” or “free running” constitutes both a mode of movement and a new way of interacting with the urban environment. Parkour was created by Belle (partly in collaboration with his childhood friend Sébastien Foucan) in France in the late 1980s. As seen in the following short video “Rush Hour”, a trailer for BBC One featuring Belle, parkour practitioners (known as “traceurs”), leap, spring, and vault from objects in the urban milieu that are intended to limit movement (walls, curbs, railings, fences) or that unintentionally hamper passage (lampposts, street signs, benches) through the space.

So when we watch footage of that parkour stuff, we’re watching a combination of practical (yet wonderfully imaginative and creative) urban locomotion. But the bit that catches my interest is the repeatedly quoted line from Sebastien Foucan,

“And really the whole town was there for us; there for free running. You just have to look, you just have to think, like children.” This, as he describes, is “the vision of Parkour.” (Wikipedia article)

I like that idea – thinking like a child. This is play. But it also involes a creative and unconscious approach to physical activity. One of the things I’ve noticed about swing dancers – they’re particularly keen to try new things, particularly sports, physical activities, games, tricks and ‘stunts’. I think it’s because they’ve discovered that you have to just try things (as Sugar Sullivan would shout at us in class – “If you don’t try to dance it, you will never dance it!”), throw yourself into activities, even if you’re likely to look foolish or fall over. When you know the limits of your body, you can trust yourself to do things which appear physically difficult. And when you’re used to experimenting physically, you stop worrying about looking foolish or being embarassed.
As an example, I am frequently (if not always) the only woman leading in aerials classes. I hear comments about how leads (or bases) should be physically strong, and there’s certainly a degree of posturing by some male dancers in regards to being a base. But the truth of the matter is, if you have good technique and do moves correctly, you don’t need to be ridiculously strong at all. I’m no stronger than the average woman, and certainly not as strong as most men my size, but I know that I can lift my partner up onto my shoulder and flip her over. Because I know how to use my body effectively, and work with her body. You are in greater danger of hurting yourself or your partner if you enter these activities with some grandiose idea of your own strength, or, conversely, with the idea that you’re going to get hurt. In learning aerials, the conventional ‘female = weak/vulnerable’, ‘male = strong and protective’ is rubbish. Self reliance, good communication, solid technique and using spotters are key parts of safe aerials
But back to the parkour people…
There’s lots of talk about military obstacle courses and so on in discussions of parkour, and escaping and leaping and reaching (the latter two I quite like, as ideas), but I’m really struck by the emphasis on creative responses to obstacles, yet with a practical eye. Ostentatious flips are debated – are they un-pakour because they’re aesthetic (an unnecessary) embelishments?
But the part of this that I’m really interested in, is Geyhr’s references to flow:

One might even say that the urban space is re-embodied — its rigid strata effectively “liquified.” In Jump London, the traceur Jerome Ben Aoues speaks of a Zen-like “harmony between you and the obstacle,” an idealization of what is sometimes described as a state of “flow,” a seemingly effortless immersion in an activity with a concomitant loss of self-consciousness. It suggests a different way of knowing the city, a knowledge of experience as opposed to abstract knowledge: parkour is, Jaclyn Law argues, “about curiosity and seeing possibilities — looking at a lamppost or bus shelter as an extension of the sidewalk”

Flow is something that’s come up in swing dance discussions. I’ve mentioned it very briefly in my own work, but without using that term.
Dancers often talk about being ‘in the zone’. As with that notion of flow, the zone is the place where you stop consciously directing your body, but respond to the music, to the weight changes and posture and movements of your partner on an almost instinctive level. I think it’s important to point out that this point of flow or zone is only achievable if your body and reactions are at a particular level of ability. To make this work, you must have a degree of body awareness, a stability of core, clear lines of alignment in joints and muscles and bones, some level of fitness and a willingness to ‘give in’ or ‘surrender’ what I call ‘high brain stuff’. You have to stop planning and to just give in and move.
Needless to say, this is one of the most wonderful parts of dancing, and the point to which most dancers reach toward. It’s often the motivation for travelling internationally or interstate to attend exchanges, where the sleep deprivation and intense socialising helps bring that point of flow closer. It’s something that newer dancers don’t feel, but suddenly, at about a couple of years, suddenly do feel, and get seriously addicted.
The thing that catches my attention in the discussion of parkour is that this flow is about the relationship between body and environment. With dancers, it is about body and body and floor.
So go read that nice article, if only to check out the neat clip.
Geyh, Paula. “Urban Free Flow: A Poetics of Parkour.” M/C Journal. 9.3 (2006). 18 Jan. 2007 .
Photo from this site, a photo by a parkour dood, uploaded to parkour.net

round up

Just in case you were wondering why I’d suddenly gone all boring…
I’ve been very busy writing a paper for a media convergence collection/special ed of a journal/thingy. So I am making a really crappy rough draft at the moment. Soon it will be beautiful, but before it’s beautiful, the editing will be horrible. I really enjoy writing (when I’m not all blocked) and write very quickly, so I feel like I’m accomplishing. I do not, however, write good first drafts – I need to edit and edit and edit and edit to make it look nice.
This paper, briefly, is about the AV stuff in my thesis. I’ve added on a nice bit about youtube, which was very exciting – youtube has made major changes in the world of online dance clips, and the whole ‘free’ and ‘easily accessed’ thing, as well as embedding clips in blogs and the sheer, wonderful quantity of obscure footage uploaded to the site make it a fabulous resource for dancers. It’s also made some interesting changes in the economy of clip exchange in the swinguverse (to a certain extent). I’ve added a bit about the Silver Shadows stuff I wrote about in this entry, as it makes for a really nice example of the sorts of things I’m talking about. Not to mention the whole convergence thing.
I still haven’t done the ‘guest’ post. But at least I’ve had some ideas. Once I’ve gotten this convergence paper done, I’m going to write something about radio and swing dancers. Now there’s a bit of convergent action. I’m especially interested in the way the Yehoodi Talk Show used video podcasting (a visual element to its radio podcast) in the last edition. That’s some awesome shit. Especially as they spent a fair bit of that podcast watching video clips they’d found on youtube, google movies, etc. Talk about nice timing. It all flows on nicely from my stuff on DJing and uses of sound/audio technology there.
I actually had a paper in the latest edition of Continuum if you’re interested in reading some of the sort of work I’m doing. It’s actually a refereed paper from the CSAA conference-before-last and I’m not actually convinced it’s much good. I know I’ve written better. Hopefully this paper I’m doing now will be nicer.
…ok, so the other thing I’ve been doing is working on this. It’s still looking fairly crap, but I do like the way it’s going. I’ve not tested it in anything other than Safari (bad me), so if you’re using Internet Exploder – sucked in! I doubt I’ll ever actually do anything with this site once it’s done (despite it’s fairly high hits when I was running it more regularly), but I do like a bit of focussed web design. Viva la css!
Anyway, doing a little work on that this afternoon (paper in the morning, coding in the afternoon, then a mandatory tranky doo break in the late afternoon), I came across this thing on aural style sheets in the W3 website.
It caught my attention as I’d recently read Barista’s entry on deafness stuff and my interest was caught. I’d read another comment on Barista’s blog a while back about accessability, and I guess it’s just been percolating in there for a while. I’m a bit strict about accessability (to a certain extent) because living with The Squeeze has made me aware of things like colours and how underlining links all the time is actually very important for colour blind people. Or even people who see colours in different ways.*
So the thought of styling websites to make them more accessible for people who use screen readers…!
I will read more about it and report back later. Meanwhile, if you know anything about this or have any ideas, points, please do drop them in the comments.
*The Squeeze actually bypasses all this shit by just reading the internet on his feedreader. Except when he’s looking at photos.

because I am a giant dance nerd…

…I’m also posting this clip of Frida and Skye dancing at the ALHC (American Lindy Hop Championships – a very ‘proper’ dance comp and nothing like the ULHS and other comps I’ve blogged before).
I am very behind – it’s a 2005 clip, and look, we’re all in 2007 now!
This is some awesome dancing – it looks unchoreographed, and really displays Skye’s unusual personality – he and Frida are one scary combination. Scary in an entirely un G-rated way.

the cranky poo

I can now do all this part of the (renamed by The Squeeze in light of recent displays of dancing ineptitude in our house) Cranky Poo:

Well, the whole first 40 seconds of that routine. Then I get confused (it’s not really my fault – we didn’t have the timing solid for the next section when we were learning it). I’m also suspecting that Mike is a bit too ahead of himself in that clip and this one with the amazing Frida:

Now, I could be wrong on Mike’s timing (most probably, considering my wonderful work learning this routine to date), but…
Having said that, he does have lovely arms, and lovely, big movements.
My admiration for this young man is, of course, entirely G-rated.

big apple, tranky doo, cultural transmission in dance and nerdy jazz fans

Look out: this post is a bit crapworthy. I think I’ve found my idea for the article, but it needs some work. But I just had to wack this down now while it’s on my mind (and just before I ping ding to the Laundry to see a band and do some dancing). My current mission is to learn the tranky doo routine. I am crap at learning routines. Yesterday I spent an hour and half trying to learn this version of the tranky doo (because I love Manu), and only figured out three phrases. That’s some sad arse transcription/learning on my part. These stoods (in that clip) would probably have learnt that routine in an hour or hour and a half.
Doing a little youtube browsing today (as one does when one is waiting for one’s Squeeze to get up), I discovered the following neat clip:

That’s the Silver Shadows (whose members include Todd & Naomi, Skye & Frida, Andy & Nina, Peter & Caitlin – all young, ‘famous’ dancers of the type generally referred to as rock stars) there, performing a routine at the midwest lindy fest. Now, that’s some seriously excellent lindy hopping there (and you can see more of the Silver Shadows if you do a search for them on youtube – their 2005 ULHS performance was amazing), but even more interestingly, that’s some seriously excellent use of music there.
Have a look at the following clip, but more importantly, have a listen to this clip.
You’ll notice (well, you might), that the riff that pops up at about 1.29mins is repeated in the track on that first Silver Shadows clip (at about 1.44 – when the crowd goes utterly nuts). I’m not really sure, but that sounds like an edited combination of songs on the Silver Shadows clip (I could be wrong though). Even if it’s not an edited collection of songs and is one single song referencing all those other important songs, this is still important stuff.
Historically, various riffs would pop up in a range of popular jazz songs across bands and often across moments in time during theh 20s, 30s and 40s – the ‘swing era’ (as that’s my era of interest). Individual musicians would play a particular solo, or a particular bit of melody/arrangement would be reproduced in another song, elsewhere.
This is very textual poaching stuff – jazz was all about the ‘cut and paste’ or ‘sampling’ deal.
The thing that makes this Silver Shadows routine so fascinating (and so wonderful) is the way they’ve combined various bits of iconic dance routines, to a song (or song-melange) which combines iconic combinations of notes and arrangements.
If you’re not familiar with the songs, or with the choreography of these iconic routines (and if you do a search of ‘whitey’s lindy hoppers’ and ‘harlem congaroos’ you’ll find the original sections of film on youtube), you won’t recognise this stuff in the Silver Shadows’ choreography.
That they began with the song Savoy (by Lucky Millinder I think), which is named for the famous Savoy Ballroom where the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers were based (and which is credited as the birthplace of lindy hop), and this is a fairly nice indication of where they go with the routine and their particular style of lindy hop. These are pretty solid recreationist doods, digging ‘authentic’ music and lindy.
So when you watch that clip, you see the dancers pull out a bit of the Big Apple routine from the film Keep Punchin’. And to make this moment of intertextuality/cultural transmission/textual poaching even more wonderful, that routine in the original film (as choreographed by Frankie Manning for a combination of Whitey’s Lindy Hopper dancers) also includes parts of the Tranky Doo.
And here’s Al Minns and Leon James (more Savoy dancers) doing the Tranky Doo (note the references to Marshall Stearns, who wrote the important book on African American jazz dance Jazz Dance):

And because it’s difficult to see Al and Leon properly in that footage, check out Mike and Nina (Nina is in the Silver Shadows) doing a demonstration of the Tranky Doo steps here:

The Tranky Doo is another piece of choreography from this early era of lindy hop, one that’s become a bit popular with young swing dancers today.
And to round all of this off, the Big Apple is a dance with its roots in Africa. Here’s a big chunk of my thesis about Big Apples:

John F. Szwed and Morton Marks (32) discuss the importance of called dances in African American musical history, noting the relationship between dance and musical form. Dancers were challenged by callers to perform the called steps to the best of their ability in the earliest moments of black appropriations of European folk dances. Credible performances required dancers not only be familiar with named steps, but also be able to perform them immediately, and often with variations on the step that still maintained a recognised structure. This discussion echoes a tradition from earliest African dance. Hazard-Gordon notes that “the challenge posed by the fiddler-caller, familiar to West Africans, calls upon the dancer to perform difficult combinations of steps. The best performers are those who can meet the challenge while maintaining control and coolness” (Jookin’ 21).
Malone and others draw clear connections between the ring dances of Africa, the ring Shouts of African American gospel churches and with ring dances of the 20s and 30s such as the Big Apple. The Ring Shout was a slaves’ reworking of ancient African ritual, remade to accord with European religious expectations. Performed in a ring, most often in churches or religious services, Ring Shouts placed an emphasis on innovative interpretations of set moves (Stearns and Stearns 27). The Big Apple, popular in the 1920s and 30s and choreographed by New York dancer Frankie Manning, reworked the Ring Shout with new, formal choreography and was performed in a circle by partnered and solo dancers. A range of other ‘Apples’ were popular throughout the period, and are today in contemporary swing culture, joined by new pieces such as the Japanese swing dancers’ ‘Fuji Apple’ and unchoreographed version.
In their simplest forms, ‘Apples’ are ‘called’, requiring dancers to perform steps chosen and demonstrated by a leader, a role that is shared by all in the circle. The more complex and famous Apples were more strictly choreographed – as with the Big Apple – but individuals’ executions of these set steps were always marked by individual style and variation often with a competitive edge. Despite the constraints of called dances, Big Apples in swing dance maintained a strong sense of improvisation and a valuing of innovation. The proving of a dancer’s skill lay not only in their recognising the step called, but in their interpretation and performance of that step. Footage of Frankie Manning’s dance troupe the Hot Chocolates performing his Big Apple (Keep Punchin’ 1939), is still consulted by dancers today, and aptly demonstrates the importance of individual creative styling of choreographed steps in this historical moment.

I think the reason that I get all excited about these sorts of things, is that these connections between archival film, historical African American vernacular dance, jazz music forms and practice and so on are fascilitated by the internet (my use of youtube just there was pretty important), yet are also dependent on access to archival film footage, the instruction of surviving dancers from the 1930s, individual dancers getting together now to work on this stuff (and the Silvers Shadows’ dancers are from all over the US and include Frida from Sweden), and then (perhaps most importantly), dancers in the audience (whether there on the night or later online) recognisingall this cross-referencing and clever textual poaching.
This is community media use and practice in action. And, I think, one of the most exciting parts of using dancers as a case study: here are some doods using digitial media in really complex and sophisticated ways, yet with this technology always subsidiary to the embodied dance act. The communal embodied dance act.
Useful references:
Peter and the crew discuss the big apple on jassdance.org

very un-cultural studies of me

I’ve been writing a bit about women and blues music and dance lately, my ideas fed in part by my research for the thesis, but also (and perhaps more importantly), stimulated by my own experiences as a woman in the swing dance community.
I’ve been asked to do a guest spot on a fairly spec online culture blog, writing specifically about my own research. I’ve had a bit of a think about it, not much, I must admit, as I’ve been a bit distracted, and really, I just can’t seem to put anything together in my head. I mean, I have no idea what I’d like to write about. I’ve kind of got stage fright. This is the first mass-public airing of my work where I’m likely to get/see immediate feedback (in the form of comments), and unlike academic journals or conference papers, I feel there’s a bit of pressure to write well and accessibly. I do think that the format is quite different – shorter, lots of linkage, etc etc.
And while I just know that this is a fabulous opportunity, I can’t seem to put my ideas together.
I’d quite like to do something like this hot and cool entry (with some tidying and a more coherent structure and, well point), but I’m not sure how to start.
I actually got to the hot/cool entry by way of this entry on women, blues and dance, which developed from this (fairly ordinary) entry on the same topic. And of course, that was a response to Kate‘s responses to a CD I sent her with a copy of a blues set I did a few weeks ago.
Of course, for me the most interesting part of this whole chain of thinking is the fact that we began with a set list posted on the internet, which is something I have started doing recently as a replacement for the fairly fizzly thread on the Swing Talk board where we did list our set lists ages ago, but which has recently fallen out of favour.
I found that thread particularly useful as a beginner DJ – I could see what sorts of songs different DJs in Australia are playing, the ways they’re combining them, and then (perhaps even more interesting) I could read their own comments on the sets and how they went. I read that thread in conjunction with this DJ bubs thread (which gets interesting on the second page) and the Swing DJs board, where I’m too scared to post. And of course, I also spent a great deal of time clicking between amazon.com (or cduniverse.com) and allmusic (a site which used to be better) for sound clips and musicans’ bios respectively. Radio programs like Hey Mr Jesse, which are only delivered online as podcasts have recently become really important to me (I don’t think it’s a coincidence, as Jesse has been producing this show since January 2006 and I started DJing in February of this year).
Talking about DJing in person, with real, live DJs has played a suprisingly small part in my learning to DJ. I think this is in part because I prefer to dance when I’m not DJing, dance venues generally aren’t too good for talking about DJ, and I’m not really interested in getting together to talk DJing – I’d rather talk about other crap. I do discuss levels and technology when I’m DJing or when someone else is DJing – I ask knowledgeable friends questions like “why does that sound like shit?” and then do a little hypothetical problem solving.
These were the sorts of resources that I was using to help me learn how to DJ. I was full of ideas about DJing (in part prompted by my thesis work and chapter on DJing, but not entirely – I found that most of my theoretical ideas about DJing were actually bullshit and needed to be revised post-practical experience), and feeling creative and inspired. The fact that DJing is nine tenths compulsive CD collecting and song cataloguing no doubt helped me along (I can stop whenever I want. I don’t have a problem. I don’t need to organise things. No way).
Posting set lists (and posting my discussions of them), getting feedback from more experienced DJs, and learning about DJing from reading their posts, in combination with all those other sources helped me get a handle on DJing. I must add, without the practical experience of DJing, none of these things would have been any good to me at all. And of course, most of my ideas about DJing and how to DJ are in turn fostered by my own dance experience – both in Melbourne over the years and overseas – and and by listening and dancing to other DJs’ sets.
I think it’s also important to note that all this online toing and froing is a really interesting aspect of swing DJs’ activities generally – I wrote about this in the chapter on DJing. Because we live so far apart (particularly in Australia), the internet has developed as a fabulous tool for networking between DJs, for the development of skills (and increasingly for me), networking with event organisers for scoring gigs. Travel has also been important, as it gives me a chance to touch base with DJs from out of town.
And, of course, I have to make note of the fact that I know only one female DJ from out of state who has a decent amount of experience and comes out dancing regularly or posts on Swing Talk. Here in Melbourne, there are far more female DJs than in other scenes, in part (I think) as a result of the recent ‘opening up’ of DJing at major venues like CBD (which has so many sets to fill each month and has been organised by people who have been clearly interested in expanding the DJing base in Melbourne), and (to a degree), the importance of buddying between new DJs. Glancing over the DJing roster for CBD in January, I can see that six out of the eight DJs rostered on are female. I also note that of those eight DJs, there are only perhaps two who I’d make an effort to go dancing for. Of all these DJs, most tend to play far beyond the limits of ‘swinging jazz’, with only three (myself included) playing (almost exclusively) swinging jazz from the 1930s-50s.
I have wondered if the serious emphasis on the cultural (and material) capital required for playing swinging jazz is exclusive – does it discourage women? I would suspect so. The largely exclusive language of sites like Swing DJs requires a fair bit of dancing (and listening) experience, and most of the DJs on this one sample list have only a couple of years dancing experience. The least proficient have also travelled the least (and travel, of course, demands lots of dosh). On a further note, only two of the DJs on this list are determinedly not interested in acquiring their music by illegal or file-sharing means. They are, also, the ones with the greatest interest in swinging jazz.
How do I feel about all this? I think it’s quite clear (as I wrote in my thesis) that becoming a ‘good’ DJ (and I think that ability is a combination firstly (and most importantly) of DJing ability – combining songs, keeping the floor full, ranging across a variety of moods and styles – and musicall collection – playing swinging jazz) is restricted to those with the time, money and opportunity to invest. I feel uneasy with my personal insistence that ‘good DJs’ are those who play swinging jazz, even though I know that playing unswing results in inevitable adjustments to lindy hop technique (most of which I think are not good – they result in a simpler, musically and techically less interesting dance). I feel (on some level) that I should be ok with DJs playing unswing, as unswing is more accessible and therefore a means by which more women (and less financially well off DJs) can get access to the DJing role.
I have written at length about the ways in which the ‘recreationist’ imperative of many swing dancers is a discomforting (and selective) use of history which (as I have said before) neglects the darker parts of African American history and eventually recreates scary gender stuff.
So how am I to contribute to DJing discourse when I find so many bits of it so difficult?
There is the option of using ‘buddying’ to encourage new dancers to discover swinging jazz. But that feels condescending – who am I to tell people what ‘good’ music is, especially when many of them are patently not interested in this historical stuff? And really, when the whole history of African American vernacular dance is about cultural relevence, why should I encourage dancers (and DJs) away from the pop music of their day?
I might choose to give copies of the sorts of music I really like to other DJs – how else to be sure I get to dance to the music I like? I have reservations about this on the basis of IP, but also because I have found (in the past), that sharing really good songs with one person will see them spread out, diseminated to other dancers and DJs until I find that dancers are using that song (and that version of that song) to perform routines for paid gigs. And it’s even more frustrating to find that the artists’ name and recording details have dropped from the song, so it is circulating only as a digital, nameless file.
On the one hand, this is interesting stuff. On the other, it concerns me because (particularly when these are living artists), there are musicians being screwed. I will not go as far as some other DJs and say that I resent this illicit circulation because I’m losing some sort of cred as the ‘discoverer’ of this song who ‘brings it to the dancers’ (I’m not that naive or that arrogant – this is pop music, doods). Nor will I say that I resent this because other DJs play this song, so robbing me of my ‘ace in the hole’ crowd pleaser (and attendant status as ‘awesome DJ’), mostly because it’s cool for other DJs to hear a song, ask what it’s called, say “that frickin’ rocks”, hunt it out on itunes or amazon, then play it when they next DJ (and I get to dance to that song when they play it). That doesn’t worry me. It’s more that the song is circulated as a burnt disc or shared file, with the song title, artist, recording year and musicians’ details stripped from it. It also worries me that while I might share a song or songs as a gift, other DJs and dancers compile CDs which they then sell to others. That worries me.
As a dancer, it’s frustrating when DJs simply take a ‘found’ or ‘exchanged’ or ‘gifted’ song and play it to death, without exploring that artist’s other work. I hear one version of (for example) C Jam Blues by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and I think ‘yes – now we’re going to hear more swinging jazz. Finally. No more bullshit unswing that makes for crap dancing’ (and as a dancer, that’s how I think – I have no tolerance for unswing. I want to lindy hop to swinging jazz). But that song ends up just as one drop in anotherwise intolerable sea of overplayed pap played in clunky, unpleasant combinations that make for a night of shit dancing.
So I am in kind of a bind. My feminist instincts say ‘fight the power’ and ‘information (and music) wants to be free’. But my dancer instincts say ‘play some good frickin’ music, and learn to DJ well’.
This post has rambled on far longer than I had intended. And far beyond the original point that I wanted to make. And I kind of think it’s become a bit of a tirade against local media production and use practices in Melbourne swing culture. Which is very un-cultural studies of me.

solomon douglas’ swingtet’s swingmatism and the basie mosaic set!

I scored with two bits of music for christmas.
First, a friend’s band’s album: the Solomon Douglas Swingtet‘s album Swingmatism from The Squeeze’s mother, and second, The Basie Mosaic set from The Squeeze.
Both are, of course, really fricking great. It’s unfortunate, though, that Sol’s album arrived with the Basie one – they’re working (in a very general way) in the same sort of style* as the new testament Basie on the Mosaic set, and really, it’s cruel to set the two head to head. Basie wins, of course.
CDcover_small.jpg But Sol’s album really is very good – if this band was playing regularly in my city I’d be a very happy lindy hopper indeed. They’re certainly better than the B# Big Band who are the closest thing Melbourne has in comparison, and I prefer them to the JW Swing Orchestra, who are our other major swinging big band (there are others, but these are the only dancer-oriented/dancer-trained bands).
For lindy hoppers, this album is definitely worth the cash**.
…I’m try to write an even partially coherent discussion of this album, but I’m feeling a bit scatty.
Actually, my feelings about this album are mixed. Firstly, I really appreciate it as a present – it was a very thoughtful gift, and definitely something I really like. Well chosen, mother of The Squeeze (and Squeeze).
Secondly, as a general into-music type person, I like it very much. I like to support current day swinging bands, especially ones like Sol’s, where the band is led by a dancer, and tailors its sets specifically for dancers. I can also really appreciate this album as a dancer – this is some fun shit.
Thirdly, as a DJ, this is some good stuff. The version of the Big Apple Contest is a bit of a score, and there are some really nice songs on the album.
But, fourthly, as a picky, DJ nerd wench, I’m not sure this is my cup of tea. It’s a little hi-fi/new testament for my liking (though I MUST admit that it wanders through a fair old range of musical territory – there’s a nice version of Black and Tan Fantasy, for example), and I’m not sure how often I’d play this for my own pleasure at home. I do, however, really really like songs like Funky Blues – it feels like this is where it’s at.
As a picky DJ, I’m wondering when I’d play many of these songs. I’m not sure I’d choose this version of Shiny Stockings, for example, when there are so many wonderful versions by people like Basie, which really are fabulous. I’d definitely spin that version of the Big Apple song, though, and I might play a few of the other tracks to win over a few of the groover/US-favouring dancers in our scene. But I’m not sure if I’d play things from it if I was compiling my ideal set. Having said that, when do we ever get to play our ‘ideal’ sets?
So, thinking sensibly, this is one of those albums (like Mora’s Modern Rhythmists’) which is great for getting the pickier hi-fi dancers interested in proper swing-era bands: this is some shit-hot recreationist work. I’d put this CD on my sneak list. Which, of course, makes this a very useful album indeed.This is a band we should support by buying the album, as these guys are the bread and butter of swing dancing – without wonderful live bands who put such effort into their live sets and recordings, many local scenes would founder in their early days, and we’d really miss this sort of superior big band action at our big balls and major events.
I do regret the fact that I’ve been listening to this with the Basie set at the same time. There simply is no comparison. Which is a shame, as I do think Sol has done fabulous work, and I don’t doubt the band live are frickin awesome.
229.jpg The other CD I scored was the fabulous 8-CD Mosaic set. The Squeeze is the sneakiest beast on earth. In town doing our christmas shopping the other week, he suggested popping in to Basement Discs (where I’d seen this set) for a bit of browsing. I poo-pooed the idea in favour of goal-oriented shopping. He later (or had already – I’m not sure which) popped in to pick this up himself. And I scored big time.
This is one fabulous collection of new testament Basie action. There are some fricking awesome versions of lindy hopping favourites (including another version of Jive at Five for my collection), all in fantastic quality. I’m not the hugest late testament Basie fan, but this is such a great, solid collection of the dood’s work in the 1950s, I’m really very happy to have it. This was a period where Basie had some pretty shit-hot musicians on hand, working a band who were really cooking together. I can’t get over the quality. Though most of this later Basie stuff is pretty good quality, this is a really, really nice collection.
As I’ve already said, it’s a shame I first heard Sol’s band in such close proximity to this set.
But I do think that the two are complementary and definitely very nice additions to any lindy hopper (let alone DJ)’s collection. The Basie set is, however, a massive luxury, and Sol’s CD is far more accessible and practical for small-time collectors.
At the end of the day, I’m very very happy with these two presents – I couldn’t have asked for anything better…. though this Basie set has me hankering for the Peggy Lee set, which I do not need! 184.jpg
*As in they’re hi-fi, have a kind of late testament sound, etc.
**Incidentally, when I asked The Squeeze if I could use his paypal account to buy this album the other day, he declared “no way – I’m not wasting paypal dollars on that guy’s band”, and then immediately sneaked off to coordinate its purchase with his mother. This album is, of course, very Squeeze like, and he does actually think it was worth spending paypal dollars on this album. Even if they were his mother’s paypal dollars.

bomb the blog

sorry to bomb the blog a bit, but…

I think I need to learn to Madison RIGHT NOW. Well, I could, because I have no responsibilities! That’s a Nicholas brother there btw.
…incidentally, I found this clip on dancehistory.org (that link from jassdance in my links on the side there goes to the same place).
This site is administered by Peter Loggins, one of my favourite lindy hopping types. This site has a really nice, friendly feel, with an emphasis on dance history (duh) and less with the interpersonal bitching. I like the layout of the fora, and the tone of the discussions – very ‘go dancenerd, go!’
The front page is especially awesome, with its list of dances, the photos and clips.