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:
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
Gee that Mills Blue Rhythm Band is good.
I keep forgetting, and then I come back to them, and my mind is blown again. The ‘band’ itself has an interesting history, and is worth looking up.
I’ve just relistened to this song, Let’s Get Together (1937). There’s something about the relationship between bass and guitar driving the beat that really makes the whole thing swing.
I adore the Chick Webb band version (1936, and with Ella leading them LIVE in 1939), but this one is the SHIT.
Look at the people in that band!:
Charlie Shavers, Carl Warwick, Harry Edison, Al Cobbs, Wilbur DeParis, Tab Smith, Eddie Williams, Ben Williams, Harold Arnold, Billy Kyle, Danny Barker, John Williams, Lester Sonny Nichols, Chuck Richards, Lucky Millinder.
Yes, Lucky Millinder. But also Charlie Shavers. I follow his recordings across the jazz landscape, and there are some real gems. But Millinder, of course, went on to greater fame.
There was a really great thread on the MBR on the (lovely) Swingdjs.com discussion board, and that’s how I heard about the band. Then I went into the incredible Hobart music shop Music Without Borders in 2006, where the unusual owner gave me a MBR CD and told me to buy it. So I did.
I tried DJing from it in Melbourne over the next year, but I remember being audibly shouted at by the groove-loving fools. That was my first lesson in how not to DJ: don’t DJ to ‘teach’ people anything, or they will kick your wanky arse off the stage.
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.
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.
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.
If you like jazz and adrenaline, then you might like my new project, Run With Sam. It’s free, it’s easy, and you don’t need any special gear.
Want to start running?
Run with me!
I’m full of good intentions, but I don’t always follow through. So I wouldn’t mind a bit of company.
I’m using interval training to get from zero to being able to run for 30 minutes.
The now-infamous ‘Herräng no list’ came up in my interview with Ryan for his podcast. I’m not sure how it developed, but this ‘no list’ was a complement to the ‘yes list’, which sadly gets a lot less attention. These lists were playlists on spotify developed as a general guide to the type of music you may or may not choose to play at Herräng. The ‘yes’ and ‘no’ titles are typically Swedish. Functional. :D
The first year I DJed at Herräng (2015?), there was an actual booklety thing, setting out the same sort of information, but as a pie graph, with percentages.
Last year I made up a new version of this pie graph for myself. You can see it at the top of this post.
That’s three ways of saying the same thing: this is the type of music we’d prefer you play, as a staff DJ at Herräng. This is a fairly specific description, and it aligns nicely with Herräng’s branding as ‘vernacular jazz dance’ blah blah.
The rules for DJing at Herräng are as you’d expect:
- Play swinging jazz from the 1930-40s (with a smear of 50s)
- Don’t just lean on the standards
So really it should be a ‘do’ list, not a don’t list.
Does it sound like there are a lot of rules for DJing at Herräng? Not that I’ve noticed. In fact, DJing at Herräng is lots of fun because our bosses simply assume we know all this and won’t play any bullshit, then they just set us up with a time slot or a task, and say “GO.” And then we just go sick. There’s a microphone, there’re lighting switches, there’s a dance floor full of Europeans in a democratic socialist country with far too much daylight. NO RULES TIL BROOKLYN
Advantages of each of the ‘rules’:
You have to really work on your set, not just play your easy-win faves. This makes you work harder and play more interesting sets.
This is especially true because we are on staff for a week, playing every night. One set in a weekend means you can phone it in, but 7 or more sets in a week means you really have to stretch.
This makes the whole week more interesting for dancers, because they’re hearing a wider range of music (within a genre): they get a deeper taste of swing music. But it also makes it more interesting for DJs, and much more creative. You’re more likely to take risks. Here is the good bit. More risks = potentially more errors. But really good DJs know how to recover from errors, and how to avoid them.
So while a DJ’s collection is on display, their skills are too.
I actually love it. I come away from the event with a much better understanding of my collection, having played far more than my usual ‘safe’ songs. And I’ve heard sets that are far more than just a handful of Naomi Uyama and Gordon Webster favourites.
This seems obvious. Playing from the swing era makes for good swing dancing. I see far better lindy hop at Herräng, in part because the music makes it easier to lindy hop.
Less jump blues. This is one that caught me by surprise. I hadn’t realised how much I leant on 40s jump blues. Louis jordan, Big Joe Turner, and others. Wonderful, but when I pushed myself to limit the number of these in my set, again they improved. How? a) different rhythmic emphasis and structure to the songs, b) less vocal driven, more ensemble driven melodies and structure, and c) a shift away from jump blues = shift towards small and big band swing. More complex songs and arrangements. Much more interesting for dancing lindy hop.
So the point isn’t that the no list stops you playing songs. It’s that the no list asks you to start playing a whole heap of other songs. Songs that are just much better for lindy hop and balboa.
I know I come away from the event a much better DJ. Two thumbs up from me.
So far as skills for playing band break sets go, I usually have a few rules:
- Don’t go into the hardcore high-energy territory. Keep the vibe bubbling along, but never quite climaxing. The band should be the peak;
- Don’t get too low energy – keep the room bubbling along;
- Play something with a ‘building’ energy just before the band goes on (like that brilliant version of One o’clock Jump), so that the band go on stage to an amped up, excited crowd;
- Don’t play songs the band will play. So this means introducing yourself to the band, getting a set list, and getting an idea of the type of music they’ll play;
- You’re not the star here, your job is to be the support act for the band, warming the room for them, keeping the dancers interested, and generally helping the band have a good gig. So don’t show off, don’t do any stunt DJing, don’t be a jerk, be on time, be easy to work with, MC if you have to, keep you eyes on the band and be ready to play with zero notice;
- Introduce yourself to the sound engineer, the MC, the band leader, and the stage manager. Be helpful and useful, and do a soundcheck if you can;
- Don’t play hi-fi stuff, especially not hi-fi 50s bands like Basie’s, because no modern band will sound as good;
- Complement the band’s style, but don’t echo it too perfectly. eg SSAS often play a lot of Ellington, so I try to stay away from the Ellington favourites;
- Don’t go nuts on tempos; keep the music accessible and don’t tire out the crowd before the band comes back;
- Don’t play anything too crude or too memorable. A band break DJ is just filling in music, keeping the vibe going while the band literally take a break. So don’t outshine the band.
And finally, all this holds true if the band is good. If the band really sucks, then you follow all these rules, except you play really good songs that give everyone a chance to dance.
I think my favourite set was the last one, where I did band breaks for the Stockholm All Stars. I was feeling very tired, but also very relaxed and willing to try songs and combinations I never use. The room was super crowded and hot during band sets, but it emptied out during the breaks, except for a few hardcore dancers. I was trying to keep the music low-key, and not compete with the fun vibe of the band. Nothing hi-fi.
I was quite proud of the June Christy/Mildred Bailey transition. Both are really great bands, and the vocalists have brilliant timing.
I played quite a bit of Chick Webb this Herrang, and really leant on the big bands generally. I especially like that version of Tain’t What You Do because it’s so _good_ (Webb’s band is just GREAT), you see dancers consider shim shamming, then just give in and swing out. Because it’s the best. It was also fun to see dancers get into that Big Apple song (my current fave), and to try out ‘big apple’ steps and claps and things to it. You can see that I was working with a few female vocalists, which I don’t often do.
There was a lot of Basie played in camp this year, which I got a bit tired of, tbh, but I also started to really enjoy Lester Young’s weirdness, especially in the later years. I enjoyed adding in the ‘odder’ later stuff of artists like Slam Stewart, JC Heard, Buck Clayton, etc. You can see bop on the horizon, but it’s not here yet. My general rule with this sort of more ‘interesting’ swinging jazz is to not play it during the high energy/crazy parts of the party, and to not play it in beginner hour. Instead I play it in more contemplative parts of the night, when peeps are more relaxed, and there are more experienced or experimental dancers around. ie band breaks, late shifts, etc.
Look, the bottom line is that 30s and 40s classic swinging big and small bands doing proper swinging jazz (not jump blues or early rnb, not nola, not hifi, not 50s stuff) makes for brilliant lindy hop, balboa, and jazz dancing. It swings like a gate, it’s structurally predictable enough to improvise over, and it’s technically bloody sophisticated. When you add in the talents of people like Teddy Wilson, Billy Holiday, and Benny Goodman, you just can’t go wrong.
I’m also enjoying working with a range of tempos. Not just super fast, not just ‘medium tempo’. All the tempos. One of my goals this Herrang was to get West End Blues into a set at some point. It’s the best jazz recording ever. I did get it in there (in a slow drag set), but to me it felt like a continuation of the DJing I was doing in other sets. In part because I had a strong feel for Louis Armstrong this July. I played a stack of him in Vienna, and then in Herrang. I noticed that when he was with a good, solidly swinging band his playing just sparked light into the dancers. He was a true gift to the world.
Anyway, this is what I played.
Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home 137 1938 Pee Wee Russell’s Rhythm Makers (Max Kaminsky, Dicky Wells, Al Gold, James P. Johnson, Freddie Green, Wellman Braud, Zutty Singleton)
The Jumpin’ Jive 145 1939 Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra (Rex Stewart, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney, Clyde Hart, Billy Taylor, Sonny Greer, Fred Norman)
The One I Love (Belongs To Someone Else) 150 1945 June Christy and The Kentones
Lover Come Back To Me 154 1941 Mildred Bailey acc. by Herman Chittison, Dave Barbour, Frenchy Covetti, Jimmy Hoskins, Delta Rhythm Boys)
Wacky Dust 150 1938 Chick Webb Orchestra (Ella Fitzgerald, Mario Bauza, Bobby Stark, Taft Jordan (v), George Matthews, Nat Story, Sandy Williams, Garvin Bushell, Hilton Jefferson, Teddy McRae, Wayman Carver, Tommy Fulford, Bobby Johnson, Beverly Peer)
D.B. Blues 155 1945 Lester Young and his Band (Vic Dickenson, Dodo Marmorosa, Red Callender, Henry Tucker Green)
‘Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That Cha Do It) 160 1939 Chick Webb and his Orchestra (Ella Fitzgerald, Dick Vance, Bobby Stark, Taft Jordan, George Matthews, Nat Story, Sandy Williams, Garvin Bushell, Hilton Jefferson, Teddy McRae, Wayman Carver, Tommy Fulford, Bobby Johnson, Beverly Peer)
Don’t Be That Way 147 1938 Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Russel, Johnny Hodges, Allan Reuss, Al Hall, Johnny Blowers, Nan Wynn)
One O’Clock Jump 175 1941 Metronome All Star Band (Cootie Williams, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Tommy Dorsey, J.C. Higginbotham, Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, Toots Mondello, Coleman Hawkins, Tex Beneke, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Artie Bernstein, Buddy Rich)
Strictly Instrumental 132 1941 Harry James and his Orchestra
Big Apple 166 1937 Teddy Wilson and his orchestra (Harry James, Archie Rosati, Vido Musso, Allan Reuss, John Simmons, Cozy Cole, Frances Hunt)
I Want The Waiter (with the water) 151 1939 Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra
Get Up 144 1939 Skeets Tolbert and his Gentlemen of Swing (Carl Smith, Otis Hicks, Clarence Easter Harry Prather, Hubert Pettaway)
Trav’lin’ All Alone 170 1937 Billie Holiday Orchestra (Buck Clayton, Buster Bailey, Lester Young, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones)
Savoy Strut (WM 1001-1) 158 1939 Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Cootie Williams, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Billy Taylor, Sonny Greer, Buddy Clark)
Free Eats 163 1947 Count Basie and his Orchestra (Ed Lewis, Emmett Berry, Snooky Young, Harry Edison, Ted Donnelly, George Matthews, Eli Robinson, Bill Johnson, Preston Love, Rudy Rutherford, Buddy Tate, Paul Gonsalves, Jack Washington, Freddie Green, Walter Page, Jo Jones)
Love Me Or Leave Me 162 1947 Pat Flowers and his Rhythm (Dan Perri, Charles Green, Arthur Trappier)
Don’t Be That Way 136 1938 Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra (Cootie Williams, Johnny Hodges, Edgar Sampson, Jess Stacy, Allen Reuss, Billy Taylor, Sonny Greer) 2:36
Leap Frog 159 1941 Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Frank Galbreath, Shelton Hemphill, Gene Prince, George Washington, Norman Greene, Henderson Chambers, Rupert Cole, Carl Frye, Prince Robinson, Joe Garland, Luis Russell, Lawrence Lucie, Hayes Alvis, Sid Catlett)
September Song 160 1948 Harry James Band Live
I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise 163 1945 Eddie Condon and His Orchestra (Yank Lawson, Lou McGarity, Edmond Hall, Joe Dixon, Joe Bushkin, Sid Weiss, George Wettling)
Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home 137 1938 Pee Wee Russell’s Rhythm Makers (Max Kaminsky, Dicky Wells, Al Gold, James P. Johnson, Freddie Green, Wellman Braud, Zutty Singleton)
Frenesi 147 1940 Benny Goodman and his Orchestra (Jimmy Maxwell, Irving Goodman, Alec Fila, Cootie Williams, Lou McGarity, Cutty Cutshal, Gus Bivona, Skip Martin, B Snyder, Georgie Auld, Jack Henderson, Fletcher Henderson, Bernie Leighton, Mike Bryan, A Bernstein, Jaeger)
The Goon Came On (GG) 144 1944 Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra (Joe Thomas)