old and new

My new CD has another version of Jive at Five for my collection.
I love this song more than anything. I love the way the rhythm section stomps along (hello Freddy and Jo – guitar and drums – and bass-player-whose-name-I-do-not-know). I love the featured muted trumpet. I even love the wandering saxophone. And the piano? Lovely. My favourite version (which features all these things) is a 1939 jobby, by Count Basie (and orchestra) of course. It trucks on in at 175pm.
I DJ it very rarely, in part because I have been afraid of ‘higher’ tempos until very lately (we had an epiphany last week – quicker transitions. Yes, yes, we knew, we had been told before. But now we Know). And it’s ‘lowerenergy’, and I tend to prefer playing faster stuff only if it has ‘highenergy’.
But things have changed, now, so I will soon play it every single time I DJ. Every. Single. Time.
I never tire of this gem.
I have also played a version by Jo Jones from this album, which is wonderful. Jo Jones (whom I wrote about here) was Basie’s drummer for ages. And rocks). That’s a great song, but it’s 4.07mins long, and has a big fat bass solo in the middle which goes down like a ton of bricks with dancers. Especially since the whole song is 182bpm. It is still a mighty track, made even more wonderful by Jo’s spoken introduction: “you hold up five fingers in each hand” and the chunky drum intro. The trucking rhythm section is emphasised (not surprising, considering Jo is a drummer, and this is his band), though the piano still gets in there… but with more vigour, and I think it’s all in a different key (again, I’ll have to think about it) – taken down a bit…?
But this new Basie album has another version of Jive at Five on it. It rolls along at a ponderous 147bpm, which kind of kills the sprightly, uplifting feeling of the original (sounds corny, but it really is uplifting – it makes you feel like trotting along on your tippy toes… well, that and stomping along with the rhythm doods).
But it’s a neat track, with a trombone solo substituted for the sax solo (I think it’s substituting – I can’t remember – something’s different there, anyways. I’ll have to have a look), some nice additions and embellishments to the original version. It’ll be a good track to play for noober dancers.
I have embarked on a Grand Scheme of late – playing newer ‘more accessible’ (ie hi-fi, or slightly slower, or simpler) versions of great old school tracks, then (over a series of gigs – not during the one song!) substituting the ‘originals’ and fading out the newer versions. This has worked a treat with songs like Viper’s Moan, where I started with Mora’s Modern Rhythmists’ version, then used the Willie Bryant version (which is vastly superior – I am currently obsessed with Bryant and his band. This is some HOT shit). Similar stuff has happend with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra’s version of C-Jam Blues (though I am thoroughly sick of that song, and wouldn’t play it again unless I had to), with other DJs (obviously echoing my sentiments) pulling out alternative versions.
I really like C-Jam Blues, but my preferred version is a Duke Ellington version from 1941 (the Blanton Webster era) which sits on 178bpm and rolls along. The LCJO version rocks – it’s live and very exciting – but it sits on 143bpm, and while the energy really builds in this top-notch contemporary reworking of a great song – it kind of loses the original energy of the faster version. There are some different things going on in the rhythm section too, and the neat violin solo in the third phrase has been replaced by a trumpet, which, while cool, isn’t quite as cool as the original. But that could just be the gypsy jazz in me showing.
I don’t play it very much, but Sydney Bechet’s version of Stompy Jones would be a good way of getting to Ellington’s (fabulous) version. Interestingly, Bechet’s version sits on 216bpm, while Ellington’s is about 199bpm. Ellington’s is vastly superior, in part because he’s using a whole orchestra, while the Bechet version I most prefer (Bechet and his New Orleans Footwarmers) uses a smaller group (5 or 6 or something). One of the neat things about the Ellington song (as I discovered reading Gunther Schuller’s Swing Era) is the layers and rhythms (layers of rhythms?) going on in his version.
The Ellington version I prefer is a 1934 job, while Bechet’s is from 1940. I could talk about Bechet and revivalist New Orleans jazz, and the way the rhythm section works in each, but I can’t really be bothered.
One of the side effects of listening to all this stuff with an ear to dancing is that I’ve become obsessed with rhythm sections – with the way each note is played in terms of tempo and timing and accent and emphasis, rather than in terms of melody or tone or pitch. I guess it’s because it’s difficult to make those things visible in your body, when you’re essentially working with a percussive instrument.
I’d never really thought about all this rhythm stuff when I was singing a lot at school – then I was all about pitch and stuff.
I’m also fascinated by the idea of polyrhythms. Which I need to learn more about.

The Count Basie Story – Count Basie

This lovely thing came in the mail today. Recorded in 1957, 58 and 1960, this is a collection of Basie’s big hits re-recorded by his ‘new testament’ band. It’s interesting stuff.
I’m not usually such a big fan of new testament Basie, but I do find him useful for DJing, as it’s a nice cross-over point for old school scratchy fans and hi-fi kids. This CD is great because it’s such good quality, is an interesting idea (especially in reference to Basie, whose earlier band(s) had such different sounds to his later big band(s)). If you don’t think about the ‘originals’, this is one sweet album. I know a few DJs/dancers who’d love it.
I’ll go through and listen to each song in comparison to the ‘original’ or earlier recordings and let you know what I think.
I don’t doubt that this will give me some useful fodder for my sets at SLX… now, if only I could figure out how to reinstall my bpm counter after the Great Reinstallation of 2006, prompted by the incredible CRAPtitude of itunes 7.0. BPM counter tips for mac would be very welcome.

Duke Ellington’s House of Lords

Ok, so a little while ago I crapped on about Bluesology.
Today I’d like to crap on about House of Lords, which I have on acomplete centennial something or other collection (well worth the (massive) cost – it truly is a ‘complete’ collection… well, for that one label. whatever that may be). It’s live, recorded in 1966 and it’s five minutes and thirtyfive seconds long. It’s also 136bpm and I classify it as ‘groovy swinging’, which means that it has the tsi-tsi-tsii high hat sound and rhythm section, but trucks along – not that sort of formlessly swingingly groove that irritates old scratchy fans. Because it’s Ellington, it really cooks. And it really feels like it’s trucking along – grooving, but rocking. Chunky but still palatable for the smoothy types.
So, anyways, the thing I like about it is a) it’s live, and b) you can hear Duke laughing – no, chortling – away in the solos. The band are really enjoying this stuff, and it’s really rolling along – you feel like it’s going somewhere. Kind of makes me feel like this is the type of stuff Oscar Peterson would do if he had more guts. Guts as in, if his music was a little more visceral.
I’d certainly like to dance de lindy hop to this song. Which sounds as if it’s really just drums/percussion, piano and bass. And groaning adn chortling.
Matter of fact, I wonder if there aren’t two pianos in there – could it actually be Peterson? Or maybe it’s Basie? I’d hazzard the former, though I don’t think they really worked together (actually, what would I know).
Dang! I just NEED to rush home and look at the liner notes!
At this point I really wish I could insert a sound clip so that you could all listen along with me, but of course, there are copyright problems there. Maybe I need to get into that streaming radio action?

Johnny Hodges

Yes, I know it’s another story about music, but, look. I did say I was going to try to think less about telly and more about music, didn’t I?
So, anyway, I’m now pretty keen on scoring myself some Johnny Hodges. Apparently he not only did stuff with people like Ellington, but also had a band(s) of his own. Which I must now discover.

Duke Ellington: The Duke: The Columbia Years 1927-1962 [BOX SET]

Duke Ellington: The Duke: The Columbia Years 1927-1962 [BOX SET] [ORIGINAL RECORDING REMASTERED]

It finally arrived, and I’m now one happy ducky. As you can probably tell, I’ve been bingeing on Ellington a bit lately. I now have quite a few excellent albums, and of course, there are plenty more to get. Ellington is one of those artists who continually surprise you with excellent music. His career was so long, and he did such diverse work, there’s always something for everyone.
This collection is neat because it offers some excellently remastered old faves (I’m especially happy to have a decent quality version of It don’t mean a thing (1932)), but also some more recent stuff – especially some nice 50s stuff which I didn’t have. I’m still not sure I feel entirely comfortable with the heavy duty high hat action in this stuff, but you can’t deny the standard of musicianship in some of these amazing recordings. The quality isn’t always better (I have some heinous Blanton-Webster Ellington stuff), but you get some great music.
Personally, I’d much rather dance old school, to that late 20s, 30s and some 40s stuff (depends on who and what it is, though – I adore Hampton, and he tends to sit in that later moment – 40s and 50s), but I do like to DJ across the board. And when you’re not dancing – you’re DJing – it’s easier to handle the 50s stuff at a dance. Pity the dancers, though…
Well, actually, most dancers don’t really mind – beginners are certainly the least picky in regards to specific eras, and most of the more tolerant experienced dancers would simply rather we played goodmusic than stuck religiously to one era… unless we can DJ well within that era.
As a DJ, I do actually like to play a wider range of stuff, if only to save my brain having to deal with balancing the levels of all-scratch, all the time.

Duke Ellington and his orchestra 1949-1950

Duke Ellington and his orchestra 1949-1950.
A chronological classic, so we’re listening to a comprehensive overview of a particular period, but not truly excellent quality. I picked this sweety up a few weeks ago (again from caiman.com, via amazon – fabulously quick delivery and cheap) so as to secure myself a whole album’s worth of stuff like B-Sharp Boston, a song Doz got me onto.
It’s neat stuff. I wasn’t really all that aware of Ellinton’s more mainstream stuff from the late 40s/early 50s – I have a bit of it, but it’s stuff on compilations or overviews of his career, so I’ve not listened to it in isolation. I also have to say that I’m always distracted by the earlier stuff – I am passionate about very late 20s and early 30s (1928-1931 mostly) Ellington – and find it difficult to move past songs like Flaming Youth and Rockin’ in Rhythm. Which is probably why I find it difficult to DJ a lot of later Ellington – I simply don’t know it as well.
…that’s actually an exaggeration – I do play quite a bit of early 40s Ellington. And love it.
So anyway, back to the early 50s Ellington.
I like this stuff. When it’s not veering off into artyfarty stuff, there’s good dancing action on there. I think I like Joog Joog because it manages to use that big vocal sound Ellington liked for his stage shows with accessible ‘swing vocals’ – so you get the singer from Creole Love Call (sorry, I’ve forgotten her name, and I don’t have it in the laptop yet) teamed up with someone poppier, and you get a rockingly good pop song.
So, as far as DJable music goes, this is a goody – a few I’d happily play for dancers (and have – and had them go down well), plus some arty stuff purely for your own listening pleasure.
Two thumbs.

the tyranny of distance: audiences and performers/texts in high and low art forms

Laura has asked an interesting question here on a previous post:

…I would like to ask a question about “the everyday”, in those CS quote marks – is consumption of canonical or high art an everyday activity, and if it isn’t what is it? Posted by: Laura at August 7, 2006 03:30 PM

I think the man to answer this question is right up there in the cs canon (or at least the audience studies canon). Take it away Henry Jenkins
I skip about a bit in the next part of this post (I’m a bit distracted, so I can’t really take time to formulate a sensible argument)…
I think the key point (in my approach, anyhoo) is not so much the nature of the actual text or practice, but the way it is institutionalised, commodified and ‘valued’ by various cultural and social forces.
I’ve been looking at this issue in reference to dance (of course), comparing the way ballet and vernacular dances like hip hop or breaking are approached by audiences.
[In an aside, the discussions on wikipedia’s project dance (esp the talk pages) – people want to capitalise the names of specific ballet choreographies, but aren’t so sure about how to capitalise vernacular dances like lindy or hip hop].
I’ve also noticed that the way swing dancers – DJs in particular – approach jazz is quite different to the way the genre is approached by jazzniks. One of the clearest and nicest illustrations of how different groups imagine jazz lies in the way Bennett’s Lane puts on gigs (Bennett’s Lane is a well respected local jazz venue – devoted to ‘quality’ jazz). They are very strict about noise during performances, and do NOT allow dancing. This is such a strange and bizarre contrast to the way jazz functioned socially in the 20s, 30s and 40s – it was pub music. It’s also a serious contrast to the way I experience and enjoy jazz at the Laundry in Fitzroy on Saturday afternoons: it’s loud, it’s full of smoke and drinkers, the band members will get down off the stage and kick audience arse if they give them trouble. They don’t care if we dance, and there is – as a consequence – a really exciting and dynamic relationship between dancers, musicians and audience at these gigs.
But at Bennett’s Lane (and other venues around the place), there’s a definite positioning of jazz as ‘art’, which must be ‘appreciated’ from a distance, rather than enjoyed with the body, up close and personal. There are quite culturally specific ways of demonstrating appreciation going on. Just as Jenkins noted that Checkhov fans used different language to describe their interest in theatre, there are clear differences in the way certain groups approach jazz and music.
Here’s a quote from chapter one of my thesis about the relationship between audiences and performers, audiences and texts in dance:

Considering dance, whether vernacular dance or performance dance, as a public discourse, allows us to analyse it for ideological content, for the ways in which identity markers such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, age and so on are represented and valued by a particular community of people. Reading vernacular dance as everyday discourse encourages us to see social dance as an exchange of ideas, and as a site for the negotiation of identity and social relations between individuals and groups within a community. I draw clear distinctions between vernacular dance traditions, where dance occurs in everyday spaces, between ordinary people, and concert or performance dance traditions, where dance is relegated to particular ‘dance spaces’ which are separate from the everyday spaces of a community. Ward makes this distinction: “there is a categorical divide between dancers and the audience in performance dance …that does not exist between dancers and spectators in social dance, where those roles are interchangeable” (18). I read this dynamic relationship between the roles of ‘spectator’ and ‘dancer’ in social or vernacular dance as a clear example not only of call-and-response, but also of the ways in which readers participate in the making of meaning in textual interpretation. (pg5)

Later on I add this:

The word ‘vernacular’ in a discussion of dance refers to the everyday or ordinary, common dance of a particular group or culture. Vernacular dance is distinguished from concert or theatre dance through its positioning in everyday spaces, rather than existing only as a formalised, and usually choreographed, performance of a particular dance on a concert stage. Vernacular dance is intrinsically participatory and happens in all sorts of spaces, both public and private. It is also necessarily mutable and reflexive, responding to the cultural needs of its performers. (pg9)

I wonder if one of the key differences between ‘low’ and ‘high’ cultural forms and practices is this issue of distance – there is (in Western culture …?) a divide between the audience and text/practice in high art forms, whereas the ‘low’ forms encourage close proximity between audiences and texts – you have only to consider the Big Brother website and voting system to see how particular industries and textual forms encourage audiences to get close to texts. If only so that they can be more easily targetted by advertisers.
It can’t be an accident that high art forms like ballet and opera have trouble keeping audience numbers up, and that various marketing strategies that aim to make these sorts of forms more approachable to wider audiences are at once endorsed, yet also regarded with some suspicion by those sections of our community which have a vested interest in maintaining social heirarchies.
…there’s a good article by Joann Kealiinohomoku on reading ballet as an ‘ethnic’ dance that examines how race and class work in high and low art form (and in anthropological approaches to ‘culture’ and ‘society’): Kealiinohomoku, Joann. “An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance.” What Is Dance? Readings in Theory and Criticism. Eds. Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. 533 – 49.

it’s a tall order to claim yourself a guiding force in the dancing lives of a few thousand dancers

I have in the past noted the difference between ‘classic’ swinging jazz of the ‘Swing Era’ (ie 1930s-40s) and ‘new testament’ swing (ie post WWII), focussing on the role of the rhythm section.
I still find julius‘ discussion of the topic over on yehoodi the most useful for discussion of jazz and lindy hop:

This is all based on informal research, i.e. facts that I cannot document. They are opinions based on watching clips and talking to oldtimers and people who have talked to oldtimers and watching oldtimers and new dancers dance “now” and “back in the day” … and listening to a LOT of music.
Swing-era music (henceforth called “swing”) is driven primarily by the rhythm section. The bass would play on the quarter note and the drummer would beat the same quarter note with the bass drum. The guitarist would also chord on the quarter note along with the bassist and drummer. In addition, the drummer kept the rhythm swinging by playing a swung rhythm on the hi-hat. Rhythmic motifs (such as horn riffs) were often played in unison rhythm (although not unison notes, which were a feature of bop later on). Drum solos often featured march-style drum rolls and rarely used polyrhythmic devices such as playing three with the left hand and four with the right.
The combination of guitarist, drummer, and bass playing on the quarter note made swing music very propulsive. At that time, jazz was not played behind the beat as much as it is now. The rhythm section was almost, but not quite, playing in unison on the quarter note.
The dance reflected this propulsion by emphasizing quarter notes and the swung rhythm. The steps of the basic that we know today are derived from that rhythm: 1, 2, 3 and 4 (swung), 5, 6, 7 and 8. There was very little upper body movement, although the limbs were extensively used to reflect energy and excitement. Charleston steps (often in unison with your partner) were very common because of the tempo and feel of the music. (Note that 20s Charleston is much more staccato and than 30s Charleston, because hot jazz was much more staccato than swing music.)
If we listen to post-war music, we detect a difference in the feel compared to pre-war music. Jimmy Blanton revolutionized bass playing with Ellington’s band by using more ornamental techniques on the bass, and Ray Brown brought bass virtuosity to the fore by playing far less staccato than swing bassists did. His playing virtually defined the feel of post-war straightahead jazz by holding the bass notes and creating a much deeper “pocket” for the rhythm section. With the advent of bop, the drums began to lay behind the beat, which was now kept almost entirely by the bassist. Drummers moved the swing rhythm to the ride cymbal; the bass drum was used to “drop bombs” — playing very loud accents, only barely playing quarter notes, and sometimes even playing on the offbeat.
Arrangements for bands began to feature more rhythmically complex parts and the solos began to use more than the basic major, minor, diminished, augmented, seventh, and ninth chords of swing. The upshot of this new harmonic and rhythmic complexity was a change in the dance, with Frankie notably complaining to Dizzy Gillespie (I think) that you couldn’t dance (lindy hop) to it.
In the modern era, people commonly dance to straightahead jazz from the 50s … not bop, but music heavily influenced by bop’s harmonic concepts and post-war, way-behind-the-beat rhythm. The music chosen by DJs today also tends to be on the slower side than swing era music taken as a whole, and there are a lot of influences from West Coast (which was itself derived from lindy hop) observable in modern lindy hop. For example, the upper body is used often to express the music; frequently dancers will acknowledge musical “hits” with motion.
Why this change has occurred, I cannot say. One of the first people I encountered who taught this style of dancing were Paul and Sharon. When I was first learning I learned from people who had learned from old-timers directly, and were commonly emulating the rhythm-based style of lindy hop dancing. Then I saw people in San Francisco dancing and they were doing a more melody-based style of lindy hop.
Over time I think lindy hop has embraced both aspects of musicality (rhythm and melody), but some areas of the country are still locked in one or the other.
Edited to add something a bit more judgmental:
Dancing to the melody makes it very hard to dance fast, because it feels as if one is being unmusical in not acknowledging the music going by. Dancing to the rhythm makes it very easy to dance fast and requires better balance and technique because there is less time to recover from mistakes. However, dancing to the rhythm makes dancing slow less interesting.
The very best dancers in the world dance to the music, employing whatever is appropriate and not worrying whether the music is “too fast” or “too slow”, because they have integrated everything about the music into their dancing. Dancing reflects the music, not the other way around. I am fairly sure that lindy hop, alone of almost every social dance in the rest of the world, is danced to the widest tempo range of music. That’s one of the things I really like about it, that I can go balls-out on some insane flag-waving swing anthem, or dance more intimately if I want (Posted: Tue May 23, 2006 8:55 pm).

Personally, I prefer the sort of ‘classic swing’ sound to the post WWII sound, which I tend to think of as Old and New Testament, respectively, in part as a response to the influence of Basie on this issue – the man’s career ran from the 20s to the 80s, and he was one of the most influential band leaders in the big band swinging jazz genre.
I’ve been listening to some Jo Jones recently, and reading the Allmusic entry here, where they note:

Jo Jones shifted the timekeeping role of the drums from the bass drum to the hi-hat cymbal, greatly influencing all swing and bop drummers.

This is an interesting point, as Jones played with Basie’s band for a chunk of his career, and formed the backbone of Basie’s rhythm section, with Walter Page (bass), Freddie Green (guitar) and Basie himself (piano). To think that this man might have played a key part in the shift from bass drum to high hat in the foundational rhythm of a big band is kind of a tall order. I know nothing beyond the stuff I read in liner notes and on the internet (hardly excellent sources, but you know how it is – I’m too busy with other stuff to read up on this… though I’d dearly love to audit a decent undergrad course on the history of jazz), so I can’t really comment intelligently on this topic. But it’s worth thinking about.
I am a fan of Lionel Hampton, who was a percussionist (drums, vibraphone, assorted other) and bandleader (though I’m not sure what role he played in his bands’ arrangements and compositions), and I’ve noticed that big bands tended to reflect the instruments and interests of their leader – so you get a different emphasis in Benny Goodman’s stuff, than you do with someone like Basie, in part because they played clarinet and piano, respectively.
This stuff is really interesting to think about when you’re comparing the work indivdidual members of a group did with their other bands – I’m obsessed with Benny Goodman’s small groups, and have been enthralled by the differences between this group, Goodman’s bigger band stuff, and the role of Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, etc, in those small groups and in their own big bands. You can really hear the musical emphasis shift from Goodman and the clarinet to, for example, the vibes/rhythm section in Hamp’s bands.
So the fact that Basie played in his rhythm section, and that his band was so influential in swinging jazz is kind of important.
…I’m not sure where I’m going with this, really.
But I suppose that one of my ongoing concerns as a DJ is how how to balance the old testament sound with the new testament. As a dancer, I much prefer the chunk-chunk sound of the old testament rhythm section – that high hat action in some of the 50s stuff (and late 40s, depending on who it is) gets up my bum. As a DJ, I’m much more flexible – I will happily play stuff from the 30s through to the 50s for lindy hoppers (with deviations into more modern stuff in the old school style), and from the 20s (and more recently if it rocks) for charleston and other dances. I feel I have a ‘responsibility’ as a DJ to sample good music from all these historical periods, and more importantly, from the range of swinging jazz that is available. While I feel I can comment on musical choice and taste and its impact on dancing in my local community as a dancer, I am more reluctant to make those value-laden judgements as a DJ, perhaps because of the perceived power and influence of DJs in the swing scene. I’ve seen people do some awsome shit on the dance floor to all types of music, and who am I to dismiss something simply because it reflects the music of a period which post-dates the ‘original’ swing era?
It’s a difficult issue, because I do feel that I need to promote the old testament stuff in Melbourne because it is so under represented in the DJing of local DJs, and in the teaching of local dance teachers. We have a preponderance of ‘groove’ music, a definite emphasis on not-old-school dancing, to the point where new dancers frequently fail to recognise someone dancing in the ‘olden days’ style as lindy hop (and often don’t know that name for ‘swing dancing’ at all).
Yet, at the same time, my job as a DJ is to get people dancing, and if old school jazz doesn’t do it for them… I can either trick them into it, leading them gently back to the Good Old Days, using such tools as the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, Mora’s Modern Rhythmists and the Kansas City Band, or I can hop on the old high horse and play with no reference to what’s going on on the dance floor around/below me.
This seems the perennial question for a DJ who plays almost exclusively in their own, local scene (particularly one which is as parochial as Melbourne).
My solution, though, has been to follow my nose – to seek out the artists and music that I really enjoy, and to combine them in ways while I’m DJing that will get dancers out onto the floor despite themselves. Kind of a honey rather than vinegar approach. There are a number of on-the-spot techniques for doing this, from quick transitions between musical styles and tempos, through to using a combination of old recordings, new remastered recordings, and recordings by new artists, and I’m endeavouring to master as many of these skills as possible.
One of the key parts of this process is simply collecting and listening to as much music as possible.
In Melbourne today, many, hell most of the DJs simply swap their collections, rather than seeking out new music on their own. One of the clearest results of this has been a definite lack of variation in the music we hear out dancing in this town. One of the less direct results is a lack of diversity in the dancing and improvisation we see on the floor – if dancers do not hear ‘new’ music (whether in terms of individual songs, or different styles), and dance is about making music visible, we are unlikely to see ‘new’ stuff on the dance floor if DJs continue with these small-pond approaches to music and DJing. And speaking as an old school hippy feminist, diversity = good. It’s sure as fuck more interesting than homogeneity.
As I am finding, though, the exchange of music between DJs serves as more than simply the sharing of music and the expansion of individual collections – it is a key vehicle for the development of interpersonal and professional relationships between DJs, and between new and more experienced DJs. To refuse to swap is a delicate matter, and one must tread carefully the line between ethical approaches to copyright legislation and forging relationships with other DJs. Particularly when one does not access to other avenues of becoming part of ‘the gang’ in this community.
With all this in mind, then, how can I go about both satisfying dancers’ desire for the familiar, and exploring and sharing my own musical tastes and passions, and consequently, encouraging DJs to include music that suits my tastes, so that I have the opportunity to dance to this stuff as well?
One the one hand, there are the practical DJing techniques I’ve discussed above.
But I’m also increasingly of the conviction that DJing for new dancers is really important.
I enjoy DJing for new dancers. The first set of the night is usually considered the ‘beginners” set in Melbourne, in part because of the importance of pre-social dancing classes (usually populated by beginners). When I began DJing earlier this year, that first set was dismissed by most other DJs, many of whom wouldn’t accept sets in that slot. As a new DJ desperate for experience, I happily took on thost sets. I discovered that the new dancers were not only fresh and excited about dancing (unlike the more jaded, cynical and decidedly picky more experienced types), they were also excited about the music, and far more open to a wide range of music.
So I enjoy playing for beginners, even if it means that I have to be careful with tempos.
And it means that I’m wondering if perhaps I should be strutting my stuff as a DJ at more beginner-friendly, after-class venues in order to advertise my tastes, create a market and perhaps ensure a greater tolerance for wider musical styles in the future?
Those sorts of claims feel insufferably smug and arrogant: it’s a tall order to claim yourself a guiding force in the dancing lives of a few thousand dancers.
But I’ll report back, and we’ll see what happens.

Joe Turner’s Boss of the Blues

There’s a reason they call these doods shouters.
The second of my amazingly quick-to-arrive CDs from Caiman (less than 2 weeks from Europe), I’m sucking up Big Joe Turner’s Boss of the Blues.
The super-jazz-nerds amongst you are no doubt thrilling to the thought of Freddie Greene playing on this 1956 recording. The rest of you should just settle in and enjoy… take care to get a firm grip on the sofa, lest Turner blows you away.
I’ve not had that much experience with Joe Turner. I have bunches of his stuff with people like Basie, and I’m pretty fond of most of it, but this is the first proper Big Joe Turner album I’ve bought. I like it. It’s uncompromising. I like those shouters – I love Dinah Washington especially. I like the thought that most of them started singing in church, and all that shouting is about Jesus. But Jesus dancing with his skirt up round his hips, on a table, dancing the crazy-I’m-dancing!-I’m-dancing!-like-a-fool type of dancing.
There’s lots on this album for DJing, from saucy blues to jumpy lindy, but our favourites in this house are the boogie woogie bits – that version of Roll ’em Pete makes you want to run around like a fool*. Sometimes the quality is kind of fagged** by Turner’s volume. But that’s kind of cool. Like feedback on a Nirvana album in 1992.
*funnily enough, I was just listening to my ‘lindy music’ on shuffle and came across another version of that song that I really, really like and wish I had more opportunities to play for dancers (from Basie’s Breakfast Dance and BBQ). It clocks in at 230bpm, so it’s kind of not all that playable most of the time. It starts: “Well I got a gal, she lives up on the hill” and continues…
**using this term the way my dad would – meaning ‘tired’ or totally buggered from overwork.

Alberta Hunter’s Downhearted Blues

While I fear I’ll die of old age before my order from raisedonrecords (via Amazon) comes, I’ve received both my recent acquisitions form caiman.com via amazon (they rock – Caiman are always really quick to deliver and no hassle to deal with). The first was Alberta Hunter’s Downhearted Blues, a live recording by one of my favourite artists. You can read about her over on allmusic, but I think the phrase ‘dirty lesbian nanna’ pretty much sums it up. This album is fun – you can hear that nanna working the crowd. Not so much for DJing, but it’s certainly worth listening to, and heaps of fun.