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September 4, 2010

8track: Teddy Wilson plays piano

Posted by dogpossum on September 4, 2010 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

I've made a new 8track.

Here's a direct link to the mix.

I stole the photo for this mix from here, the Life Magazine site. The photo is actually taken from one of the Benny Goodman Madhattan Room gigs, and I've included one of the live recordings from that gig in this mix.

Ok, so this 8track is Teddy Wilson themed. I love this man. He played in so many bands, doing all sorts of stuff from hot New Orleans revivalist action to scorching 1930s big bands. He was also the king of precise, beautifully delicate solo work, and of course, his work with Billie Holiday is beyond compare. I've chosen a few songs from 1932 to 1946, with a range of bands. Here's the track list:

(title band album bpm year song length)

I've Found A New Baby New Orleans Feetwarmers (Tommy Ladnier, Teddy Nixon, Sidney Bechet, Hank Duncan, Wilson Myers, Morris Morand) The Young Bechet 269 1932 3:14
High Society Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Teddy Wilson) Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra 1932-1933 250 1933 3:27
Swingin' With Mez Max Kaminsky, Freddy Goodman, Ben Gusick, Floyd O'Brien, Milton 'Mezz' Mezzrow, Benny Carter, Johnny Russell, Teddy Wilson, Pops Foster Mezz Mezzrow: Complete Jazz Series 1928 - 1936 139 6th November 1933 3:05
Easy Like (Take B) Wingy Manone and his Orchestra (Dicky Wells, Artie Shaw, Bud Freeman, Jelly Roll Morton, Teddy Wilson, John Kirby, Kaiser Marshall) The Wingy Manone Collection Vol. 2 1934 2:38
In The Slot (Take A) Wingy Manone and his Orchestra (Dicky Wells, Artie Shaw, Bud Freeman, Jelly Roll Morton, Teddy Wilson, John Kirby, Kaiser Marshall) The Wingy Manone Collection Vol. 2 243 1934 2:50
Jungle Love Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Russel, Johnny Hodges, Allan Reuss, Al Hall, Johnny Blowers, Nan Wynn) Teddy Wilson (disc 2) 190 1935 2:50
Chimes At The Meeting Willie Bryant and his Orchestra (Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole) Willie Bryant 1935-1936 245 1935 3:01
Long Gone From Bowling Green Willie Bryant and his Orchestra (Teddy Wilson) Willie Bryant 1935-1936 201 1935 2:51
Warmin' Up Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Roy Eldridge, Buster Bailey, Chu Berry) Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 2) 241 1936 3:20
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, Part 1 Benny Goodman Quartet (Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Martha Tilton) RCA Victor Small Group Recordings (Disc 2) 176 1937 3:27
Avalon Benny Goodman Quartet (Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton) Benny Goodman: The Complete Madhattan Room Broadcasts (vol 1: Satan Takes a Holiday) 258 1937 2:47
Let's Call The Whole Thing Off Billie Holiday and her Orchestra (Buster Bailey, Teddy Wilson, John Kirby) Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 03) 124 1937 2:38
Honeysuckle Rose Teddy Wilson Quartet All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 1) 168 1937 3:13
Just A Mood (Blue Mood) Parts 1 & 2 Teddy Wilson Quartet All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 1) 88 1937 6:48
Practice Makes Perfect Billie Holiday and her Orchestra (Roy Eldridge, Don Redman, Georgie Auld, Don Byas, Jimmy Hamilton, Teddy Wilson, John Collins, Al Hall, Kenny Clarke) Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 06) 153 1940 2:37
Gloomy Sunday Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Billie Holiday) The Lady Of The Blues 1941 3:12
Flying Home Teddy Wilson Sextet (Emmett Berry, Benny Morton, Edmond Hall, Slam Stewart, Big Sid Catlett) The Complete Associated Transcriptions 1944 198 New York, 15th June 1944 4:56
Indiana Teddy Wilson Sextet (Emmett Berry, Benny Morton, Edmond Hall, Slam Stewart, Big Sid Catlett) The Complete Associated Transcriptions 1944 217 New York, 15th June 1944 3:11
Cheek To Cheek Teddy Wilson Teddy Wilson (disc 5) 1946 2:25

The New Orleans Feetwarmers stuff is interesting, but it's not my super favourite. And that Louis Armstrong Orchestra track is a bit ordinary. But - Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong!
'Swinging with Mezz' is a cool one - Wilson is playing with a bunch of Chicago doods.
The Wingy Manones are good ones, and it's a mixed race band - check out the lineup!

I quite like the Teddy Wilson Orchestra 'Jungle Love', though I think 'Warmin' Up' is better.

The Willie Bryant stuff is rocking, and of course Wilson is responsible for the gorgeous introduction to 'Viper's Moan', a song that's overplayed (to wonderful effect) in lindy hopping circles, but which I haven't included here, because I actually prefer 'Chimes at the Meeting'. I once played that song for a crowd of beginners. I remember the expression on the face of one of the few experienced dancers (and DJs) in the room that night. And I _really_ remember the way the dancers (who were pretty much all noobs) went NUTS for this song.


(that's a pic of the Goodman Quartet - Wilson on piano, Goodman on clarinet, Hamp on vibes, Krupa on drums. I'm not sure who took that pic, but it gets used a LOT and is on the RCA small groups CD cover... It's actually a still from this amazing clip).

After 'Warmin' Up', things change a little because I visit some of the Goodman small group action. I adore this version of 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen' with Martha Tilton's gloriously laid back vocals. This is one seriously awesome song. It's really tight, precise, perfect (in typically Goodman style), but it's also swinging like the proverbial.

I followed this with another song by this group (minus Tilton), because it's a live recording from the Madhattan Room. These gigs were important because they were the first time Goodman took his mixed race small group on the stage, admittedly for a white crowd, but still. This was 1937, and that was some crazy arse shit to pull in segregated America. But this was Benny Goodman, a super extremely major rock star. And this band was phenomenally popular. Not to mention rockhardawesome. I adore the Lionel Hampton (vibes) and Gene Krupa (drums) combination. They were pretty badass percussionists, often known for a kind of blunt object approach. But Wilson and Goodman had a sort of powerful precision that seems to temper them. I adore this group and I think I have everything they did (not counting the harder to find live ones).

A note about those Madhattan gigs: apparently the crowd of star-struck teenagers kind of mobbed the stage, not really dancing, but kind of going ape shit. There are, however, some pics of kids dancing the Big Apple at this gig in the Life Magazine collection on Google.

From here, of course, I slide over to the QUEEN of everything, Billie Holiday. I love love love her work with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra. The songs they did together were attributed either to his band, or to a band under her name. Either way, the musicians they worked with were wonderful, and this combination of Wilson's wonderful precision and gorgeously delicate piano matched with Holiday's amazing delivery (the timing! the delays! the phrasing!) is beyond amazing. I'm also interested in John Kirby's presence in some of these sessions. He also did some pretty nifty small group stuff, in a similarly precise 'chamber jazz' style - he, Goodman and Wilson had much in common in their small group recordings.

I haven't got the details for the 'Teddy Wilson quartet' recordings in there, but I'm not sure that's Hampton in there on vibes. I'll have to look it up. I do like that song 'Just a Mood', and I suspect the trumpeter is Buck Clayton (who did so much work with Count Basie, with Billie Holiday and with Benny Goodman's small groups, in the same year these were recorded.

Then I squeeze in some more Billie Holiday. Because I can. I do like 'Gloomy Sunday', in part because I first heard it on Sinead O'Connor's album Am I Not Your Girl? which introduced me to jazz in 1992. That wasn't a terribly great album, but I bought it because I was into Sinead, and that's (partly) how I got into jazz, though I didn't start dancing until 1998.


(this image is from the Life collection and features Sid Catlett, but isn't the band I've included here... but the pic is GREAT, right?)

The Teddy Wilson Sextet stuff from 1944 is my current favourite band. Hot diggedy. Slam Stewart! That is some extremely hot shit, right there. I love that entire album and I thoroughly recommend it. It's a bit fiddly and probably in the chamber jazz category, but it's hotter than the Goodman stuff, and that version of 'Flying Home' shits all over the Goodman one that has a similar small group feel but is perhaps a bit too mannered to really pwn all. I love the song 'Indiana', though I most like the 1935 Mound City Blue Blowers version with the lyrics... gee, to think that that version was recorded only 2 years before Goodman did his Madhattan stuff... I think of the Mound City Blue Blowers as kind of the punkers of jazz - white boys with attitude, stuffing about with hot jazz (there are some good clips on Youtube which are really fun).

And then the last song is a solo piano piece. The song is one we tend to associate with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and other vocalists, particularly from the 50s. So it's kind of nice to hear Wilson do a fun, jumpy version. It's not the best quality, though, as it came from a cheap 4CD set. But it's definitely worth a listen. I think it best shows Wilson's style, so completely different from people like Fats Waller or Count Basie or Duke Ellington... I tend to associate Wilson with Woody Allen films, though he's not over-represented in the soundtracks.

I love Teddy Wilson. And I adore the variety of bands he's been in.

"8track: Teddy Wilson plays piano" was posted in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

August 16, 2010

djing for noobs

Posted by dogpossum on August 16, 2010 4:51 PM | Comments (0)

Tim has asked about DJing for beginners, so I'm going to talk about the set I did last Friday at the Swingpit here in Sydney. Once again I'll disclaim: this is just my opinion, not gospel, people will disagree and that's a good thing, etc etc etc.

DJing for new dancers: my approach, and a case study

Firstly, my general rule for DJing, for anyone, is "everyone should dance, and everyone should have a really good time." There are other rules: "make it easy to have fun" and "don't try to 'teach' anyone anything or 'test' dancers". Just get up there and DJ that badass shit, motherfucker.

I find that DJing for new dancers is a bit like leading a new dancer. Do your very best work. And make it easy for everyone to have fun. So avoid the stunts, avoid the tricks, play good songs, do nice stuff and enjoy yourself. There's a reason we have favourite songs, and a reason we have 'basic' or foundational or fundamental steps. The swingout is generally considered the 'foundational' step for lindy hop (this is of course debateable, but let's talk about that another time, huh?), and I take it as a model for my DJing.

It should swing.
I wouldn't play neo for advanced dancers, so why would I play it for new dancers? It's shit. Don't play it. Same goes for rock and roll, slow groovy blues and so on. Play good, solid swinging jazz. Because it's both awesome and also challenging and interesting. It's also new to new dancers, for the most part, so introduce them to your very best friends. Your best friends are the ones you like the most, the most forgiving, the kindest and the funnest. You have other friends, but these are the ones you'll take to this particular party.

There are no rules about tempo.
Some people think you should only play slow songs for new dancers. I think that's bullshit. You wouldn't play only fast songs for experienced dancers, so don't insult your noobs. But this does highlight an important point: new dancers don't have good lindy hop fitness. Even if they're super fit athletes already. Lindy hop kicks your arse and requires good motor skills, balance and coordination. All with a strange person. So it's quite tiring when you're just beginning. So remember when you're DJing for new dancers, that they'll get tired quickly. This brings me to the next important point...

Work that goddamn wave.
Move through the tempos (120-140-160-180-200 and down again) quickly and efficiently. Don't do crazy jumps (120-200), but don't linger at a particular tempo. You can do a bit more time in the < 160 territory if people are especially tired, but don't sit down there too long. You might want to restrict your highest tempo if you're DJing a particularly tired group of new dancers, but do NOT assume that they don't want to dance fast. No one's told them a song is 'too fast' yet, so they'll have a go at anything. Which is WONDERFUL and something experienced dancers don't do any more.
All this is really just good DJing practice. Working the tempos helps you work the energy in the room, and also the emotions in the room. I like to build to a crescendo (to a climax, or to the punchline of a good joke), where half the pleasure lies in the expectation. So building up is as important as arriving.

Work with emotions and energy.
I do tend to avoid the overly sexy songs or songs that feel sexy, mostly because new dancers are often uncomfortable dancing close to strangers and sexy songs adds to that discomfort. Especially in mixed age groups. I also lean a bit on the cheery songs (rather than the moodier stuff), but then, that's lindy hop. It's meant to be a big, fat kick of adrenaline and happyjoyjoy. It could be manic or kind of arsekicking happyjoyjoy, but it's still a good feeling. I take Frankie as a model: he used to aim to make a woman laugh when he danced with her. And I reckon it's a good approach. He might've been doing it to get laid, but I'm doing it to have a good time for a more ordinary sort. I want to see dancers on the floor and sidelines laughing and smiling. Not cranky.

Play your best songs.
Not your newest, strangest songs or songs you're not really sure of. Play your best songs. This can be a hard one, especially if you're a new DJ and not really sure what constitutes 'best'. For my money, the 'best' songs are often the favourites. The Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra playing 'C Jam Blues' is a best song. It's a bloody good band recorded live, playing a bloody good song at an accessible tempo. It has lots of energy. It has fun breaks. It's good. It's ok to old, overplayed favourites for new dancers. They're favourites for a reason. And they're not 'old' to new dancers - they're new. You're introducing new dancers to your best friends, right? So introduce them to the songs people love. As The Squeeze says "I'm here to have a good time. Play good songs, and play some songs I know."

I'm not saying don't ever play a new or untested song to new dancers. I found, DJing the Funpit in Melbourne, that I'd often test my newer stuff on those guys because they were up for ANYTHING, so long as it was fun. But I try to cushion the songs I'm not sure of. Build up with a safe song, follow up with a safe song. So I'd prepare the crowd for something new and strange with 'C Jam Blues' and have something like 'Apollo Jump' on hand in case it bombed. If it went well, I'd follow up with something else, perhaps go in a new direction stylistically or otherwise take another risk. Try to figure out what they liked in the song.

Try to go easy on song length.
This isn't a hard and fast rule. But newer dancers do tend to lack stamina, and new leads can get a bit sick of their same 3 moves, and new follows can suddenly figure out 1 minute into a song why no other woman will dance with that unpleasant older man. So cut them some slack and play shorter songs.

Live bands.
I do not, however, support the suggestion that live bands should follow any of these rules (except for the neo one - don't play that shit. It's nasty. Unless you are actually a neo band. Then I probably won't be at your gig). Long songs = important for bands because they give musicians a chance to improvise and shine. I tend to drop the 2-dance rule when I'm dancing to really long songs.

What else? Hmmm. Be prepared for new dancers to come running up to say "What was that song?!" and then to have to explain who Ella Fitzgerald is.


Be aware of the music in the class before the social dancing, if you're DJing after a class.
This is a big one. I try to give half an ear to what they're teaching in the class, and what music they're using. This can be hard if they're using neo to teach dodgy stuff. But what I might think is 'oh, I'll play hi-fi stuff with lots of energy and probably vocals'. Because that's what people like about neo. They also tend to like its non-swingingness because it's familiar (and more like rock n roll or punk or whatever). But I won't pander to that. I will perhaps play some upenergy jump blues, but I won't play neo. Yucky.
If they're teaching with really really really slooooow music, then you're going to have some trouble getting the tempos up later on. If you come in with something at 160 after they've been learning at 112 (welcome to recent life), you're going to scare them. So come in a bit slower. But get the tempos up. Don't sit down there on 112. That's bad news. Because you're introducing new dancers to your best friends, remember? And you have more friends than just 'Night Train', right? RIGHT?

I try to match the feel and the energy and the style of the last song they play in class. Which is where I segue to my last set....

First set @ Swingpit, Friday 13th August 2010

title - artist - album - bpm - year - song length

My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone The Great Nina Simone 120 3:38
Let's Do It Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey, Marty Grosz, Dan Levinson, Vince Giordano) Anybody's Baby 126 2004 4:28
Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan With Buster Bailey, Milt Hinton, Jerome Richardson, Osie Johnson, Dick Hyman, Wendell Marshall A Tribute To Andy Razaf 147 1956 3:19
For Dancers Only Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 148 1937 2:41
Walk 'Em Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra Walk 'Em 131 1946 2:53
Cole Slaw Jesse Stone and His Orchestra Original Swingers: Hipsters, Zoots and Wingtips vol 2 145 2:57
Jump Through The Window Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) After You've Gone 154 1943 2:42
Big Fat Mama Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra (Trevor Bacon, Buster Bailey) Apollo Jump 135 1941 3:09
Leap Frog Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Luis Russell) The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (disc 7) 159 1941 3:00
Stuffy Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Jammin' the Blues 153 2003 3:46
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 144 1958 3:13
Blue Monday Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) Goin' To Kansas City Blues 125 1957 3:40
Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 120 1958 3:11
The Spinach Song Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 165 2004 4:57
San Francisco Bay Blues Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band with Barbara Dane Blues Over Bodega 160 1964 3:42
You Can Have My Husband Tuba Skinny (Erika Lewis, Todd, Kiowa, Shaye Cohn, Barnabus, Alynda Lee, Robin) Tuba Skinny 144 2010 3:49
Bizet Has His Day The Solomon Douglas Swingtet Ain't No School Like the Old School 155 2010 3:44
Twenty Four Robbers Gordon Webster (with Brianna Thomas, Jesse Selengut, Matt Musselman, Adrian Cunningham, Cassidy Holden, Rod Adkins, Jeremy Noller) Happy When I'm With You 209 2009 2:39
Yacht Club Swing Echoes of Swing Harlem Joys 164 2008 3:20
Be Careful (If You Can't Be Good) Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra Walk 'Em 121 1951 3:09
Long Gone John Gordon Webster (with Brianna Thomas, Jesse Selengut, Matt Musselman, Adrian Cunningham, Cassidy Holden, Rod Adkins, Jeremy Noller) Happy When I'm With You 140 2009 3:57
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 140 1950 3:04

The teachers had been using CW Stoneking's 'Don't Go Dancin' (from King Hokum) which I initially thought was a bad idea, until I saw the routine. It was Friday 13th and they were doing a 'spooky' routine which was actually quite fun. The students were _really_ enjoying it, and would go from quiet and attentive during demonstrations to raucous and rowdy during rotations to new partners.

So I began with 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' because 'Don't go Dancin'' is just vocals + a bit of rinky tink uke action. Difficult dancing. I chose 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' because it's also sparse instrumentation. The piano dominates, with a nice, simple walking bass line and the vocals are delivered quite simply and plainly. It's a mood change, but it still works in much the same ways as 'Don't Go Dancin''. I wanted to change the mood because I couldn't stay down there in moody land. But I did want to use the clutch while changing gears. 'My Baby Just Cares For Me' about the same speed, but it builds in energy. It's an old favourite. It's fun to dance to because of the breaks, and because the piano is actually quite clever (go Nina, Go!) and allows room for jokes. I like it. It's overplayed because it's good. New dancers love it. They also recognise it because of the claymation video clip that used to get played on Rage a lot.

I played 'Let's Do it' because it's another iconic jazz song. Most people know it. It's saucy, but not in an up-in-your-grill way. This version is hi-fi and fun. Same slow tempo, because I'm still prepping the room. I'm playing nice, to get everyone up and feeling good and comfortable. This song went down really really well.

'Massachusetts' is another overplayed gem. It's good. It starts simply, but it has a lovely, chunky rhythm that's easy to dance to. It's a little faster, but not crazily so. It's funness and easiness actually makes people dance, even though it is faster. With bubs, at this point, I want to convince them to try to dance, to get some endorphines, and then to decide they like dancing. So I play nice at this early point.

All three of these have lyrics. Which is good for people who never listen to jazz. They're all women, so they link. They all have quite conventional deliveries, which is also useful (no Cangelosi Cards just yet). All this action is safe. But there's no fucking Buble here. This is good stuff. I'm warming the room.

'For Dancers Only' is a switch to a big band, because I wanted a bigger sound. It's another old favourite. It's also overplayed. It went well. It also worked as a trigger for the social dancers who'd arrived (and I noticed there were quite a few there that night - far more than the students from the class).

I wanted to play nice, so I went down a few bpm to 'Walk em', which is a song I think of as a 'beginner song', partly because of Johnson's comments in the liner notes of that album about playing slower songs for inexperienced dancers. It worked, and filled the flor a little more.

'Cole Slaw' - more overplayedness. But clapping. At an easy tempo, but a little higher than 'Walk em'.

'Jump Through the Window'. Yes, just assume that I'm playing all overplayed favourites unless I say othewise, ok? This had mixed results. The squawky trumpet kind of blew up the sound quality and this song really demonstrated the limitations of the sound gear at that venue. Boo. It sounded squawky and without enough sound in the mid range. I fiddled with the equaliser, but it wasn't really going to do much good. I resisted the urge to pump the volume so I could 'hear' the mids, because that doesn't actually work.

Back down the tempos again, but playing 'Big Fat Mama' because it has vocals and is fun and accessible. Still a big band.

....I'm losing interest in this post, actually, so I can't really be bothered writing any more. The only thing worth pointing out is that I should have skipped that version of 'Yacht Club Swing' (or replaced '24 Robbers' with it) and gone straight to the lower tempoed Fats version of 'All That Meat and No Potatoes' I'd intended, instead of pushing a smart arse Fats theme (they're all Fats Waller songs). Too fast.
Also, that version of 'Bizet has his day' bombed. I thought it might work because it has clapping. And I remembered it as being the most appropriate from Sol's new album for this crowd. I was wrong. I had set it up properly with the upenergy 'San Francisco Bay Blues' and then the mellower 'You Can Have My Husband', as 'Bizet Has his Day' starts mellow and then builds. But it just bombed. Listening, I thought 'oo, this isn't that good a song'. I find the solos a bit intrusive and annoying and the transitions between solos are a little clunky. It's a bit of an unusual song, but I had set it up properly. I'll try it again, but not soon (sorry Sol).

The second half of the set was mostly newer or less familiar songs, and they had mixed results with the new dancers. But by that point there was a more mixed crowd, so I wanted to change things. the Terra Hazelton and Tuba Skinny are going down really well (both here and at Canberrang) and they're a nice combination.

We ended on a birthday/farewell jam and then I danced a couple of songs before suddenly discovering I had A SICK STOMACH and having to rush home to bed. That sucked ARSE and was entirely unexpected. I was feeling fine and wanted to DANCE. A big BOO to that.

"djing for noobs" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and lolfrankie and music

August 12, 2010

new orleans jazz?

Posted by dogpossum on August 12, 2010 12:28 AM | Comments (1)

I'm interested in the way dancers and DJs use the term 'New Orleans' when they're talking about music. Different dancers use the term in different ways. There, are, for example, a number of dancers who've moved to New Orleans itself, and use the term 'New Orleans music' (or NOLA music or whatever) to refer to all the bands currently playing in that city. The expression is used to refer to a geographic and cultural grouping of bands and musicians. Not all of these are jazz bands. In this post I'm going to try to explore some of the ways 'New Orleans' is used in swing dance discourse, and how it carries so many different connotations and functions in so many ways.


Last year the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, one of the highest profile and most influential events in the lindy community, was held in New Orleans, and it will be again this year. It's interesting to see how the promotion for Showdown has expanded from an exclusive focus on dancing itself to a broader promotion of New Orleans as a cultural mecca for jazz dancers and musicians. The food and weather and architecture are as important to the event as the social dancing.

(NOLA map of jazz neighbourhoods from here)

This idea of New Orleans as musically and culturally unique is not new - the HBO series Treme makes that point (rather aggressively) throughout its first season. In this program the music anchors the narrative, both in terms of setting scenes, but also in terms of structuring the lives of some of the main characters who happen to be musicians or music-lovers. Food, however, is just as important, with one main character running a restaurant that later becomes a pivot point for a key plot point, as well as a meeting place for a series of otherwise unrelated characters.


I'm not entirely convinced Treme is the best program out there (though at least this time the characters manage to pass the Bechdel test... just... almost), but it certainly hit the international swing community with a degree of serendipity. Though it isn't widely watched in Australia (not broadcast here, and really only available through... shall we say, by way of the jolly roger), the music has been trickling down to various DJs and dancers in Australia, coinciding with a growing interest in New Orleans as the home (or at least most recent resting place) of Showdown.

My key source for music from Treme, beyond the program itself, has been the Songs from Treme blog, which I learnt about via twitter and other music and Wire loving friends.
I liked the way the music was largely by independent or by lesser known artists (and so available from my preferred indy sources - CDBaby, emusic and so on), and one of the pleasures of watching the program was identifying artists in the background of scenes. I think, perhaps, that this might be one of the more difficult parts of the program - without these musicians and music to spot, the story line and dialogue are far less complex and interesting than those of the Wire. But then, it's also interesting to see a program using music in this way.

I think it's worth pausing to watch the opening credits of Treme (which you can watch on youtube here).

Ken Burns Jazz series spent an inordinate amount of time in New Orleans, and that itself was more than a little problematic. While the city was absolutely central to the development of American jazz, for so many reasons (and we have to mention its role as a sea port and consequent role as a gathering point for musicians of so many international cultures and traditions), it was not and is not the only place in that country (or others) contributing to the development of jazz. I mention this program because it is so iconic, and because it plays such a key role in Australian swing dance culture. It saw the release of a series of very useful CDs, a fascinating book, and of course, a range of DVDs which even mention lindy hop at one point.

But I think John Goodman's ill-fated character makes the best point of all in Treme when he reminds his Youtube audience that the city is more than the picturesque French quarter and live jazz. It is also political corruption, a disturbing crime problem, grinding poverty and burning racial tensions. Many Australian or international dancers, I think, would be surprised to see not only the devastation still remaining from Katrina, but also the ground-in social difficulties beyond the wrought-iron and narrow streets of the tourist quarter. A jazz fan might argue that it is out of these conditions that jazz was born, but I'm fairly sure a New Orleans local might also like (or even prefer) reliable electricity and political ethics.

This brings me (in a roundabout way) to my original point. The way dancers use 'New Orleans' when they're discussing music for dancing. I've heard it used in a number of ways, including contexts where I've thought 'hey, that's just wrong'. But then, language is flexible and jazz dance reminds us every single day that there's no right or wrong, just the way that you do it.

When I say 'New Orleans' jazz, I'm referring to one (or a number of) these:

Music or musicians currently working in the city itself.

So I might be talking about various parts of the Loose Marbles or other 'street bands' working in or hailing from New Orleans. Not all of these are jazz or in the jazz tradition. But the bands dancers in Australia tend to be most interested in are.


One of my favourite songs from the Treme soundtrack is 'Shallow Water' by Donald Harrison (which you can listen to here. I love this song for running, and I also love it for the way it ties into the story arc considering the New Orleans indians and Big Chiefs (who fascinate and delight me with their costumes, posing and strutting and cultural appropriation of native American imagery in combination with very African practices and rhythms). But I wouldn't play this song at a swing dance, even though the complicated rhythms work perfectly with the complicated rhythms we dance and hear in jazz.

So when most dancers talk about the great bands that they saw in New Orleans, or the great CDs they've just bought or the songs they're playing for dancers, most of them aren't talking about Donald Harrison, they're talking about the younger street bands, recreationist bands like the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, The Palmetto Bug Stompers, Tuba Skinny, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns or perhaps (at a pinch) not-quite-street-band-people like Kermit Ruffins or the (incomparable) Preservation Hall Jazz band. I often find that a lot of dancers conflate all the recent round of street jazz bands as 'New Orleans', even if they're not from New Orleans. This might include bands like the Cangelosi Cards, Tin Pan or Baby Soda.

Music or musicians of the 'jazz' era who hailed from New Orleans.

(pic of the King Oliver Jazz Band stoled from here)

This includes people like Louis Armstrong, Lil Hardin, Jelly Roll Morton and so on. While their earlier stuff is definitely 'New Orleans', and artists like Armstrong made great mileage from New Orleans revival type music in the 40s and 50s, these guys didn't stand still, musically speaking. Armstrong (who is the most obvious, but certainly not the only example) developed from his work as a musician in King Oliver's band to doing hardcore big band swing, and then ballads, torch songs and a whole range of other things. So simply identifying a musician as 'New Orleans' might give you an idea of their history or their influences, but really isn't enough to describe their entire career or every song they played.

Music of the 'New Orleans' style.

Now this is where I've seen the greatest range of opinions. I heard a dancer the other night describe a song by Artie Shaw that I was playing as 'New Orleans'. This surprised me as Shaw was white, born in New York, grew up in Connecticut and isn't known as a New Orleans style musician at all. I think, in that case, the dancer meant that this song wasn't groove, or was earlier, or classic jazz.

I could imagine a difference of opinion about whether a musician was 'New Orleans' or 'Chicago', particularly as many jazz musicians left New Orleans for Chicago in the 20s, and you can hear the music shifting as it moved between cities. But even then, there's quite clear distinctions...

What I think a lot of dancers mean, when they say a song is 'New Orleans' is that it has a sort of raucous collective instrumentation (as opposed to the tightly arranged big bands of the 30s and later), where musicians improvise within the structure of an arrangement. Most of these band have about eight or fewer musicians, as this sort of musicality is difficult to hold together with bigger bands. I seem to remember Gunther Schuller talking about this, but I'd have to look it up, and the book's downstairs.

This type of band really tended to dominate the 20s, but was later 'revived' in the 30s and 40s by the 'moldy figs' and others who held that swing was modern and not really 'true' jazz at all - a highly contentious argument that particularly shat the bebop jazz musicians.

Instrumentation tended to include a tuba player (to replace the bass player), a drummer who played a sparser, pared back kit (or who was even replaced by a washboard player or other type of rhythm instrumentalist - playing a suitcase or other simple rhythm instrument), some brass (trumpet or cornet, a trombonist...) and perhaps a pianist, if a piano was to be had. There were often lyrics, provided either by a guest vocalist, by one of the band, or by the band ensemble.

Blues-structured songs would often dominate the repertoire of these bands, but not necessarily so. Singers were not amplified, and it's not surprising that shouters are associated with these bands, even though they might not necessarily have begun with these bands at all. The singing style of musicians like Meschiya Lake certainly encourage this association.

Timing-wise, the rhythm was often 2/4, or felt like 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 rather than 1-2-3-4 of later swing (and of course there's the Basie quote: "I can't dig that two-beat jive the New Orleans cats play; cause my boys and I got to have four heavy beats to a bar and no cheating"). This is a tricky thing to talk about, and I don't really have the language for it. It's not right to say that all New Orleans jazz (then or now) was 2/4 or even that it all had that uppy-downy feeling rather than the flatter, 4/4 time swing does. But if I hear a song with that sort of instrumentation, in 2/4 time or with that really uppy-downy rhythm that makes me want to do 20s charleston rather than low, flat out lindy hop, I tend to think 'New Orleans', even though it's not strictly accurate.

I use 'New Orleans' in my music collection to identify a particular type of music or sound. I distinguish between 20s society jazz, 20s big band jazz, 20s hot big bands and New Orleans jazz. If it gets the New Orleans tag from me, it's hot (as opposed to sweet), it's a smaller band, it has that collective improvisation (which often sounds like a bunch of pots being thrown around) and it doesn't have a shuffle rhythm in the drum section. But I wouldn't use this definition to discuss or describe the music to another person in conversation. I feel a bit strange writing it here.

But I also want to note one other type of music which falls under the New Orleans umbrella, but which I don't think is quite the same:

New Orleans revival.

(Sidney Bechet with Bob Wilbur, as stoled from Riverwalk Jazz)

There was, literally, something of a New Orleans revival in the 30s and 40s. I've read a bit about it, but from what I can gather from some really unreliable sources (and I just don't know if it's a true story or not), this revival was prompted by white music fans, including those writing jazz magazines (I'd have to check the titles I'm afraid, but I have made a list of my posts approaching this topic here), and eventually running jazz festivals. These guys felt that the 'modern' jazz of the day (swing and later bebop) wasn't 'real' jazz, and so they sought out surviving musicians (like Bunk Johnson) and got them to record.
Other musicians rerecorded or revisited their stuff from the 20s as well, so you get people like Sidney Bechet recording New Orleans standards in the 40s and 50s. They're great songs, it's great stuff. But it often has some different stuff going on in the rhythm section (the drums is where I hear it most - a shuffle rhythm rather than cooking pots clashing and bashing or steady thump). It also often feels as though the uppy downy beat is smoothed out a bit, swung a bit. For me, this often leaves me thinking 'should I charleston or lindy hop to this?'

Interestingly, I've noticed that a lot of Australian jazz clubs (in both Sydney and Melbourne anyway) favour this sound. I think this is because the New Orleans revival sound was very popular in Australia in the 40s and 50s. Which is interesting as well because black American musicians were not allowed into Australia from about 1928 until the mid 1950s (I track my (limited) research into this topic in this post, which includes a pic of the American band that prompted the ban). The ban was initiated for a number of (racist) reasons, but also because of pressure from the Australian musicians union. So the Australian jazz musicians and scene gained their influence not from seeing and jamming with African American musicians, but from records, visiting white musicians, magazines from the United States and their occasional trips overseas. Needless to say, most Australian jazz musicians were (and are) white. So the sound that dominates much of Australian jazz is what I'd think of as 'New Orleans revival'. Even though it's probably not really accurate.


Ok, so this post is really just an overview of some of the things I've noticed about the way people use the term 'New Orleans' in discussions about music for dancing. It's probably very inaccurate, and I'll probably disagree with it myself in a little while. But I wanted to write this because the street bands of New Orleans are very popular at the moment with more experienced Australian dancers. The 20s sound generally is very popular, in part because it's chic with America's experienced dancers (who teach here in Australia) and at the highest profile American events (which we experience via Youtube, Facebook and stories from returning travellers).

I also want to state that though I'm very fond of these bands, and some are extraordinarily good, I do have reservations about their dominance. I've started pushing for solid, big band swing in my sets, and I've really started missing this stuff in other DJs' sets. In Sydney we hear all sorts of music, so I'm ok here. But I do hear a lot of that other stuff in other cities. While I do love the smaller bands, there's nothing quite like a big band in full flight. And I do miss the flattened out feeling of a really good, swinging rhythm. I do have some concerns about what I see in some dancers dancing - lots of flattened feet, a flatter, unbouncy lindy hop and a general economy of movement which suits the scorching tempos and unpredictable nature of the collective improvisation of this stuff. While there's amazing stuff going on, sometimes I worry that the more interesting stuff - the greater range of arm movements, feet way off the ground, the triple steps and so on - are neglected.

But then, really, who the fuck am I to pass judgement on this stuff? It's all dancing, and dancing is a Good Thing. And, to be honest, I really like to see dancers experimenting with form and style and musicality. And it's a very wonderful thing to see young musicians working with this music and dancers supporting new bands by buying their CDs and booking them for gigs.

"new orleans jazz?" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

August 10, 2010

Canberräng report and djing

Posted by dogpossum on August 10, 2010 1:11 AM | Comments (0)


Well, it's been a bit of a long time since I've written anything here. Boo to me. I'm really not sure why. I think it's a matter of being busy with other things, and with simply not writing a lot _generally_. Which is a Bad Thing. But this is a post about Canberräng, the DJing I did there, and the dancing I almost did.

(That's Terra Hazelton in the pic)

Anyways, Canberräng was on this weekend just past, and it was good. I didn't actually dance very much, which surprised me, especially after going so nuts at MSF. I think I've been nursing some sort of bug or cold or something for a while. Or else I've just been feeling a bit depressed or kind of mopey, and nothing makes it harder to get creative on the dance floor like feeling anxious and unhappy. But I've not been feeling all that miserable lately, and I did have a lot of nice chats and laughs and hanging-outs with good folk, so.... I'm just going to blame it on a bit of low-level germiness, a bit of pre-semester anxiety (which is largely resolved now by the happy news that I have only Excellent Teacher for both subjects), a lack of badass running (which I'll fix this week with a return to c25k with the arse-kicking week 5), and a lack of general inspiration.

That paragraph of self-inspection is a bit relevant to a talk about my DJing at Canberräng. I didn't actually dance very much at all, and that meant that I wasn't really plugged into the music for dancing, or to what other people were feeling while they were dancing. I did my first set at the welcome dance at Tilly's, and that was ok. The second set I did at the late night on Friday, which was harder, and which I don't feel was all that strong.
Basically, I think I proved my own theory that I don't DJ very well when I'm not dancing much. I do my best work when I've been dancing a bit, when I dance a bit over the weekend, and when I'm generally a bit more plugged into what other dancers and DJs are into all over the country. I dunno if this applies to other DJs, but I suspect so. I generally feel that if you're not dancing lindy hop (or bal or whatever), you're not really going to do as good a job DJing it.

I had a bit of a case of the shitty pants in the evening on Friday, which was largely related to costuming, but probably just some free-floating menstrual rage and pre-semester anxiety settling on the most obvious target - what I looked like. It took me a while to shake that shit off. I should have just jumped into the dancing and sought out some adrenaline, but I really wasn't feeling physically amazing either. Snot. I live with it every fucking day at the moment.

By the time the late night came around, I was better company, but I was feeling a bit tired. I ended up dancing the first part of the night in the 'party room' which really was. It was warmer in there, the sound wasn't so loud, and the music was fun, funky stuff. Dave and I spent a couple of hours just mucking about in there, beginning with some cuddle dancing and then progressing to no-holds-barred silly dancing on our own, which actually just became straight out dancing-on-our-own fun dancing. I blame Jase for making me move from just a bit of quiet cuddle dancing with my squeeze to dancing like a crazy fool fer serious.

I had a lot of trouble with volume over the weekend. My ears are getting really sore these days when the sound is too loud, and I found I'd get a massive headache if I spent too long in the main room with the horrid volume. I ended up putting in ear plugs and found that even then the sound was too loud.

This is a bad thing, and partly the result of many DJs a) having shithouse hearing themselves; b) just pushing the volume so high it distorts the sound; and c) loudness being too much for nanna. I'm going to start getting serious about volume from now on, I think. Especially in my own sets.

My problem is that the sound system often isn't powerful enough for the space (100watt will not fill a hall, I'm afraid), so DJs pump up the volume. The volume is then so loud that a) the amp or speakers can't really hack it and the sound fucks up; b) the quality of the shitty mp3s becomes extra shitty, and the music stops being a song and just ends up being a bunch of screaming noise. That makes me especially shitty because you end up dancing to _nothing_ but screamy noise, and can't hear any of the more interesting rhythms and instrumentation.

I'm not suggesting that Canberräng was a particularly bad event for this, but I am stating that most DJs don't pay enough attention to managing volume, and that most events don't actually use the right sound set up for their spaces. I am also stating that I can't hack the pain in my ears from too-loud volume any more. And I know that I can be a shocker for too much volume while I'm DJing. I think it's just that you start adding volume as your ears adjust. You want to get 'more' into your songs, and you do that by adding volume. When what you should be doing is reducing treble or adding mids or whatever.

Anyways, Saturday night I was less of a shitty pants, and had a lovely time at the winery during the day (as per usual). I quite liked the ball - there is no way any other Australian event can top using the Great Hall at the Australian Parliament House. It is the most impressive venue ever. Of all time. I was a bit meh about the band, but then that could just have been a bit of residual shittypants. I am also now firmly committed only to wearing comfortable dresses that make me feel good to Balls. No more fancy, uncomfortable costumes.

The late night was nice. I liked that party room again. It was quieter, warmer, smaller and _felt_ nicer. I did, however, still have a shit headache boiling, and spending any time in the main room (where I really wanted to lindy hop) with the bad volume really hurt. The second DJ was particularly bad for excessive volume, so I ended up hanging about talking to people, eating stuff and apologising or making up for being unexcellent the night before. That last part was ok, because it meant that I really just asked a bunch of nice ladies to dance and then had a nice chat with them. Win-win, really.

I did hear some nice DJing over the weekend. I heard Drew DJ for the first time, and that was nice. I also got to follow Andy DJing on the Friday, which is a) a challenge, and b) excellent. He's a bit of a badass DJ, and whips the dancers into a frenzy with his high-energy party music. He literally had dancers delirious with adrenaline, yelling and throwing themselves about the floor in a frenzy. I was following him, and had the last set of the night. I found that at the end of his set half the room suddenly realised they couldn't walk any more, and had to go home. It took me a little while to figure out the room and I'm not entirely sure I rocked it.

I enjoyed DJing on the Saturday, partly because I was in a better mood, but also because I was sharing the table with an old friend and got to chat a bit, and also because I was a bit more together and had a better grasp of the vibe in the room. But I had made a minor technical error a little earlier. I'd been chasing that headache with a painkiller, and then thought a plate of blue-green jelly would be nice. I was wrong. Oh, my guts. Painkiller + headache + jelly nausea + a sugar rush so mighty I felt faint. But eventually they settled down. And then I went and DJed and it was ok.

A note about Canberräng: it's well run. It really is.

Anyways, here's the set I did on Thursday night. I was second on (9-10pm), and the venue was Tilly's, a restaurant/cafe joint with lots of normal punters eating and drinking. They brought in a temporary dance floor and it was positioned right in front of the DJ booth, which was good.

Title - artist - album - bpm - year - length

Blue Monday Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) Goin' To Kansas City Blues 125 1957 3:40
Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 120 1958 3:11
Sugar Blues Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 113 2004 3:44
My Man Stands Out Di Anne Price Barrel House Queen 145 2010 2:54
You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders Magnolia 187 2007 4:02
San Francisco Bay Blues Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band with Barbara Dane Blues Over Bodega 160 1964 3:42
Yacht Club Swing Echoes of Swing Harlem Joys 164 2008 3:20
When I Get Low I Get High Linnzi Zaorski and Delta Royale (Charlie Fardella, Robert Snow, Matt Rhody, Seva Venet, Chaz Leary) Hotsy-Totsy 165 2004 2:36
Just Because You Can Catherine Russell Inside This Heart of Mine 136 2010 4:10
Do Your Duty Tuba Skinny (Erika Lewis, Todd, Kiowa, Shaye Cohn, Barnabus, Alynda Lee, Robin) Tuba Skinny 122 2010 3:47
Long Gone John Gordon Webster (with Brianna Thomas, Jesse Selengut, Matt Musselman, Adrian Cunningham, Cassidy Holden, Rod Adkins, Jeremy Noller) Happy When I'm With You 140 2009 3:57
Flat Foot Floogie Carol Ralph Swinging Jazz Portrait 186 2005 3:44
Now Or Never Katharine Whalen Jazz Squad 167 1999 2:14
Knock Myself Out Asylum Street Spankers Spanker Madness 126 2000 2:48
The Spinach Song Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 165 2004 4:57
Half Tight Boogie Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Jammin' the Blues 150 2003 3:13

I began with Jay McShann because I know Russel always thinks 'oh man, Sam's DJing again' when I start with a song from that album. It was also a good transition from the previous DJ. I played 'Pigfoot' because I wanted to play a bunch of beer-drinking songs with dirty lyrics and a party feel. I also wanted to play all hi-fi or modern versions of good songs, by good modern bands.

Terra Hazelton is a singer I've only just discovered. She doesn't have the best voice, but she does some great songs. Including this fun version of 'Sugar Blues' which I played with Tim in mind, because he loves the Preservation Hall's version of this songs.
Di Anne Price is someone I've just bought a lot of for blues dancers. Best voice.
You know how I feel about the Midnight Serenaders. They are still my FAVOURITE modern band. They have two good albums, but I overplay this particular song. I love it's light, fun feeling, and the way its lovely, light, sprightly feel contrasts with the dirty lyrics. Best trumpet solos.

I then played a bunch of songs I play all the time in Sydney. They all work really well with a crowd, and they're all accessible tempos... well, for the Roxbury in Sydney, where we tend to sit on 180bpm as an average these days.

Tuba Skinny is a new band for me. I like their street-jazz-band sound, but that that aren't all up your face with massive loud intensity. I like the vocalist. I fucking love Bessie Smith's version of 'Do Your Duty', but figured the hi-fi modern version was the best for this gang.

The restaurant manager kept telling me how much she liked my music. I figured the saucy woman singer stuff worked pretty well for an arsekicking feminist playing a dykalicious venue.

There's not a lot else to say about this set. It's pretty samey, really. I was happy with Katharine Whalen, the singer from the Squirrel Nut Zippers who I used to DJ ages ago, but have recently revisited as part of this sort of nu-skool versions of old-school set. All female vocals. Lots of food/sex/drug references. Smaller bands. Novelty vocal sounds.

By the end of this set I was _totally_ over this style of music. And craving some big band. But I have to go catch a bus now, so I'll post the other two set lists later on.

[edit: below is the stuff I added when I got home]

Second set of the Canberräng, 2-3am Friday night.
Title artist album bpm year length

Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 164 1950 2:15
Davenport Blues Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra (Jack Teagarden) Father Of Jazz Trombone 136 1934 3:14
Madame Dynamite Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Sidney Catlett) Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 176 1933 2:56
I'se A Muggin' Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys (Jonah Jones, Raymond Smith, Bobby Bennett, Mack Walker, John Washington) Stuff Smith: Complete Jazz Series 1936 - 1939 161 1936 3:14
[Gettin' Much Lately?] Ain't Nothin' To It Fats Waller, his Rhythm and his Orchestra (John Hamilton, Bob Williams, Herman Autrey, Geoge Wilson, Ray Hogan, Jimmy Powell, Dave McRae, Gene Sedric, Bob Carroll, Al Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones) Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 134 1941 3:10
Sweet Nothin's Midnight Serenaders Sweet Nothin's 154 2009 3:14
On Revival Day Terra Hazelton (feat. Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards) Anybody's Baby 219 2004 3:41
Dinah Preservation Hall Preservation Hall Hot 4 With Duke Dejan 154 2004 5:01
You Can Have My Husband Tuba Skinny (Erika Lewis, Todd, Kiowa, Shaye Cohn, Barnabus, Alynda Lee, Robin) Tuba Skinny 144 2010 3:49
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and his Orchestra Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 146 1949 3:01
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 140 1950 3:04
C Jam Blues Duke Ellington and his Orchestra At The Hollywood Empire 185 1949 3:23
Mop Mop Teddy Wilson Sextet (Emmett Berry, Benny Morton, Edmond Hall, Slam Stewart, Big Sid Catlett) The Complete Associated Transcriptions 1944 144 1944 4:58
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra (Cootie Williams, Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Duke Ellington, Fred Guy, Hayes Alvis, Sonny Greer, Buddy Clark) The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 165 1937 3:10
Turn It Over Bus Moten and his Men Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Disc 3) 148 1949 2:38
Sweet Patootie Noble Sissle's Swingsters (Sidney Bechet) Shake 'Em Up 117 1938 3:16
Chasing Shadows (-1) Putney Dandridge and his Orchestra (Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, Nappy Lamare) Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 1) 137 1935 2:40
Do Your Duty Bessie Smith acc by Buck and his Band (Frank Newton, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Buck Washington, Bobby Johnson, Billy Taylor) Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 1) 121 1933 3:31
Blues For Smedley Clark Terry, Ed Thigpen, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown Oscar Peterson Trio + One: Clark Terry 137 1964 6:57
It Takes Two to Tango Lester Young and Oscar Peterson Lester Young With the Oscar Peterson Trio 104 6:09

The previous DJ (Andy) had been playing massively high-energy stuff all set, and people were kind of insane. The change over of DJs is usually a natural break, and you often lose the crowd at that point of a late night when people suddenly have a chance to stop and think. I didn't do the best job ever, either, so I lost people there. I really didn't know what I should be doing, and just didn't feel confident. Whereas I feel I had something going on the previous night, this night I was a bit up in the air. It really makes a difference if you're not feeling the lindy hop (and I wasn't). But it wasn't as shit as it could have been. A few people said they liked the set, but I expect more of myself.

I began with 'Rag Mop' as I know it's a good energy song. But by the end, people were a bit buggered and even I was feeling a bit over the 'big' sound. 'Davenport Blues' is my good easing-back song, but it actually builds energy towards the end, so it's a good way to get back to high energy again. I played it as a mellowing-out song, and as a transition to some older stuff I wanted to play.

I overplay 'Madame Dynamite' at home. I wonder, now if we should worry about playing stuff we overplay at home when we DJ at exchanges, or if this is the sort of stuff we should play, because it's representative of our style? I think, in my own brainz, and in regards to my own DJing, that I'll play some stuff I know works (especially if I have a crowd with plenty of my local dancers in it, as Canberräng did - 76 Sydney people, and only 86 locals + assorted others). I'll also play stuff that I haven't tried at home, but only if I'm reasonably sure it'll work (eg it's good sound quality, it feels really good, it has the usual markers of a 'good' song, etc). I tend to play higher tempo, more complex songs when I'm doing larger events like MLX, or events like MSF with a crowd of more experienced dancers. Canberräng was a decent sized crowd (about 200 at late nights, perhaps a few less), but I wasn't entirely sure it was the right place for really unusual stuff. But that didn't make me stop and second guess myself.

Then I played 'I'se a Muggin'' by Stuff Smith etc, but not the 'musical numbers' version that was a bit chic in Herräng/the US recently, because that version shits me. But this version is cool because it end with the suggestion that listeners flip over the record to hear the musical numbers game. I like this song (and other Stuff Smith stuff) because it's a good transition to other vocal-heavy, quirky/funny stuff like Fats Waller.
So I played some slower Fats Waller that I know people like. It has a lovely shouty shout chorus at the end.

More Midnight Serenaders. Sell out.

The Hazelton version of 'Revival Day' was a mistake. Why? It was too late at night, and people were too tired. I didn't build up to it with something slower tempoed, but higher energy. I was definitely pushing an agenda - I wanted to play that specific song to show it off. But I mistimed it's position in the set, it cleared the floor, and generally fucked up. That'll teach me. I knew it was a risk, I knew it probably wouldn't work, but my judgement was off.

So I played that version of 'Dinah', even though it's a bit long, because it's really good. I've played it before as a 'recovery' song, and it works well. It feels gentle (rather than in your face), and I use it for running and find it a good, consistent, 'encouraging' song that keeps me going with its lighter, gentler sound. It's a very familiar, iconic melody, but played at a much slower tempo than usual. It's hi-fi. It has some excellent solos, but no lyrics. It can sound a bit samey, but it's a good samey. You'd have a nice, safe dance to it. It did the job.

By this point I finally figured out that people were tired. It was about 2.30 and people were really feeling Andy's arse kicking. So I played this mellow Tuba Skinny song. I'm not entirely sure of the vocal style of the singer (she sounds a bit too soul for this stuff), but it's a nice, easy tempo and another good recovery song. But it also has some nice breaks, and builds a little towards the end.

'Joog Joog' is one of my go-to songs. It has an odd intro (Ivie Anderson I think?), which usually has dancers turning up their noses. But it also has a really good, solid, driving thumping beat that's not too intense. It's a real 'joog joog' rhythm. Which is just what the lyrics are all about. It also builds and builds. At this point I was also thinking 'what the fuck am I doing with this small group bullshit? We are ready for some proper big band action. Four on the floor and no cheating!

I often play the 'Joog Joog'/'Solid as a Rock' combination. 'Solid as a Rock' is a solid favourite, and the clapping and familiar rhythm always get people up and moving. It was a nice step up in energy from 'Joog Joog' and worked just as I'd intended. I had the floor totally full with 'Joog Joog' then I was a winner with 'Solid as a Rock'.

Now, from here, there were a number of things I could do. In a usual setting, earlier in the night, when dancers have lots of energy, I'd step it up, tempo and energy wise. I'd go up from the easypeasy 140bpm to 180 without a qualm. So I took a punt with 'C Jam Blues', thinking I'd safely built then energy up to the point I needed. But I underestimated the lateness of the night and also the effect the hard floor was having on dancers' bodies. If I'd actually been dancing more I'd have realised just how tiring that floor was. That version of 'C-Jam Blues' is another new one for me, and a little lump of gold from a collection of transcripts. I love that action: broadcast and recorded 'live'. It's 1949, so it's the same 12 month period as the last two songs, and really meshed well with their late swing era style. It's still solid, chunking Ellington (rather than wacky doo later Ellington), it's a very familiar song and melody, it has some extremely badass solos, and it really rocks along. Great dancing. And people dug it. It just slowly killed them until only a few strong couples were left.

So I decided to recover with some more solid swing (smaller group, though), and another new purchase. It's a very good song, it just doesn't quite rock for dancing in this setting, as the small group experimentation with repeating (and repeating and repeating) the riff got a bit dull after a while.

I figured 'ok' and followed up with another favourite, but also a song that starts mellow and then builds. But it annoyed me a bit with its earlier sound. I decided to just stop fucking about and go back to playing the favourite/solid later swing era stuff. And to ease off the bastard tempos. 'Turn It Over' is a song I used to play a _lot_ in Melbourne, but which I hardly ever play in Sydney. Mostly because it doesn't work on the shitty, under-powered Swingpit sound system. But it's such a good, fun song. And it worked perfectly. Crowd returns to floor. I promise to be kind.

'Sweet Patootie' is a lovely song, and not one I've played for dancers before, though I play it a lot at home. It's slow. It's very slow for lindy hop. And as I put it on I said to myself "right, you lindy hoppers, you can dance fast, but can you dance slow?" and they could. It's such a good little melody, such lovely, drawly lyrics, such dirty dirty entendre... _And_ it's Bechet with Noble Sissle, which is my favourite Bechet. It has the sort of rolly rhythm of a later swing era song of the 40s, but it's actually only late 30s. It feels like it's going to become some good, solid Kansas early rnb, but it doesn't quite. The dancers really liked it. Which was a big relief.

So I followed up with 'Chasing Shadows', which is a song Trev put me onto aaaages ago (he played it to very good effect one MLX yonks ago), and which I adore. I have a faster, fun version by Louis Prima in the 20s, but this one is perfect for a mellower crowd who still want interesting rhythms and melodies. I love the vocals. The Roy Eldridge/Chu Berry combo is unstoppable. Putney Dandridge is kind of nothing (I looked him up in the discographies, and he's only done a few recordings, really, in the vein we like), but it's a nice, chunky slower song just right for a late night lindy crowd who aren't really up for extreme lindy hop any more.

'Do Your Duty' is my favourite Bessie Smith song. That's her and a stellar cast of musicians. Truly amazing. I also had to make up for playing the modern version the night before. I often play this song late at night at exchanges, and I find that dancers really like Bessie Smith's delivery. I'm always surprised by the way people respond to her singing, even through the static and shitty recordings. I always get comments from dancers, and it's not that common to see dancers respond that way to a vocalist. I see Billie Holiday get the same response in blues rooms, but it's a rare thing to hear dancers really _feeling_ the singer's delivery in the way they feel another musician. I think Smith is underrated by a lot of lindy hop DJs, and I always try to play more of her in blues rooms. I think she (and Billie) are very important in the history of jazz and blues. I think Smith is super important in jazz and swing history because so many musicians played with her earlier in their careers as accompanists (Fletcher Henderson, Clarence Williams, Buster Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, Jack Teagarden, Chu Berry, Benny Goodman(!), Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge), and I'm sure her indomitable style shaped their music.

Then it was time to go home, and I was feeling a bit badly behaved. So I just changed style without the clutch. I love 'Blues for Smedley' and often play it late at night. Best solos ever. Then another Oscar Peterson, but this one has the best lyrics by Lester Young. There's nothing quite an elderly man of indeterminate sexuality and certain inebriety asking you to take your knickers off.

It's late, now, so I'll have a look at the third set tomorrow. If I can be bothered.

[edit: the Saturday set]

This is the set I played on the Saturday night, doing the second last set and starting at 2am. I began with James Brown because they needed a song to play while people bashed at the piñata. If ever there was a time to need the Mexican Hat Dance song... but I'm not sure the level of craziness that song induces is really a good thing when blind folded people are wielding a giant stick in a crowded room.

title artist album bpm year song length

Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine James Brown Sex Machine 110 1991 5:17
Every Day I Have The Blues Count Basie and his Orchestra (Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams) Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings [Disc 8] 110 1956 5:12
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 144 1958 3:13
The Jumpin' Blues Jay McShann and his Band (Jimmy Witherspoon) Goin' To Kansas City Blues 155 1957 3:04
I Diddle Dinah Washington Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones 153 3:05
On Revival Day Carrie Smith acc. by George Kelly, Ram Ramirez, Billy Butler When You're Down and Out 189 1977 3:49
I Ain't Mad At You Mildred Anderson No More In Life 158 1960 3:04
Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 120 1958 3:11
Lemonade Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 5) 117 1950 3:17
Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra with Sonny Parker Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 134 1949 3:24
Savoy Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra (Trevor Bacon) Anthology Of Big Band Swing (Disc 2) 166 1942 3:05
Leap Frog Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Luis Russell) The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (disc 7) 159 1941 3:00
Don't Be That Way Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 2) 136 1938 2:36
Alligator Meat (B / R Vox Only) - Joe Swift, Johnny Otis Ban Joe Swift, Johnny Otis Band Studio Cuts 122 2:56
My Blue Heaven The Cangelosi Cards Clinton Street Recordings, I 145 4:12
You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders Magnolia 187 2007 4:02

I could do anything I liked, really, because the piñata thing kind of interrupted the flow. When I first started DJing I used to start with the Breakfast Dance and Barbeque version of 'Every Day I Have The Blues' because it's slow and lets me build the room up from nothing. I started with this version because I hear it so rarely. It's from the Mosaic Basie set, and is a really good duet. I decided I wanted to play some hi-fi big band action, in part because I was sick of small groups, and also because I wanted to play 'easy' stuff that everyone would like. It worked well.

'Blues In Hoss's Flat' just because.

'The Jumpin' Blues' because it continues the theme. I wanted to echo the shouty male vocals and keep to the hi-fi big band action.

'I Diddle' because I was sick of the in-your-face wall-of-sound, both emotionally (it's pretty intense) and volume-wise (the previous DJ had really overdone the volume in a bad way). It's a total sell-out song, but then I still like it. It's fun to dance to. And sometimes it's just nice to play songs everyone knows, so everyone can have some fun.

I was watching a dancer on the floor and thought 'imma gonna play this song for her' and that's why I played 'On Revival Day'. It's not the version most people play - it's faster and a stack of fun. It went down well, and that particular dancer ran up to me in a froth saying "I love this blah blah blah!!!" in a kind of delirious crazy-person shout. So I figured that was a win.

I've promised myself I wouldn't play 'I Ain't Mad At You' again, but it's a fun song. I love Anderson's voice. The breaks always go down well.

But by then I was all up in people's grills with the energy and big sound, so I mellowed it out with _another_ overplayed favourite. But 'Gimme a Pigfoot' is a good song.

Then I wanted to get a bit more old school, and 'Lemonade' (overplayed song no.6 599 000) is a good transition.

Then another overplayed party song. But people enjoyed it. I was thinking of building things up with some old school big band, and 'Savoy' is a good tool for that job (another overplayed one). But people were looking a bit arse-kicked, so I played 'Leap Frog', which is kind of mellow, but builds up. It's great lindy hoppping. They looked tired, and I felt a bit tired, so I mellowed it out again with 'Don't Be That Way', which is a supergreat song. 'Alligator Meat' isn't that great, but it's easy and fun.

Then I was sick of all that rubbish and decided to play something more interesting. That version of 'My Blue Heaven' is a good one for rebuilding a floor, as it's kind of light and easy-going, but it builds up. And it's a really good song.
I finished with another one of my overplayed favourites. It's the only one song I played twice over the weekend. I think it's also the only song that I'd heard played before over the weekend, which I then played. I tried my best to avoid re-playing songs I heard other DJs play, but I could have missed one as I wasn't really paying attention to other DJs all that much. But I'm really sick of going to exchanges and hearing the same songs over and over again, in every DJ's set. I figure, if we're not good enough to make a set work without revisiting the same old shit, we're not good enough to play an exchange.

Righto, that's it for my Canberrang DJing. Not as exciting as I'd hoped. But I didn't suck arse. The first set was the best one, I think. Though I enjoyed doing the last one the most, and people really enjoyed that one the most.

"Canberräng report and djing" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

July 28, 2010

good hair, that man

Posted by dogpossum on July 28, 2010 6:00 AM | Comments (0)

This is Josh Billings from this clip:
The band is of course the Mound CIty Blue Blowers. This type of music is v popular with dancer-musicians atm. But no one is as fun as these blokes were.

This hair inspired my hair.

"good hair, that man" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

July 21, 2010

sinister blues

Posted by dogpossum on July 21, 2010 9:38 PM | Comments (0)

I just want to keep a copy of this comment from faceplant, because I think it's interesting.

I've been thinking about and playing some music that I think of as 'sinister blues'. I call it that mostly because I remember seeing the Belle and Sebastian CD If you're feeling sinister on the coffee table when I was talking about it with someone. I like the way B&S, with their kind of sulky, hip aesthetic use the term 'sinister', and I like the way their use contrasts with the sort of show these 'sinister blues' people do (which is excessive, flamboyant, over the top and everything being hip is not).

Basically, when I think 'sinister blues', I'm thinking about bands who use acoustic instrumentation, often borrowed from jazz, blues or folk traditions (gypsy, yiddish, tango, etc), sing songs that are often quite bloody or hypersexualised, dress up in quite flamboyant, carnivale type gear, and do live shows that are really dramatic and fun. Some of them take themselves really seriously, some (most) have a bit of a sense of humour about it. They really do feel a bit Carnival, in that they are about excess, and often sing or perform stories which are deliberately 'shocking' or 'forbidden' or otherwise nasty. It's the excess - of emotion, costume, performing style, etc - which makes them super fun. They tend to dovetail with the goth/rockabilly scene in Sydney, where there's already a high-costume aesthetic. And some pretty heinous gender fail (do not let me get on my burlesque rant again). But as I point out, there's room for queering this shit up. Just like in True Blood, which takes all that excessive drama and sinister performance and twists it just a little (I wrote about that a little bit here).

So, Keith asked:

Keith Shapiro:
Meant to take notes on what we were talking about a month ago re: "despicable" blues or something like that, but didn't write it down and twitter lost it all. Can you remind me about the bands you were talking so I can investigate for this month's podcast? :)

Keith produces Confessin' the Blues, which is an interesting podcast discussing music for blues dancing.

I wrote this response:

Hmmm... I think it was 'Sinister blues' akshully (just a name to sum up these bands' kind of dark, broody style).

Tim Jones had some good names as well.

Ones I can think of:

Tiger Lillies


The Tiger Lillies, 'world's foremost death oompah band' (; video: Probably more in the cabaret/gothic glam camp, but still...

[edit: I have written about them here before]

CW Stoneking


CW Stoneking, who you know ( ; video: reminds me of the Tiger Lillies). Definitely danceable songs on his cds, and has links with Melbourne's hot jazz scene and bands/musicians who play regularly for lindy hoppers.

Tom Waits. Nuff said.

I'm kinda thinking some Nick Cave should be in this list...

Mojo Juju and the Snake Oil Merchants


Mojo Juju and the Snake oil merchants' 'dusty gin-house cavalcade' ( finally, a woman! And fairly queer...
[edit: associated with Hoodoo Emporium]

Brothers Grim

[edit: Gunther's great pic from BBS this year]

Brothers Grim: 'sex voodoo delta blues-a-billy' (; Gunther's great pics: Did a really GREAT set at Blues Before Sunrise this year - great performers.

Snow Droppers

Brothers Grim remind me of some bands which are popular in Sydney (where there's a greater cross-over with rock n roll and rockabilly), including the Snow Droppers ( who aren't necessarily 'blues dancing' bands, but are in that sort of newer or retro-type rockabilly/jump blues/rhythm n blues (whatevs) vein.

I like the term 'sinister blues' because it implies the nasty, morbid, goth edge. It's also super-serious, which makes me giggle. Reminds me of True Blood, in the BEST possible way. In fact, there's probably good stuff on the TB soundtrack, and I've found good stuff on the Deadwood and Carnivàle soundtracks as well.

I'm not entirely comfortable with all these bands because some of them (esp at the rockabilly end of the spectrum) tend to be GENDER FAIL. But then, all that work they do is intended to 'shock' (including via dodgy gender politics, violent or bloody themes, etc), which is kinda immature, but also part of their shtick. And it can be kinda fun, what with the dressing up and all, especially when it gets _so_ serious it becomes ridiculous.

I can't think of any female groups who do this stuff (beyond Mojo Juju) And I'd _really_ like to see some queer artists getting in there and screwing with the heteronormativity and rampant blokeism (something for the I think...)

...but then, I don't really know this music very well.

If I'm DJing these guys, I often add in some super old school stuff with dark or darkly funny lyrics (eg Rosetta Howard singing about how she'll 'cut him if he stands still, shoot him if he runs'; Irma Thomas doing 'Soul of a Man'; Bessie Jones singing 'O Death' on the Alan Lomax recordings) - stuff that says bayou, voodoo, etc.

"sinister blues" was posted in the category clicky and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and television and true blood

June 29, 2010

balboa DJing

Posted by dogpossum on June 29, 2010 3:42 AM | Comments (0)

So this past weekend we had the Sydney Balboa Weekend, and my recent flush of dance-love (as prompted by MSF) helped me decide that I might like to do workshops. I've very glad I did. I've done some balboa DJing in the past, but not a whole lot, and I'm not hugely confident about it. The problem, really, is that I don't dance the dance, so I can't read the crowd terribly well, and I can't translate musical figures to dancing figures - I'm not entirely sure what will work and what won't.

Nick and Laura are top notch teachers, and their classes were lovely. Most of the stuff I knew about balboa was wrong, and most of the classes I've ... hellz, every clas I've had in bal before has been wrong. It was a delight to learn that balboa is just like lindy hop, technically speaking, just with a higher 'embrace' in closed position, and a smaller frame.

In other words, you don't get down low to the floor (the way you do in lindy), but you do keep nice posture, strengthen up your core (ie all the muscles and stuff in your abdomen, but also into your hips and the tops of your legs and in your arse), relax your shoulders and bounce. That last bit made me so very happy. Bounce is what makes it possible to keep time, to follow, and for leads to release their shoulders and relax. Dancing without bounce is really hard. Much harder than with bounce, because you have to restrict the natural movement of your body. We were also instructed not to stand on tippy toes (as follows), which is another bullshitty bit of teaching I'd had trouble with in the past. It was nice to ease off and relax down into my gutses so I could follow properly.

I had a jolly time.

It's not lindy hop, though, and that's sad. But it is nice. In a tightywhitey way. I definitely feel as though I have a much better idea of how balboa works in regards to music, and I'm definitely relieved to discover that most of the things I'd been taught in the past were wrong. Balboa really is a swing dance, in that you do it to swing music, and it has a lovely swinging timing with lots of syncopation and lovely playing with timing and delay. There the things that make swing dances swing, to me - the swinging timing. Bounce is absolutely central to that, so I say No Thankyou to dances without them. Except tango. Actually, the workshops really felt like a workshop in tango - fascinating, fun, but actually not my proper cup of tea.

I think, mostly, I just like the energy, the frenetic in-your-faceness of lindy, and the chance for visual play and jokes. Bal is a bit straighter. It's not uptight (well, not all the time), jokes do work, but the closed position means that there's less scope for badass in your face jokes. It is fun to experiment with the limits of the embrace (which is what tango doods call closed position), so far as mucking about goes. But I'm not actually good enough at the dance to really experiment properly. I mostly just concentrate on following.

Anyways, I did some DJing. Below is my first set. It was bad. Bad. Bad. Because:

  • I had technical problems and freaked out a bit
  • I had no idea what normal tempos were for bal
  • I had to lean on the hi-fi stuff at first because the sound system couldn't hack the scratchies. Which sucked, as I hadn't planned any hi-fi stuff, and had to scramble to reassess this part of my collection for 'balboa-ableness'.
  • I leaned too heavily on the faster tempos. Because I feel ok following at 200bpm. And I don't actually lead (very much beyond the basic steps) balboa, I had no clue about leading bal at higher tempos. In retrospect, a lot of the bad habits people had (relying very heavily on triples rather than a range of half time or other steps; being too stiff and upright; not bouncing) make it really hard to dance fast balboa (or anything really).
  • I played too many small groups, and songs which were a bit samey, stylistically
  • I didn't know what 'favourites' worked with bal doods - I had no 'safety' songs... besides 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen', 'Minor Swing' and a couple of others. So when I fucked up, I had no safety song to rebuild the floor with. ARGH.
  • I couldn't read the crowd. Bal is quite contained, so I found it harder to read the dancers' emotions. I was also too panicky to even attempt reading them. Bal is also low-impact, so dancers don't get physically exhausted the way lindy hoppers do. So you can dance every single song. This makes it harder to figure out how to build energy, and then to discover the point of 'climax' where you kick arses and then start building again.

First Set (Friday 25th June 2010), actually playing the second set of the night.
title artist bpm year length last played

Swingin' On That Famous Door Delta four (Roy Eldridge, Joe Marsala, Carmen Mastren, Sid Weiss) All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 190 1935 3:00 27/06/10 11:55 AM
Scram! Echoes of Swing Harlem Joys 193 2008 3:21 4/03/10 1:17 PM
Harlem Joys Echoes of Swing Harlem Joys 230 2008 3:37 25/06/10 9:25 PM
Seven Come Eleven Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Jammin' the Blues 227 2003 2:53 25/06/10 9:28 PM
Squatty Roo Frank Ropberscheuten/ Dan Barett A Portrait Of Duke 203 2001 3:22 25/06/10 9:32 PM
Minor Swing Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Jammin' the Blues 202 2003 3:24 25/06/10 9:35 PM
Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea Dicky Wells, Django Reinhardt, Bill Coleman, Bill Dillard, Shad Collins, Dick Fullbright, Bill Beason 40 Titres d'anthologie (disc 1) 190 1937 2:55 25/06/10 9:38 PM
Madame Dynamite Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Sidney Catlett) Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 176 1933 2:56 25/06/10 9:41 PM
Royal Garden Blues Wingy Manone Complete Jazz Series 1934 - 1935 215 1934 2:49 25/06/10 9:44 PM
Everybody Rock Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra Live At The Savoy - 1939-40 187 1939 3:19 25/06/10 9:47 PM
Let's Get Together Chick Webb and his Orchestra Stomping At The Savoy (disc 1): Don't Be That Way 209 1934 3:05 25/06/10 9:50 PM
Algiers Stomp Mills Blue Rhythm Band (Lucky Millinder, Henry 'Red' Allen, J.C. Higgenbotham, George Washington, Edgar Hayes) Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 219 1936 3:08 25/06/10 9:53 PM
Chimes At The Meeting Willie Bryant and his Orchestra (Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole) Willie Bryant 1935-1936 245 1935 3:01 25/06/10 9:56 PM
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, Part 1 [alt take] Benny Goodman Quartet (Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Martha Tilton) RCA Victor Small Group Recordings (Disc 2) 195 1937 3:23 25/06/10 10:00 PM
Diga Diga Doo Cootie Williams and his Rug Cutters The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 1) 227 1937 2:52 25/06/10 10:03 PM
You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders Magnolia 187 2007 4:02 26/06/10 5:43 PM

This is the second set I did, on the second night, doing some warm up for the band, and then the band breaks.

title artist album bpm year length

Charlie the Chulo - Take 1 Duke Ellington The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 10) 225 1940 3:04
Texas Chatter Harry James Life Goes To A Party 178 2:54
A Mug Of Ale Joe Venuti's Blue Four All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 3) 220 1927 3:07
I'se A Muggin' Le Quintette du Hot Club de France (Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt, Joseph Reinhardt, Pierre Ferret, Lucien Simoens, Freddy Taylor) The Complete Django Reinhardt And Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France Swing/HMV Sessions 1936-1948 (disc 1) 176 1936 3:08
Don't Tetch It! Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O'Neil Spencer Una Mae Carlisle: Complete Jazz Series 1941 - 1944 191 1942 2:21
My Window Faces The South Fats Waller and his Rhythm (Paul Campbell, Caughey Roberts, Ceele Burke, Al Morgan, Lee Young) The Middle Years - Part 1 (1936-1938) (disc 3) 215 1937 3:14
You'll Wind Up On Top Bus Moten and his Men Kansas City - Jumping The Blues From 6 To 6 182 1949 2:47
Stomp It Off Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 190 1934 3:09
Joe Louis Stomp Bill Coleman, Edgar Currance, Jean Ferrier, Oscar Aleman, Eugene d'Hellemes, Hurley Diemer Bill Coleman In Paris 1936-1938 213 1936 3:14
Blue Drag New Orleans Jazz Vipers The New Orleans Jazz Vipers 181 2002 4:23
I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby Midnight Serenaders Sweet Nothin's 206 2009 3:32
Swingin' On That Famous Door Delta four (Roy Eldridge, Joe Marsala, Carmen Mastren, Sid Weiss) All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 190 1935 3:00
Whoa Babe Bob Wills legends of country music cd2 214 2:36
St. Louis Blues Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra Ella Fitzgerald In The Groove 183 1939 4:46
Seven Come Eleven Benny Goodman Sextet (Fletcher Henderson, Charlie Christian, Artie Bernstein, Nick Fatool, Lionel Hampton) Charlie Christian: The Genius of The Electric Guitar (disc 1) 234 1939 2:47
Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 164 1950 2:15
We the People Catherine Russell Inside This Heart of Mine 200 2010 2:52
Putting On The Ritz The Cangelosi Cards Clinton Street Recordings, I 195 3:38

I played 'Charlie the Chulo' because I love it. I walked away while it was playing to check the sound in the room, and while I was gone the band (who'd just done their sound checks) turned it off because they didn't like the hissing. I had a discussion with the trumpeter about remastering that he had a lot more invested in than I did. I just have a higher scratch threshold I think. At any rate, he preferred the Harry James. That particular period of Ellington is a bit shit, quality-wise. I have a few different versions of those years' songs, and they're all pretty shitty and hissy. Oh well.

'Texas Chatter' is on my 'should play lindy hop' list, and it went down nicely with the (super tiny) crowd. 'A Mug of Ale' is another of my favourites. There really wasn't anyone there (beyond people setting up), so I could experiment. I like this song, but the smaller group is a bit difficult for building energy. 'I'se A Muggin' was popular, and we had a real crowd happening then.

I was really playing mellower stuff to sort of warm the room. I wanted to avoid the mega tempos, and I put a lot more work into the wave. Which (unsurprisingly) gave me better results than just randomly throwing 240bpm songs at the dancers. Duh.

'Don't Tetch It' is a really nice song, and I want to play it for lindy hoppers, but it's a bit fast and also a bit complex. But it was a nice song for bal. Nice chunky beat, but also a nice swinging lyric. I was surprised by the success of the Fats Waller, but I'd deliberately chosen some Fats with a different sound. A bit of steel guitar. A different, chunking rhythm, a stronger trumpet solo, less mucking about on the vocals. This is a good song because it builds up.

'You'll wind up on top' was a real punt. I wanted to see how that style went with balboa kids - late 40s, more shuffley rhythm. People liked it (someone came to tell me so), and the floor was full. It's a fun, energetic song, but I wasn't entirely sure this was what I should be doing with balboa. It felt a bit like the moments in my lindy sets when I play Louis Jordan and other Kansas guys who lead into jump blues.

So I went to a song I knew would work, because I've seen it work before for bal kids. 'Stomp it off' has a big band sound, it's a familiar artist with a familiar set of instrumentation, but it's lighter and tinklier, less in-your-face than a lot of Lunceford. The tempo was perfect for balboa, and it really worked as a nice, welcome-to-the-dance song.

'Joe Louis Stomp' was a bit of a punt, and kind of a strange way of referencing both Django (and his Hot Club doods), as well as the smaller hot combos. Bill Coleman recorded this in France, and he was in Fats' recordings as well. This is a good song, not one I've played before (many of these were first-timers for me - hence some of my panic). I know them well from home, but I've not played them for dancers. But this Coleman song worked well. It has a good, swinging style (nice trumpet!), it chunks along, it feels like a slightly larger band (even though there are only six of them), but it also has a sort of French/Django type feel. Something about the timing? I dunno.

The point of that Django referencing was to take advantage of the popularity of Django with bal dancers who'd been to ABW this year and were in attendance. The ABW comp DJ had given a talk about Django (which you can read about on his blog in this post) and the kids were digging him.

Anyways, then the band came on. Who weren't rocking it. They played a set that would work for lindy, but not for bal. Some rock n roll cross overs. And tempos that were far too slow. Faaar too slow. They cleared the floor a few times, which is difficult to do as a live band.

When I came on in the next break, I figured my job was to rebuild the room for the band.That meant

  • getting people feeling good again,
  • getting them back on the floor,
  • playing easy songs which people would like,
  • and demonstrating the tempos and style that might work for the band.

So I started with 'Blue Drag' which is popular with bal dancers someone told me during the break. I played a hi-fi version to complement the band (who had a male vocalist like the Vipers). It's in a minor key, which kind of complement the band's last superslow song, and also kind of made a joke of the way the floor was utterly dead and people were feeling a bit unhappy. The song builds, though, quite slowly, so people had time to decide they wanted to dance after all, to get a partner, to get on the floor, and then to actually dance. By the last minute, when it starts to get a little more energetic, the dancers were feeling cheerier, and it was working out ok.

'I'm Crazy 'bout my baby' is a very familiar jazz standard. The Midnight Serenaders had gone down very well the night before. They're fun, they're a small combo who sound a little New Orleansy (though they aren't), and they're fun. This song had male vocals as well. I figured the cheery sound would capitalise on the dancers' renewed interest, and that I could use this song to make them feel even better. Because it's a lovely song. The trumpeter is quite excellent, and his work with the clarinet really make you feel good - it's good music. That all worked as I'd hoped, so by the end of the song the floor was full and I figured it was time to get a bit more serious.

'Swinging on that famous Door' was a punt because I'd played it the night before, but the sound quality had been so bad the night before it hadn't really worked out. So I used it the second time to build the energy, to use the 'familiar' card, and to transition to old school rather than hi-fi. That comb is really bloody good - more big band names (Eldridge), but also a sound that echoed my earlier work (with Joe Marsala who did all that work in Chicago with guys like Condon, Mound City Blue Blower doods, etc). I tossed up between the hi-fi Duke Heitger version and this older one, but I followed the usual rule: if either old or hi-fi will work, go with old, because it's better. They were better musicians. And they were.

By the end I had them really cooking. They were digging it. So I took the tempos up. Not the biggest band in the world, and a departure to western swing. But this song rocks. The Lionel Hampton version is popular with lindy hop, I play the Leo Mathisen one a bit, and I know it rocks. I'd actually just been put onto this song by Keith at MSF in Melbourne, who used it for his team's performance. So it was a sneaky job on my part. But it's a great song. And it went off.

I then thought I'd really start to kick their arses. And here is where my inexperience with balboa kids hit me. 'St Louis Blues' is perfect: big band, live recording, at the Savoy, best band. But it's only 180bpm. This longer, high energy song has been a go-to for my lindy DJing if I've wanted to kick their arses. But even lindy hoppers are happier with higher tempos these days. Balboa kids loved it, but it just wasn't fast enough. I had hesitated, wondering if I should have played a faster track from that same band/recording session, but I played it safe instead. It didn't fail, it went well, but I could have made it awesome by taking it up a little.

'Seven Come Eleven' was my taking it up a little song. I love this. It is another small group (can you see how I'm really favouring small groups, when I shouldn't have? That's more evidence of my inexperience), but it fucking COOKS. It's faster, it's energetic, but it's also complicated. The sort of stuff that balboa kids can do really really well - where lindy hop doesn't really work quite as well. That's where I learnt something about balboa: those guys can hack any tempo, so they need some other challenge. A complicated arrangement, a challenging set of improvisations within a tight composition, some interesting breaks... that's what they like. With energy and possibly high tempos. It was successful.

So then I dropped it down with another of my overplayed lindy hop favourites. But where I'd use 'Rag Mop' to build energy towards a climax for lindy, I used it to cool them down a bit from a faster, crazier song, but still kept the energy. I also shifted from a smaller sound to the bigger sound of this recording. It's a later recording, but the style is kind of New Orleans revival, so it works. It did the job.

Then the band came on with the perfect transition song. I think they're pretty clued in, and figured out what was working for this crowd, and could adapt to suit them. The tempos went up, and they played faster, brighter, less shuffley stuff after that.
I felt bad about doing a better job than they did in their set - I don't like to show off when a band is on - but we really needed a change. I need to think about this more.

I played just two more songs after that before a jack and jill. Catherine Russell is still very popular with lindy hoppers (that song 'Just because you can' is anyway), so I figured I'd play this fun little song. It's kind of in the same vein as everything else I'd played. Another fucking small band. But it worked. People dug it.
I played 'Putting on the Ritz' for Kira who was standing next to me, and because it feels like the balboa I'd like to do. Sort of hoity toity, but tongue in cheek. Hot. Fun. Another fucking small fucking band.

All this made me realise just how many small bands I play. I think it's because I like a lot of new bands, most of whom can't afford lots of musicians (for the same reason they couldn't in the late 40s in the US in the post-war period). I also like the New Orleans sound, which didn't often feature more than about 8 players, mostly because they used a lot of organised improvisation, and when you get to 8 musicians, you've kind of reached the limit of group playing without tighter arrangements. I think I'm going to focus more on bigger bands from now on. Nothing gives you that wall of sound experience like the big band, with a bunch of brass honking in concert over a chunky, badass engine of a rhythm section.

Anyways, it was all fun. I felt much better about this second set than I did about the first. Phew. But I have a long way to go. The best thing I could have done for my bal DJing was actually do some bal workshops. Duh.

Things I learnt:

I discovered (mostly after doing classes the next day, and after listening to the in-class music, which was just what I'd think of as 'good lindy hopping action'):

  • that 'Swingin on that Famous Door' (a song I've long loved and used for lindy) is a winner for balboa dancers. So is 'Algier's Stomp'. And 'Diga Diga Doo'. As wel as 'Minor Swing', 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen' and other Django songs. In fact, if I love dancing lindy to it, I love balboa to it.
  • balboa dancers like the same chunky four-on-the-floor rhythm that I do for lindy hop. They're not keen on shufflely rhythms of the late 40s and early 50s. Mostly because they're a bit too behind the beat, and the bal doods like it a bit more on the beat.
  • Bal doods like big band music. Because it's big. Nick made that point in a conversation we had (I confess: I asked him to dance just so I could then stand and chat with him about DJing. Laaaaame), and I think it's an interesting one, as small groups (Goodman's small bands, Django's, some smaller Ellington, etc) are DJed a lot for bal dancers. I like that stuff, and I do DJ it for lindy hoppers. I had assumed that that was what bal dancers liked. I think, in retrospect, that bal dancers can do a lot with that smaller, complicated 'chamber' jazz. But that big bands are just more fun.
  • Hot 20s stuff is not good for bal. It was very popular with some Australian bal DJs and teachers, but I didn't feel comfortable DJing it for bal - it's too 1/2 time. Too uppy downy. I was relieved to hear Nick make similar comments. I like that action for charleston or other uppy-downy dances. But I think bal - as with lindy - works better with the more 'horizontal' or swinging timing - 'four on the floor and no cheating' as Basie said. The increased swinginess simply feels better for a dance that's using lots of syncopated delays and gooshy down-bounce. This issue is one I'd like to return to, in relation to lindy hop. And how I'm increasingly uncomfortable with DJs who load their lindy sets down with hotter 20s stuff (and recreationist stuff in that style). It's superfun music, but unless the crowd are into that earlier style lindy, it's not going to rock. Personally, I like a big band from the early to mid 30s. Heck, the 30s. I like the swing. I like the greater range in tempos. I also like the hotter earlier stuff a LOT, but not for my lindy. That's for other dances.
  • Peter Loggins is right: if it feels good for lindy, it'll feel better for balboa.

"balboa DJing" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

June 22, 2010

8track: songs that might work for balboa

Posted by dogpossum on June 22, 2010 4:29 PM | Comments (1)

Or check it out here.
Image stoled from Shorpy.

I'm trying to get my brain around some balboa music. Buggered if I know what I'm doing. All this stuff is songs that I love, but which don't really always work for flatout badass lindy hop. What the hey - maybe they'd be good for bal? Who can say.

title artist album bpm year length

Chris And His Gang The Cairo Club Orchestra Sunday 180 2004 2:40
Swingin' On The Campus Cootie Williams and his Rug Cutters The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 2 (Disc 2) 196 1939 2:42
Stompy Jones Duke Ellington The Very Best Of Duke Ellington 199 3:04
Stealin' Smack's Apples Glenn Miller's G.I.s (Peanuts Hucko, Mel Powell, Bernie Priven, Joe Schulman, Ray McKinley, Django Reinhardt) Glenn Miller's G.I.s in Paris 1945 175 1945 2:36
Boo-Woo Harry James and his Boogie Woogie Trio (Pete Johnson) Pete Johnson 1938-1939 209 1939 2:59
Zonky McKinney's Cotton Pickers (Don Redman) Zonky 226 1930 3:03
Sugar (That Sugar Baby O' Mine) Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Billie Holiday, Roy Eldridge, Benny Carter, Milt Hinton, Cozy Cole) Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 05) 170 1939 2:48
I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby (05-20-38) Una Mae Carlisle with Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, Alan Ferguson, Len Harrison, Hymie Schneider Una Mae Carlisle: Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941 201 1938 2:41

"8track: songs that might work for balboa" was posted in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

June 13, 2010

MSF set 2.5 + fan-gush for falty's djing

Posted by dogpossum on June 13, 2010 5:07 PM | Comments (0)

Ok, so when I heard Falty was teaching at MSF, my first thought was not 'oh, wonderful - nice classes' or even 'hellz yes; yr gender norms, we will fuck them up' but 'oo! can haz DJ?!' I'm organising the DJs this year for the event, so I just dropped an email off to the man, and - ta da! - we had DJ.
Mike very kindly did a set at the late night last night, and it was (and here, you must understand, I am understating the case) frickin neat. He did a really fucking great set. The sort of stuff that I'm really loving at the moment; lots of energy, grunt, dirty rhythms, etc etc etc.
I was doing the set before him, to warm the room, and I did an ok set - nothing too exciting, mostly things people'd heard before, etc. I was really trying to just get things cooking a little, and not to kill people after their night with the tempo-ly challenging Red Hot Rhythmakers and before Falty introduced them to the Kicking Of Arse.
After he was done with that (and after he exposed his person to a room full of appreciative dancers of all genders), I kind of chilled things off a little with a lo-fi, medium-slow tempo set of stuff I adore, but which I rarely play for dancers. By this point people were a) pissed as newts, b) absolutely knackered, c) drained like sinks, d) mixed like dodgy metaphors. So I kind of mellowed it. This weekend I'd been asked to go easy on blues with DJs, and really to offer a program packed with lindy hop. So I didn't want to go solid blues, but I did want to ease off the tempos.

side note:
It's been really fun, actually, to work with the DJs this year. They're all really capable and together, AND they're all really good DJs. I've been super happy with their work so far. I hope I don't jinx things, but they've done just the right stuff all weekend. The band breaks have been DJed masterfully (Loz warmed the room perfectly on Thursday, Keiran did a lovely 'sophisticated swing' introduction to the 20s society band style of the Rhythmakers in the fancy Fitzroy Town Hall (which he then shifted over into more raggedy lindy hopping action). Lexi did a fucking scorching set at the late night on Friday, which made me dance and dance and dance til I thought I might pass out (I'm spinning around!). I didn't hear all Sharon's set, but she was moving nicely from Lexi badassery to more mixed lindy hopping goodness when I left. Last night Falty was superfine, and I was actually pretty happy with the set I did after him. I started at 3 (with workshops the next day), so the room did empty out a bit, but the numbers stayed, and I was glad I didn't go down into blues or keep trying to push the tempos. I really wanted to play seriously scratchy, lo-fi stuff with silly lyrics, dirty lyrics and familiar lyrics done a little wackier.

Tonight the band is the Sweet Lowdowns, who I do love. They're a smaller subset of Rhythmaker folk, but they do hot combo style rather than a bigger, more society type 20s sound. The brief for the late night (which is at the same venue as the band) is for 'blues/lindy combo', which is going to be a bit challenging. I have Keith doing the first set, so I'm hoping he'll do a straight lindy transition from the band. Then Manon is booked to do a lindy-blues mix. Her style is a little different - she's really the only hi-fi/heading-towards-groove DJ on the program, and to be honest, even I'm ready for something a little slicker and saucier. I'm closing the night after her, and I'll probably do the same sort of stuff... or whatever the crowd are digging. It's going to be lots of fun.
That's my last set for the weekend. I've been doing all the little fill in jobs over the weekend, the ones that I don't like giving other DJs because they're little and a bit shitty. So I've done the social breaks during the comp (that was boring. Watching comps is boring, I'm afraid), I did 4 songs for the charleston comp on Friday, I did a real set last night to warm for Falty, and I did a small closer set after him. And I suspect tonight's set will be a littlie as well. I did have some reservations about putting myself on all those sets, but the only one that actually really felt like a good, solid DJing gig was the one before Falty. I have also tried hard to put the other DJs on good, solid gigs as well as any band breaks. But there's not a lot of solid DJing this weekend, because of the bands, so it's been hard. There've been hour long blocks before the bands, then 30 or 15 minute breaks during the bands, so those band break DJs are getting some solid action, I hope. The bands are, though, really really GREAT.

These are issues I struggle with when I coordinate DJs. I pick DJs I think are great. And then I want to show them off. But it's hard to flaunt a badass DJ when they're supporting a band - the band is the main attraction after all. I'm beginning to feel that it'd be easier to just put a CD on in band breaks. I mean, it's not like the olden days in lindy hop, when the bands were so bad you really _needed_ a good band break DJ. But then there are lots of annoying jobs during band gigs that require a real DJ - playing music for performances, welcome dances, etc - so you actually need a DJ who's really responsible and together...
It's a hard set of decisions, really. I think it's a better idea to keep the number of DJs at a gig low, and then to use them in a few settings. So long as they're cool with that. But then you get other problems: DJs who aren't involved feel left out; the DJs who're working a lot get a bit tired; if you've blundered and misjudged the type of DJs you'v chosen, the crowd are stuck with them all weekend. The last one isn't really a big problem, I don't think. I put a lot of effort into finding out exactly what the organisers want from the music - old school? A mixed platter? What's their creative 'goal' for the event? Do they want 'all really experienced DJs'? A mix of old and new so as to do some community development with encouraging new DJs? All local? A mix of interstate/overseas and local?

These can sound like wanky questions, but it really helps to talk to the organiser and find out what they want the final event to be like. Then I make suggestions and try to put together a list of people I think will work for the event. And then I get the organiser to check that list and give me the nod. It can get tricky if the organiser isn't a DJ or doesn't really get into music in a big way. In those cases I try to be a bit more active in my thinking, and to ask questions about their ideas for the event in a more general way. Then I try to come up with DJs who'll help make the event work that way.

The next step is, of course, to invite the DJs you want. It can be hard to persuade DJs from out of town to come to an event where they'll only get free entry, and then be paid $20 or $30 per hour, and without any meal or flight payments. I'm also thinking that it might be a worthwhile investment paying DJs more and giving them better packages, just so we can guarantee their presence and work. They certainly do that in America at the bigger events.
This issue is really indicative of a transitional moment in Australian swing dance culture - we just don't seem to value DJs that highly. Which of course suggests that social dancing isn't that important. I think this is changing, though. But we are beginning (as a scene - there are individual exceptions of course) to see broader cultural shifts in how we value DJs and music. But the sheer fact of geography has meant that dancers are unlikely to travel _just_ for a social dancing event, unless it's guaranteed badass, has a good reputation or offers something else along the way (eg the Hellzapoppin' comp).

These are all issues I have to think my way through. I'm still not entirely sure how I'd plan my 'ideal' event. Would I get in just a handful (as in 4 or 5 maximum) DJs, pay them really well, and give them great deals, then use them quite thoroughly on the program, promoting them heavily as a key feature of the event? What would this do to the status of the bands, though? Bands are, really, the best fun and the best part of a weekend. If they're good bands. Do I really think it's a good idea to create a sort of hierarchy of knowledge and status with DJs somewhere higher up? I mean, isn't this a bit self-serving, speaking as a DJ? Why should DJs be more important than the people who clean up after the dance?

Part of me argues that DJing requires a significant investment of time and money, and the development of skills and professional contacts and networks, so really it is more value-laden than cleaning up after the dance. But then there are clear gender divides happening here. DJs are usually men, and the cleaner-uppers and volunteers generally, are usually women. It's actually been nice to see in the last few years, that this gendering is shifting. Women are over represented in volunteer labour (as they are in the broader community), but they are steadily creeping into the DJing ranks. MSF features five women DJs and three men. This has to be a first in Australian DJ terms. I've never been at an event with more women than men DJs. And I have to say, they've been absolute GEMS.
I've _never_ had such a professional, capable team of DJs. No one's been late to a set, no one's lost anything essential, no one's missed a set (!!), no one's failed to bring the right gear. Everyone's been really keen to pull out their best work, everyone's been really conscientious, everyone's done really top quality sets, everyone's been an absolute pleasure to work with. It's been a really wonderful experience working with this group. This isn't to say that I haven't also had good experiences with other DJs at other events, but this one just seems to be working really well. AND I've had some really good dances.

My one concern, though, is that the heavy emphasis on music from the 20s, 30s and 40s has alienated some of the punters, especially the ones who're new to the dance, or aren't actually into old school music. This type of music is quite chic with the Melbourne teachers at the moment, but it hasn't always been. Some of this stuff can be a bit challenging if you're not used to the low audio quality, the musical structures, or if your dancing is really limited to just a few basic steps. The more dancing skills you have, the more experience with historic dance forms you have, the more accessible you find this stuff. It's helped that the teachers for the weekend are into this action, so they're teaching with this type of music. But part of me is thinking 'isn't it time we went hi-fi here?' All of the DJs (pretty much) have dropped contemporary recordings into their sets, but the music these modern bands are playing is still pretty old school.

On the other hand, I think that Australia is approaching the point (finally) where we can actually specialise musically at each event. I think it's a shame not to produce events with particular musical or stylistic focuses. I like to see events that have a consistency in the branding (logos, PR material, individual event PR), bands, DJs, competition structures, performances and classes. So Soul Glo is successful in part because it presents a soul-focussed event for swing dancers, with a strong blues sub-focus. Hullabaloo in Perth has always had an old-school focus, but that event is more of a complete package, and they offer such a quality event the music is really only one component of a very solid program. I think MLX could actually do with stronger branding on this front. It's been 'solid swinging jazz' since 2005 when it went all-social, but I think this branding needs updating and strengthening. I can see why some events wouldn't want to take the risk of alienating potential punters with such specific branding, but then, I wonder if it's not worth taking a risk? As a dancer, I'm certainly looking for a particular experience when I go to an event. And a 'good weekend of dancing' isn't really enough any more - I want something a little different. But still within the vernacular jazz discourse, though... unless I am at Soul Glo, and I know what I'm getting.

Ok, so that's enough of that.

Here's the set I did after Falty last night.

title band album bpm year length

It's Your Last Chance To Dance Preservation Hall The Hurricane Sessions 179 2007 4:31
Georgia Grind Louis Armstrong and the All Stars (Trummy Young, Edmund Hall, Billy Kyle, George Barnes, Squire Gersh, Barrett Deems, Bob Haggart, Velma Middleton, Yank Lawson) The Complete Decca Studio Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars (disc 05) 124 1957 3:23
Deep Trouble Les Red Hot Reedwarmers King Joe 179 2006 2:55
Blue Leaf Clover Firecracker Jazz Band The Firecracker Jazz Band 111 2005 4:59
Do Your Duty Bessie Smith acc by Buck and his Band (Frank Newton, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Buck Washington, Bobby Johnson, Billy Taylor) Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 1) 121 1933 3:31
Wipe It Off Lonnie Johnson and Clarence Williams acc. by James P. Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, Spencer Williams Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts and Lollypops 122 1930 3:20
I Like Pie I Like Cake (but I like you best of all) The Goofus Five (Bill Moore, Adrian Rollini, Irving Brodsky, Tommy Felline, Stan King) Goofus Five 1924-1925 188 1924 3:15
Don't You Leave Me Here Jelly Roll Morton's New Orleans Jazzmen (Zutty Singleton) Jelly Roll Morton 1930-1939 143 1939 2:23
It's Tight Like That Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra The Jimmie Noone Collection 144 1928 2:49
Downright Disgusted Blues Wingy Manone and his Orchestra (Chu Berry) Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 5) 129 1939 2:31
How Do They Do It That Way? Henry 'Red' Allen and his Orchestra (JC Higgenbotham, Albert Nicholas, Charlie Holmes, Luis Russell, Will Johnson, Pops Foster, Paul Barabarin), Victoria Spivey and the Four Wanderers Henry Red Allen And His New York Orchestra (disc 2) 139 1929 3:20
On Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual) (06-09-30) Bessie Smith acc by James P. Johnson, Bessemer Singers Jazz Cats - Jazz to Wake Up to 163 1930 2:58
That Too, Do Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra (Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing) Moten Swing 123 1930 3:20
That's What I Like About You Jack Teagarden and his Orchestra (Charlie Teagarden, Stirling Bose, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Catalyne, Max Farley, Adrian Rollini, Fats Waller, Nappy Lamare, Artie Bernstein, Stan King) The Complete Okeh and Brunswick Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer and Jack Teagarden Sessions (1924-1936) (disc 6) 166 1931 3:27
The Blues A Artie Shaw and his New Music Self Portrait (Disc 1) 123 1937 2:52
The Right Key But the Wrong Keyhole Clarence Williams and his Orchestra Clarence Williams and His Orchestra Vol. 1, 1933-1934 103 1933 2:36

Falty had played a set with quite a few contemporary New Orleans bands (Jazz Vipers, Preservation Hall, etc), and a lot of bands quite like the ones I usually play. In fact, we had a few of the same songs on our short lists when we compared our sets just before we swapped over. This was really exciting - I got a chance to dance to stuff I adore, but don't DJ very often. Then Mike's status allowed him to take risks I couldn't, and his actual DJing _skillz_ made it work for him. From here, I could take more risks with the music I played. That's why I went old school. I didn't try to make people crazy and upenergy the way I usually do, as people were shagged, and Mike had really done that action quite thoroughly already.

I played the first Pres Hall song as a way of moving from Falty to something else. I was feeling a little emotionally battered myself, so I thought I might ease it off afterwards. I think that song was a bit in your face for a first song, though. I had kind of tossed up between that and their version of 'Sugar Blues', so as to completely change things up, but I chickened out on such a bold move. I also didn't want to signal 'this is where the blues begins!' so clearly and risk losing half my (dwindling) crowd.

I played 'Georgia Grind' because I love it. Falty had played a way up-tempo, scratchy version earlier, and I thought it'd be cute to signal my change in vibe by playing a hi-fi version by Armstrong. It's a little twee in parts, but the band is so good it really overcomes that later on in some of the choruses.

I <3 Les Red Hot Reedwarmers. Make sure you search for them on youtube - they're a great little French band who do wonderful, wonderful Jimmie Noone stuff. This song is kind of cute and mellow, but also musically amazing, and recorded live. Props to them.

'Blue Leaf Clover' always goes down well, if I prepare the set for it properly first. It's by the Firecracker Jazz Band, which was kind of a reference to my charleston songs the night before. This is such a great band.

Really, I was headed towards Bessie Smith all the time. I find that whenever I play her, people love her. They really respond to her versions of songs they know, but also to her more obscure stuff. This song is super neat, and you can't really go past the line up in the band. This was a transition (with its brass solos) from the Firecrackers to the next song with its piano/guitar combo. It's a little lighter hearted than Bessie, but it's much dirtier. And it's really fun. These are two of my most favourite songs of all time. I especially like the man-singing-like-a-woman vibe, which I revisit later with the Teagarden/Waller duet.

I had to play this superior Pie/Cake version which Trev put me onto ages ago. Go Goofus Five! I think this song is a good example of how exchanges are super inspiring for DJs - they give us a chance to hear other DJs bring their wickedforce and then rip it off for our own gain. Ha ha! I like this version because I find the Four Clefs version a bit twee and overplayed, but I love the melody. I hoped it would twig the 'favourite' nerve in the dancers, but then twist it with a more uptempo vibe.

Jelly Roll, because, well. Jelly Roll. This is a nice, chunking, _pushing_ song, that doesn't drag - you feel like you're going somewhere with it. It's an easy tempo, but it has a bit more energy. We needed that energy if I was going to sit down here on these lower tempos. I actually think the vocals are just right - a nice, rollicking, swinging rhythm that contrasts really nicely with the slightly more straight-ahead rhythm section.

Jimmie Noone! I do love this man. And I love this song. More suggestive lyrics. But the expression 'tight like that' is kind of cool because it sounds like a really cool way of describing how something is just plain good stuff - "man, it's tight like that."

Wingy Manone, for a little more swing, and back in that 1939 later swing rhythm. Mike had played a few Manone songs, and I wanted to reference them a bit here.

I had wanted to play some Spivey/Henry Red Allen win, but all I could find was the slower stuff, and I wanted to avoid the bluesy vibe. But then I was reminded of this, which is one of my super favourites. I'd just been crapping on to Mike about how I liked the Spivey/Allen combination, and how it reminded me of the Rosetta Howard/Allen combination, and how Howard was the one who led me to the Hamfats in the first place (we'd just been talking Hamfats).

Bessie Smith. Because. People liked this, but it was a little uptempo, and a little too jesusy for serious dancing. But it's fun, and people like it.

Bennie Moten, while I'm there. Because Basie always wins. And the Jimmy Rushing addition (with the 'Good Morning Blues' lyrics) is full of awesome. Gotta love a bit of a accordian solo in there.

The Teagarden/Waller duet 'That's What I Like About You' was perhaps a bit mistimed - too fast, too straight for this time of night. Having said that, it's also wonderfully queer-as-fuck to hear Teagarden (sigh) singing a love song with Fats Waller (double sigh). They would have known exactly what they were doing. This is queer in so many wonderful ways. These guys were pretty transgressive (a black guy and a white recording together in 1931, who also played together live in Chicago*; all the drug references; the gender-play in this song itself), and this love song with the humourous twist _almost_ undoes the queer... and then it doesn't. It's still Jack Teagarden, who has the sexiest, swingingest voice EVER, singing a love song to Fats Waller, kind of comedic timing and also king of poignant understatement. They're singing a song about mismatched, chalk-and-cheese love. It's perfect.

I closed with Artie Shaw because that song is nice and swinging, it's easy to dance to and it's really nice. It's also pretty slow and mellow, but also kind of chunks along and doesn't drag.

I really enjoyed this set. Though the room slowly emptied out til I called it at 4am, people were still dancing.

Hoo-rah for lindy hop.

* The Fats Waller/Teagarden connection is quite cool. They also did a song called 'Lookin' Good But Feelin' Bad' (Fats Waller and his Buddies (Henry 'Red' Allen, Jack Teagarden, Albert Nicholas, Otto Hardwicke, Larry Binyon, Eddie Condon, Al Morgan, Gene Krupa), 1929) which Les Red Hot Reedwarmers do superhot. That band is pretty much 100% rockhard awesome. The 'That's what I like about you' band isn't quite as good, but it is sporting Adrian Rollini, who I have a bit of a thing for. At any rate, it's all Chicago, and it's all quite subversive stuff.
Teagarden is also interesting for his work with Louis Armstrong - more race stuff that kind of fucked the mainstream American conservativism about. In the early days at least.
I wrote about Armstrong, race etc in these posts:
What again?
magazines, jazz, masculinity, mess
pop culture, jazz and ethnicity

"MSF set 2.5 + fan-gush for falty's djing" was posted in the category cat blogging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music

June 12, 2010

solo charleston comp MSF 2010 [edited]

Posted by dogpossum on June 12, 2010 6:47 PM | Comments (0)

Ok, so I've just checked this post that I wrote mid-exchange in a sleep-deprived haze, and realised that all of it is wrong. You can't listen to it here. That's a link to the image I used for the picture to go with the 8track.

Here's the player:

Or you can go to the 8track site to listen there.

The set list:

Shake That Thing Mora's Modern Rhythmists Devil's Serenade 227 2006 2:58
(a warm up all-skate track that everyone knew, but not the Vince Giordano version that usually gets played)

Digadoo Firecracker Jazz Band The Firecracker Jazz Band 247 2005 5:20

(My obsession with this band continues. I bought all their other albums the other day (you can see them here). This was a challenging song to play for a comp, particularly as they were doing shines at this point, and everyone had to deal with very different solos. But they did a brilliant job - it was super cool to see people enter with the vibe of the solo before, then suddenly realise 'oops, this is something different' then tailor their dancing to suit the music. So they weren't just dancing despite the music, pulling out stunts one after another, but actually dancing to the music. This is less common than you might think in a solo charleston comp, which can be a bit stunt-heavy. Anyways, this song is still one of my faves, and I've been playing this song for dancers for ages. It's long and complicated, but it's super neat.
The dancing was the best I'd seen all night, I think, and I had a lot of fun watching it.)

I Found A New Baby Firecracker Jazz Band The Firecracker Jazz Band 287 2005 4:05
(We had to do another round of shines as the crowd couldn't decide which people they wanted pulled out. So all the competitors (six instead of four) went back at it. This song is faster and kind of crazy. It's also kind of de rigeur to play this for solo charleston comps. Firecrackers again, because I love their crazy energy, and their 'sophisticated street sound'. This song kicked their arses, and we ended up with a winner).

Bugle Call Rag Jim Cullum Jazz Band (Duke Heitger, Clint Baker) Chasin' the Blues 243 3:51
(The winner, in charmingly good nature, conceded to a solo of triumph on request. This is the song I chose. It's a bit less frantic, because he was buggered. And we faded it at 30seconds. But he did a jolly good job).

plus some other ones I had on my short list:
Oriental Strut Firecracker Jazz Band 228 2005 The Firecracker Jazz Band
(Too many Firecracker songs for 8tracks).

Hop Head Charlestown Chasers 250 1995 Pleasure Mad 2:57

San Les Red Hot Reedwarmers 285 2007 Apex Blues4:45

Jubilee Stomp David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band (Howard Alden, Mark Shane, Herlin Riley, David Ostwald, Ken Peplowski, Randy Sandke, Wycliffe Gordon) Blues In Our Heart 278 2006 3:22

Happy Feet The Manhattan Rhythm Kings The Aviator 233 2004 2:59

"solo charleston comp MSF 2010 [edited]" was posted in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

June 6, 2010

last night's djing

Posted by dogpossum on June 6, 2010 4:56 PM | Comments (0)

I haven't done this in ages (hellz, I haven't posted in ages - I'm blaming teh tweets), but I just feel the urge. So this is a post about a set I did last night.
I've been working super hard at uni lately. Too hard, really. The assessment for one particular subject was out of control, and I've really pushed myself. So I haven't listened to any music in two weeks. Really. I did a couple of hours preparation work yesterday afternoon before my set at the Roxbury because I really wanted to get on top of my music and to do a good job. I need the practice before the MSF weekend next weekend, where I have some sets. So I really thought about this set.
I wanted to avoid doing some things:

  • leaning on the modern recordings of old songs. I wanted to play the original versions.

  • ignoring the wave. I really wanted to work the wave, tempo and style and energy wise. Basically, that means moving logically and smoothly between speeds, musical styles and energy levels. Build up the energy, climax, let them down, build it up, climax, etc etc etc.

  • getting distracted and not giving the crowd 100% of my attention.
I had some other goals, but those were the main ones.

So this is what I played:

Roxbury 5th June 2010 9-10pm
title artist album bpm year length

Jump Through The Window Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) After You've Gone 154 1943 2:42
The Harlem Stride Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra Live At The Savoy - 1939-40 199 1939 3:29
Leap Frog Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Luis Russell) The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (disc 7) 159 1941 3:00
Ridin' And Jivin' Earl Hines and his Orchestra (Walter Fuller, Milton Fletcher, Edward Sims, George Dixon, Edward Burke, John Ewing, Joe McLewis, Omer Simeon, Leroy Harris, Budd Johnson, Robert Crowder, Claude Roberts, Quinn Wilson, Alvin Burroughs, Horace Henderson, Jimmy Earl Hines:Complete Jazz Series 1937 - 1939 158 1939 2:40
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra (Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole) Willie Bryant 1935-1936 153 1935 3:26
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band (Barney Bigard, Helen Andrews) Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46 160 1946 3:13
Just Because You Can Catherine Russell Inside This Heart of Mine 136 2010 4:10
You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders Magnolia 187 2007 4:02
When I Get Low I Get High Linnzi Zaorski and Delta Royale (Charlie Fardella, Robert Snow, Matt Rhody, Seva Venet, Chaz Leary) Hotsy-Totsy 165 2004 2:36
Davenport Blues Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra (Jack Teagarden) Father Of Jazz Trombone 136 1934 3:14
Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 164 1950 2:15
Summit Ridge Drive Artie Shaw and his Gramercy Five Self Portrait (Disc 2) 128 1940 3:21
Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan With Buster Bailey, Milt Hinton, Jerome Richardson, Osie Johnson, Dick Hyman, Wendell Marshall A Tribute To Andy Razaf 147 1956 3:19
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke 143 1999 3:34
St. Louis Blues Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra Ella Fitzgerald In The Groove 183 1939 4:46
Wrappin' It Up (The Lindy Glide) Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra (Henry 'Red' Allen, Buster Bailey, Ben Webster, Benny Carter) Tidal Wave 208 1934 2:42
For Dancers Only Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 148 1937 2:41
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 165 1937 3:10
[Gettin' Much Lately?] Ain't Nothin' To It Fats Waller, his Rhythm and his Orchestra (John Hamilton, Bob Williams, Herman Autrey, Geoge Wilson, Ray Hogan, Jimmy Powell, Dave McRae, Gene Sedric, Bob Carroll, Al Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones) Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 134 1941 3:10
I Like Pie, I Like Cake Four Chefs Roots, Volume 2 the 1930's 154 2:45
Madame Dynamite Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Sidney Catlett) Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 176 1933 2:56
Get Up Skeets Tolbert and his Gentlemen of Swing (Carl Smith, Otis Hicks, Clarence Easter Harry Prather, Hubert Pettaway) Skeets Tolbert 1931-1940 144 1939 2:52

As you can see, it's not a list of rare and unusual songs. There're a lot of standards, songs that people know. Which is kind of the point, isn't it?

I started with Roy Eldridge, because this song continues to be a great opener. Fab trumpet solo to open. Sharon had the room nice and warm for me, and there were enough people to justify something in your face like 'Jump through the window'. I do like this song a lot. The fact that Frida and Skye used it for a fairly ok routine only adds to its cultural cred with lindy hoppers. If they're the type of lindy hoppers who follow international competitions. And not that many of the Roxbury crowd are. I assume.

I wanted to get some up tempos in there after that, and to take advantage of the energy generated by the first song, so I played that lovely Ella track. It's from one of the live recordings she did with Chick Webb's band at the Savoy after Webb passed away. That stuff is fucking GREAT. I crap on about it to everyone, I pimp it all the time, but it continues to go really well whenever I DJ it. It's good because it's live, you can hear the crowd, and you can hear the musicians egging each other and really interacting. It has a stomping rhythm section and a super fun building energy thing happening.

The crowd were a bit tired after that, so I did the right thing and dropped the tempos so they could recover. These days the Roxbury crowd will dance to any tempo. Sharon starts the night with 30mins of super fast old school big band action which she calls the balboa bit, and I call the badkickingfuckingarse bit. Because it is awesome. I am playing that version of 'Leap Frog' quite a bit, but it is great. It does exactly as I want, too - it keeps energy there, but it's not all up in your grill, so you have a bit of an emotional break. It's kind of fun and interesting and does some fun back-and-forthing musically, so it's fun to pay with at the lower tempo.

Then I played 'Ridin' and Jivin'' because I haven't played it in a hundred years, and it's one of my favourites. I don't hear it here in Sydney very often at all, though it was super popular in Melbourne in about 2007 or so (I think it was another of those competition songs). It's kind of mellower at 150 odd bpm and it has a less in your face energy. It kind of builds up and down, it feels a bit saucy, but in a kind of a sneaky way. Not sexy, but kind of lurking.

Then I played 'Viper's Moan' because it is an old fave, and I was trying to mix in favourites with things I don't hear all that often in Sydney. I also like 'Viper's Moan' as a transition from old school big band swing to more New Orleans influenced stuff, and I wanted to kick things up tempo and energy wise with that great version of 'Jericho'. I hear the Sydney Bechet version all the time, but the Kid Ory one is vastly superior.

From there I had a few other bits and pieces lined up - 'Sister Kate', 'Blackstick', 'Ballin' the Jack', favourite stuff that you hear around the place - but I didn't. I felt as though I'd kind of pushed that as far as I could. I was a little bit all over the place with the energy, and I wasn't confident that the NOLA stuff would work. It's not all that popular in Sydney, and I'm not really enjoying it myself atm. By NOLA, of course, I mean that 40s/50s revivalist sound. It's great, but there were other things I wanted to do.

I played 'Just Because you can' because it's super popular atm. People go nuts for it, and I always get asked about it when I play it. So I'm going to play it til we've all had enough of it. It's a good song. It was a big fat energy drop from Jericho, but that was kind of the point. I was pulling a Brian stunt with a bit of stunt DJing. It was within the same sort of stylistic vein of Jericho, what with the violin, chunky rhythms, banjo, etc. But it's kind of saucy and Russell almost eases over into the way-back-behind-the-beat of later swing. Almost. I like this song because it starts chilled and sparse, but it builds up.

I followed up with the Midnight Serenaders because that's a fun song. It's light, it feels bouncy and fun. It's a bit quick in that combination, but the funness always drags people onto the floor. I also like matching the singers in those two songs.

'When I get low I get high' was another in a similar vein - a modern band doing old school small group stuff with chunky rhythms and eccentric vocals. That's one the Roxbury kids are into, because Christian played it when he DJed there. At about that time I realised just how Ella Fitzgerald heavy my set was. I don't usually play her, in part because I don't like her early lyrics, and I find her later stuff a bit groovy. And I don't like her singing all that much at any time.

I played 'Davenport blues' because it's mellow and calm. And because it builds up at the end. I was also determined to end that whole modern thing right THERE because I could see myself going overboard. 'Davenport Blues' is one I overplay. But it always goes down really well, and people like it.

I think it's worth saying here, that one of the things people like about favourites is that they know all the breaks, all the structure, so they can experiment with musicality and step combinations in a musical way, and with some confidence. I know, I know, it'd be easy to critique that with a comment about how lindy hoppers should be familiar enough with the structure of this music (which isn't very complicated, really), and not need hand holding. But I think it's important to remember that this isn't popular music we're dealing with here. It's not something you hear every day, and the structures and style and elements are pretty unfamiliar for most people. And what the fuck - why not play a song people know so they can pull out their best action? That's what makes for a good competition, that's what makes for fun dancing, sometimes.

'Rag Mop' needs to go on my 'don't play this again, you play it too much' list. But it kicks the energy up.

But by the end, the dancers were pretty tired. People seemed pretty tired that night. I think it's because they were dancing most nearly every song. So I played 'Summit Ridge Drive', which I don't play that often any more. In retrospect, I'm really glad I did. I do love it, and people love it too, even though the harpsichord intro puts them off at first. It's a nice, friendly, stompy little song. And I'm glad I went so low with the tempos; it's evidence of my working a real wave, with proper troughs as well as crests.

After that, people were rested, and it was time to get serious. 'Massachusetts' is so overplayed. It's so familiar. But it's still a great song, and it's a great way of building up the energy in the room. The musicians are just so good, they just work together so well and build something really nice.

Same goes for 'C Jam Blues', which I've actually had a moratorium on for ages. But I do like it. And it did the job.

Energy was up by then, people were rested and feeling confident after two familiar songs, so I played 'St Louis Blues' (the Ella one), which I also overplay. But it's great! It's another of those songs that makes people dance even if they're feeling a bit 'oh, it's too fast'. The thing about Roxbury these days is that 183bpm isn't really fast any more. That crowd are also quite happy to experiment with the latiny rhythms in the intro. Also: live! Ella! At the Savoy! It's such a fucking great song.

'Wrappin' it up' was a bit of a stretch, but the hardcore bal dancers just pulled out their shit and eased into some dancing. It was really nice to see the floor stay filled, but with a completely different type of dancing. Balboa is really good for making people feel comfortable with higher tempos. They just get used to them, and don't panic.

Then I played 'For Dancers only' because it was just right. I wanted to get everyone back, and it's a fun, familiar song that actually sounded mellower in that context. And it's a big band classic swing track, to continue that vibe.

Then 'Peckin' because I've been using it for tranky doo lately, and I fucking love it. Still. I love the shouting in the middle. I have been thinking I need to play more Ellington, and this was a step in that direction (that's actually one of his small groups).

'Ain't nothin to it' was a continuation of the silly feel from 'Peckin's lyrics, and also a less intense sound. Another smaller band, but with a more relaxed, fun feeling. So I was easing off the intense emotion of 'St Louis Blues' and 'Wrappin it up'. This is important when you have a smallish crowd of dancers who're dancing every song, over the course of a longer night of social dancing. I find they get emotionally drained as well as physically, so you have to pull back a bit now and then. Work an emotional wave.

I didn't mean to play the pie and cake song there. I really don't much like that version. I _hate_ the intro, and _everyone_ is playing it, _everywhere_ in Sydney. I had meant to play 'Get up' (which I didn't end up playing at all), because it was the perfect segue to 'Madame Dynamite'. It would also have been a song that we don't hear very often (if at all), so it would have made this last section more interesting. But I made some sort of clicking/playlist error. Boo.

Pie Cake, whatevs. It filled the floor, though. I'm a sell out.

'Madame Dynamite' is one I overplay, but it's very popular. And It's super fun.

And then I finished and did some dancing!
It was a fun set, and I think I did a much better job of watching the floor, working the room and playing songs in interesting, smoother combinations. I spent less time looking at my computer, and more watching the room. Yay. I find it a bit tricky to get connected with the crowd in the fairly separated DJ booth at the Roxbury, but it just means I have to walk around more. Though I hated it as a venue, CBD was well set up for connecting with the dancers on the floor and the people in the room.

So I didn't play a particularly challenging set in terms of familiarity - people knew most of that action. But that's ok. I don't think we should set aside songs just because they're popular. I mean, there's a reason favourites become favourites. Sure, they might be hip because some rock star did a routine to them that then got pimped on youtube and faceplant. But if it's a good song, and someone DJs it to dancers a few times, they'll dig it.

I like the Roxbury at the moment for the old school emphasis and higher tempos. But part of me wonders if the slow disappearance of the older crowd and rock and roll crowd hasn't actually been doing good things to the event. Sure, it's now more solidly a good night for lindy hop, and lindy hop tends to be a dance for the younger, more agile crowd (because it helps to be fit when you start getting into it), but a mixed range of ages is a good thing for a community. Longevity, baby. Sustainability, baby. A lack of cliqueiness, baby.

But for now, I'll just enjoy it. And perhaps think about how we might promote it to the half of Sydney who don't go, but do go to the Swingpit.

Swingpit is not fun these days. It's a nice, big venue, the floor is good, it gets a big crowd. But the acoustics are poo, and it's a _church hall_ with no bar. Boo. The DJing has been utterly terrible lately as well. So even when I go looking for fun, I don't always find it there. I haven't DJed there in ages, partly because I've been doing so much Roxbury work and get a bit burnt out when I do more than one set a fortnight. But mostly because I haven't been asked, and haven't really sought it out. And I hated the sound system there (though I noticed they had a new one). I haven't heard DJs like Alice or Justine DJ there in a zillion years, and they're really good stuff. Worth getting your arse to a dance event on a Friday night to see.

The Squeeze calls it Noisepit because the volume is usually pushed so high (to fill the huge, echoey room) it distorts the music and just makes a whole heap of ear-hurting NOISE. And that noise is usually fucking Michael Buble or some second rate neo or some fucked up Wham. I have to say, my friends, an entire set of that does not a fun lindy hopping night make. It's rhythmically WRONG for lindy hop (it don't swing), it's structurally dull, and it's just plain old bad music made by second rate musicians doing ordinary arrangements. Booooring. Annnoooooooying. But I'll go back. And when I get the energy, I'll volunteer for a set. But sometimes I just like to go and dance and dance and take advantage of the large floor space.

There is another night happening in Sydney these days, once a month in Balmain. It's intended as a dance for 'advanced dancers', which of course gets my hackles up. I do not approve of segregating 'advanced' from 'beginner' dancers at social dancing events (which Swingpit and this new thing deliberately do). I don't like it because mixing is good for both groups (beginners dance up and see fun dancing; more experienced dancers learn to fucking socialise like normal people, and mix it up... though they don't always). I don't like it because I don't actually think the categories 'beginner' and 'advanced' apply in this setting - they just seem to be arbitrarily applied by position within that dance school's hierarchy. Perhaps they should be 'people who've only spent a bit of money with us' vs 'people who've spent too much money with us'. I really don't like that sort of segregation of people. I think it breeds cliqueiness, and I think doesn't help build sustainable dance communities, and I think it's rubbish.

Also, the classes before the DJed social are on when the very good band is on downstairs at the same time, and I think it's wrong to disrespect the band like that. I've heard people justify this whole thing as 'giving people a choice', but I don't buy that. I've heard that rubbish before. It's not a 'choice' when you weigh the process down with such ideologically and value-laden structures.

Mostly, I'm not all that interested in going because it's in Balmain on a Sunday and that's too late and too far away on a school night when the buses are really unreliable. It's often on the night after a Roxbury, and I'm a bit over dancing, loud music and late nights by then. So I don't go. If it were in a different area... nah, I still wouldn't go. Balmain is hard for me. If it were in a different area, I'd be more likely to go. If it was just another social night, I'd be more likely to go. And if I wasn't already dancing one night a week on the weekend, I might go.

So that's dancing for me at the moment.

"last night's djing" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

April 29, 2010

kindergardeners rock spaghetti architecture

Posted by dogpossum on April 29, 2010 1:37 PM | Comments (0)

Kindy builds good skills.

This film is interesting for the discussion of iterative design processes. This is something we talk about in class - the importance of building prototypes over and over and over again during the design process. This has also been the hardest part of learning to design things, for me. In the beginning of the semester I tended to spend half, if not three quarters of the allocated design time in class talking and thinking and writing about my design. And then I'd try making or doing the design and realise that, actually, it's more useful to talk less and to play more.

I think that a PhD does this to you: it trains you to think about doing things, rather than to actually do them. Which of course is the inverse of learning to dance. You'll never dance fast or well or interestingly if you just stand there thinking about it. I think that learning jazz routines on the social dance floor, in 'real time'* has been the single most important part of my education, ever. Of all time.

It's taught me to work with other people. It's taught me to observe - to watch and listen. It's taught me that to make shit, you have to do shit: you can guarantee that you will NEVER learn a routine if you just stand there and look at it. But if you try, you automatically improve your abilities a zillion percent. And even if you don't get the routine (which most of us won't), you will learn how your body works. And understanding how your body works is absolutely the most important part of dancing. Or building things.

Learning jazz routines on the social dance floor also teaches you that counting out steps is ridiculous. It's a silly enforcing of a rigid organising system on something which is far more exciting and slippery. Jazz - in 'real time' (ahahhahaha) is bound by phrases and bars and so on, but it is also slippery and busts out of those boundaries with improvisation all the time. If you only learn routines by numbers, you will never learn how to bust out of boundaries and improvise. And improvising is everything that dancing is. Without it, you might as well be... writing pages of the dictionary out by hand. It's far better to learn a jazz routine by listening to the music and understanding musical structure (and hence choreography and dance structures) by moving your body and using the music as the organising principle.

Off the dance floor, improvisation and iterative design processes teach you the limits of your materials (how strong is a piece of spaghetti), the importance of collaborative design and learning (and you can't learn to work with people in theory - you can only learn by doing) and the sheer joy of working within a time frame and feeling the adrenaline surging.

I know I'm an adrenaline junky. But I just think life is so much more fun when you give yourself a little jolt of the organically manufactured good stuff.

*I pause here to laugh a lot about the ridiculousness of this idea: dance is always in real time, or else it just doesn't exist!

"kindergardeners rock spaghetti architecture" was posted in the category academia and fitness and learning and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

April 24, 2010


Posted by dogpossum on April 24, 2010 2:00 PM | Comments (0)

A few Sydney dancers have recently been running some late night speakeasy events after churchpit on Fridays, and they've been very successful. The venue is small and has pleasing acoustics - the square 'end' of a long, L-shaped room contains the sound (especially when the speaker is positioned on the long wall, playing into the short leg of the L) and leaves the rest of the room at the right noise level for talking and drinking. The long, narrow L shape leaves people squashed pretty close together, and this makes the room feel crowded (because it is) and fun. The drinks are well priced and good - beers, wines, etc for drinkers, top quality soft drinks (san pelegrino, those organic softies, etc) for non-drinkers. I don't know if there're coffees, but there could be. Last night there were cakes as well.
Last night I had a chance to DJ the gig and it was super fun. The organisers are really good to work with - friendly, easy going, relaxed, lots of useful feedback on the music, etc etc. It was like DJing a late night at an exchange, except better because the crowd were relaxed and friendly (rather than hyped and kind of cliquey/show-offy), the organisers were mellow and professional and the sound system was nice.
The music is usually blues or 'slow lindy', with the organisers themselves favouring a soul/funk aesthetic. Because the emphasis is on socialising rather than hardcore dancing, and because the gig follows the churchpit lindy night, there's less pressure to play 'proper' music, and more interest in 'good' music. So it's a fun gig.

This is what I played (title, artist, album, bpm, year, time):

Come Together Ike And Tina Turner Absolutely The Best 80 1998 3:40
Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton Very Best Of 76 2:52
Leave Your Hat On Etta James The Best Of Etta James 85 1973 3:19
Chain Of Fools Aretha Franklin Greatest Hits - Disc 1 116 2:48
I Got What It Takes Koko Taylor I Got What It Takes 72 1975 3:43
3 O'clock In The Morning Blues Ike and Tina Turner Putumayo Presents: Mississippi Blues 64 1969 2:40
My Man's An Undertaker Catherine Russell Cat 106 2006 2:48
My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More Alberta Hunter (acc by Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Fran Wess, Norris Turney, Billy Butler, Gerald Cook, Aaron Bell, Jackie Williams) Amtrak Blues 76 1978 3:49
Sugar Blues Preservation Hall The Hurricane Sessions 61 2007 5:02
Shave 'em Dry Asylum Street Spankers Nasty Novelties 131 1997 4:21
Louisiana Two Step Clifton Chenier Louisiana Blues & Zydeco [Bonus Track] 197 1965 3:49
Built for Comfort Taj Mahal In Progress & In Motion (1965-1998) 98 1998 4:46
It Takes Two to Tango Lester Young and Oscar Peterson Lester Young With the Oscar Peterson Trio 104 6:09
My Sweet Hunk O'Trash Billie Holiday with Sy Oliver and his Orchestra and Louis Armstrong The Complete Original American Decca Recordings (disc 2) 95 1949 3:20

The Clifton Chenier track was really my just taking advantage of an open minded crowd, and didn't work. But it did make people jiggly in their seats, which is good. I <3 zydeco atm, though I know nothing about it.
I tried to play upenergy, fun party music. The first Koko Taylor song is where I got a bit chilled. This wasn't really a crowd interested in slow, sexy dancing. They were more interested in slower, funkier dancing, and that was fine with me. The first block were more what I think of as 'Chicago' blues, though that's not really a very accurate description. From there I got a bit more old school in style, though I played 'new' songs for the most part - no scratchies. I was aiming for dirty, fun lyrics, lots of energy, beerdancing party music. 'Sugar Blues', which is rocking it with blues dancers at exchanges at the moment was a bit too 'serious' for this crowd.
Though Chenier cleared the floor, it was full again by the middle of the next song. I was moving towards a more lindy style for the next DJ, Gunther, who's more comfortable with lindy than blues. Those last couple of songs went down nicely, and they're a couple of my favourites. 'Two to Tango' is one of those long-term favourites, and I really like the Billie/Louis duet 'Sweet hunk of trash'. Holiday's masterful delayed approach to timing is really understood by Armstrong, who hangs back there with her. That feeling of squeezing the very last second out of each beat makes the song feel just a little bit saucier, but also lets the singers make some clever jokes. Comedy is made by timing, and swinging jazz rhythms make for perfect delivery: that long pause that lets the audience begin to figure out the punch line, and then pop! the line.

It was a fun gig, and I really enjoyed doing it. I like going to that event as a punter, as well, even though the late nights are challenging at the end of a busy week.

"Speakeasy" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

April 9, 2010

8track: strings and clapping for running

Posted by dogpossum on April 9, 2010 8:05 PM | Comments (0)

Image from shorpy, though I almost went with this.

I actually listen to the songs in the following order. That way they start mellow and get crazier, so I can wake up gently, then get my arse kicked a bit when I start to lag later on.

Thulandivile (Keep Quiet I've Heard You) Elite Swingers Natural Jazz 131 2:39
Dinah Preservation Hall Preservation Hall Hot 4 With Duke Dejan 154 2004 5:01
Eh la bas Preservation Hall Jazz Band Shake That Thing 191 2004 3:52
Baby (Darlin') Baby Midnight Serenaders Sweet Nothin's 243 2009 3:16
A Mug Of Ale Joe Venuti's Blue Four All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 3) 220 1927 3:07
Coffee's Cold/Tater Patch Uncle Earl Going to the Western Slope 254 2004 3:08
Double Check Stomp The Pasadena Roof Orchestra Rhythm Is Our Business! 228 1996 3:59
The Love Me Or Die C.W. Stoneking Jungle Blues 153 2008 3:55
El Pito (I'll Never Go Back To Georgia) Joe Cuba Crooklyn: Vol. I 157 1966 5:33
If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight Linnzi Zaorski and Delta Royale (Charlie Fardella, Robert Snow, Matt Rhody, Seva Venet, Chaz Leary) Hotsy-Totsy 129 2004 2:36
The Clapping Song Shirley Ellis Because Of Winn-Dixie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 168 2005 3:11
Drinker Born Uncle Earl Waterloo, Tennessee 2007 3:22
Stay A Little Longer Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys The Tiffany Transcriptions (vol 2) 232 3:07
Some of These Days Midnight Serenaders Sweet Nothin's 255 2009 3:29
El Panadero Cheba Massolo Coyazz 202 2008 2:32

"8track: strings and clapping for running" was posted in the category 8 tracks and music and running

March 28, 2010


Posted by dogpossum on March 28, 2010 12:56 PM | Comments (2)

The Tiger Lilies' 'Living Hell':

The Tiger Lillies- Living Hell from Mark Holthusen on Vimeo.

"spooky" was posted in the category music

March 22, 2010

beginning DJing: different DJing contexts

Posted by dogpossum on March 22, 2010 5:48 PM | Comments (0)

Rereading my first post on beginning DJing, I'm struck by the lack of clarity in my writing. I did intend that first post as a sort of first scratch-around and scene-setting for my own experiences. Kind of a way of explaining how I got to this point in my thinking about DJing for swing dancers. But it didn't quite work like that.

So let me revise that first post.

I've had a few people ask questions about getting into DJing. They tend to ask things like "what're some tips for a beginner DJ?" It's hard to answer these sorts of questions without giving too much information...

What I meant here, was:

  • There's so much to say about DJing generally, that a few simple tips can be overloaded by detail
  • I really like talking about DJing (and most things), so it's difficult to rein myself in and think simply and clearly about this stuff)
  • There's a big difference between ideas about DJing and actually, practically DJing. At the end of the day - and just like dancing - what you think and say has zero meaning when you're out there with/on the dance floor

The second point in that (very busy) paragraph that I'd like to address is:

I've had a few people ask questions about getting into DJing. They tend to ask things like "what're some tips for a beginner DJ?" It's hard to answer these sorts of questions ...without knowing about that person's scene.

I think that, despite what we might like to think about the 'nature' of lindy hop, jazz dancing and jazz generally, the specific details of individual local dance scenes is far more important in shaping what DJs play and why. So sometimes advice and tips from an interstate or international DJ - or even a DJ playing on the other side of town in a very large scene - aren't very helpful. How do I think about the different places and ways of DJing and being a DJ?

  • Regular DJing in a local scene, playing for after-class socials, regular social dancing nights and occasional bits and bobs. This is the bread and butter of DJing. This is the stuff that keeps a scene's social dancing working. It's the day-in, day-out stuff like this, where you turn up every week or month or whatever to play for all sorts of crowds, from the very small to the very large, that makes up the bulk of my DJing. I also think it's where I learn the most, and it's also often the most challenging and most frustrating. But this is also where the crowds are kindest, you get the most satisfying feedback, and you can really learn to DJ with less pressure. I'd distinguish between playing after-class stuff and social dancing 'nights'. The first is where new DJs should cut their teeth, the second is where DJing can become more 'important', but also more pressured and more challenging. And more political.
  • DJing at large local events like dances or local exchanges This mightn't involve large crowds, famous dancers from overseas or even very much truly satisfying DJing. But it's a different animal to the regular stuff. There're greater chances to stretch, but there's also more pressure. Dancers expect more, and are usually more interested in dancing hardcore.
  • DJing large interstate or national events This is where dancers expect to hear interesting, new, challenging music. This is where you get to stretch a little. This is where I think organisers should be really picky about who they hire to DJ and how they represent their event.
  • International and 'famous' events I have no experience here, but I'm talking about DJing at large events overseas like Herrang, the more 'famous' exchanges like the DC Lindy exchange, and the 'flavour of the month' events like Camp Jitterbug, Showdown and so on. This is where there's more money - to fly in and pay DJs - and more pressure.

There're a whole range of other events for DJing: radio gigs, house parties, after after after parties, corporate and non-dancing events, DJing for competitions, DJing for classes and performances for the public and so on. These all require very different skills sets.

It's difficult to make definitive statements about 'how to DJ' in each of these types of circumstances. How you DJ (and how your DJing is received) will also depend - in a very large way - on who you are.
A famous international teacher will get more leeway and a degree of arse kissing regardless of their ability to work a wave or transition between styles. Dancers may have other barrows to push, here, and demonstrating a great love for this DJ's work might serve other purposes.
A DJ with an interstate or international reputation will be met with a degree of expectation and anticipation. The stakes will be higher, but then there might also be a degree of leeway granted simply because dancers are _expecting_ to be entertained.

One thing I've noticed, though: most dancers don't know any DJs beyond those in their local scene. The longer a dancer's been dancing, the more they travel, the more contact they have with visiting dancers, the more active they are in DJing-related online talk, the more likely they are to know a visiting DJ. But for the most part, 75% of dancers won't have a clue and couldn't give a shit. For them, the dancing's the thing, and a band will always be more fun than a DJ. This is the case in most Australian scenes. I dunno what it's like overseas. I also tend to think that this is a good way to be.

At the end of the day, the people who'll pay most attention to your DJing are other DJs. And even then, 65% of them are too busy dancing/drinking to pay attention. Unless you really suck. Then they'll notice.

To sum all this up, different settings require different DJing skills for most DJs. And the people who'll know a scene best are the people who dance there, regularly, with the most people.

Other posts on beginning DJing:

"beginning DJing: different DJing contexts" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

March 21, 2010

beginning DJing: how i got into djing

Posted by dogpossum on March 21, 2010 1:35 PM | Comments (1)


I've had a few people ask questions about getting into DJing. They tend to ask things like "what're some tips for a beginner DJ?" It's hard to answer these sorts of questions without giving too much information and without knowing about that person's scene. So I'm going to try to write a few posts addressing key issues.
[EDIT: I've expanded/clarified these points here, in this post
beginning DJing: different DJing contexts'

Of course, these are issues which I see (with my 20/20 hindsight) as key to my beginning DJing. So they're probably not going to apply to anyone else's experiences, or even be a terribly accurate reference point for my own DJing. But what the heck.

Firstly, here's how I got into DJing:
It was in Melbourne in 2006. Which isn't very long ago, really. At that time there were two large social dancing nights - CBD on Thursdays in the city and Funpit in a dance studio every second Friday night. There were also many after-class, shorter social dancing opportunities where you could get in an hour or so of dancing. The Brunswick and Camperdown classes were good spots for this. There was also a struggling Sunday afternoon/evening event at a venue called Mayfields. This died almost immediately after I did my first ever set there. I take full responsibility.
Nationally, there were two all-social dancing exchanges - Canberrang and the MLX. MLX had only just moved to social dancing only in 2005.
I had been to Herrang in 2004 and was particularly frustrated by the social dancing in Melbourne. The music really varied. There was one or two DJs who were really solid (Brian, Doris), and there were only a few who really played the sort of music I liked - classic big band swing from the swing era. Otherwise, Melbourne was awash in supergroove, neo, terrible late 90s 'swing lite' and contemporary artists like Michael Buble. It was killing me. I wanted to dance to the music I loved, and I wanted to dance to the music I saw in the clips from old films. DJing is not, however, a good way to do this. When you start DJing you're almost guaranteeing you'll never dance to your favourite songs. You'll just be playing them for other people.

I'd been into swing for ages - long before I started dancing lindy hop. It was wanting to dance to swing that brought me to a class in Brisbane in 1998. So I'd been buying music for a while. By 2005 I had been buying CDs for dancing in earnest and had enough music to DJ with. A close friend of mine had started DJing in 2004/2005 and it was her enthusiasm and suggestions which really pushed me to start DJing. From here, it was the support of my close friends which really got me to DJing.
Before I actually played for a crowd I used to practice DJing at home, playing with my music software and doing 'pretend' sets. I did my first sets for small after class crowds, and they really weren't what I'd think of as DJing. I was all caught up in the scariness/excitement and really didn't rock. It was after about the third of these that I finally did a real set at CBD.

I was really scared.
I really could have done a 'serious' gig at an after-class social. But the DJing standard at CBD was so bad at that time, I don't think I could really have done any worse.
I practiced combining songs and working on 'flow' between styles at home a LOT. Basically, I wanted to play stuff I loved, but I knew I was going to have to make some concessions to pre-existing tastes. In retrospect, I was going in there with an agenda: "play some good music, not that shit we hear every week."
I think it helped that I'd been dancing so long before I started DJing. I had an idea about what might work for dancing, and I had a decent idea about the structure of swing music and how it worked with lindy hop (this is something that's _really_ improved over my DJing lifetime). I also had an idea about what was fashionable now, and had been in the years before. So I could make some observations about 'favourites' and which songs had failed terribly in the past.

I did a few things for my first set:
- I approached the organiser for a chance.
- I did the first set of the night
- I asked an experienced DJ to stand next to me during my set and help me set up and handle the technical stuff
- I practiced with my laptop and DJing software til I knew it inside out. I didn't want to have problems there in front of a crowd.
- I DJed for an hour and a half, which was a bit too long.

This is the first set I played for a real crowd. It was at CBD on Thursday 1st February, 2006, starting at 8.30pm and finishing at 10.

[title bpm artist year album]

Knock Me A Kiss 115 Louis Jordan 1943 Swingers
Let's Call The Whole Thing Off 120 Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Louie Bellson 1957 Ella And Louis Again [MFSL]
Cow Cow Boogie 120 Jennie Löbel and Swing Kings 2001 He Ain't Got Rhythm
Splanky 125 Count Basie and his Orchestra 1957 The Complete Atomic Basie
Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy 126 Stan Kenton and his Orchestra with June Christy 1945 The Best Of Big Band - Swinging The Blues
Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby? 140 Dinah Washington 1956 The Swingin' Miss "D"
Moten Swing 138 Oscar Peterson 1962 Night Train
Out South 129 Junior Mance Trio 1962 Happy Time
Good Rockin' Tonight 155 Jimmy Witherspoon 1963 Jazz Me Blues: the Best of Jimmy Witherspoon
Now Or Never 167 Katharine Whalen 1999 Jazz Squad
Big Fine Daddy 125 Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers 2000 Everybody's Talkin' 'Bout Miss Thing
Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop 136 Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra 1945 Lionel Hampton Story 3: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop
For Dancers Only 148 Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 1937 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford
C-Jam Blues 143 Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 1999 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke
Don't Falter At The Altar 138 Cab Calloway and his Orchestra Are You Hep To The Jive?
Let's Do It 148 Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra (Billie Holiday) 1941 Lady Day Swings
Apollo Jump 143 Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra 1943 Apollo Jump
Shoutin' Blues 148 Count Basie and his Orchestra 1949 Kansas City Powerhouse
Comes Love 105 Billie Holiday and her Orchestra (Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Ben Webster, Jimmy Rowles, Barney Kessel, Joe Mondragon, Alvin Stoller) 1957 Body And Soul
My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More 76 Alberta Hunter (acc by Doc Cheatham, Vic Dickenson, Fran Wess, Norris Turney, Billy Butler, Gerald Cook, Aaron Bell, Jackie Williams) 1978 Amtrak Blues
Salty Papa Blues 115 Lionel Hampton and his Septet with Dinah Washington 1943 Dinah Washington:the Queen Sings - Disc 1 - Evil Gal Blues
Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee 130 Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra 1949 Lionel Hampton Story 4: Midnight Sun
Drum Boogie 176 Gene Krupa Drums Drums Drums

Looking at it now, there's a fair bit of stuff I never DJ any more and don't even listen to. That Oscar Peterson version of Moten Swing for a start. But in 2006 Melbourne was heavily into supergroove. There was no real interest in old school music or dancing, beyond the kids learning at Got That Swing, and a few indy dancers. The tempos in this set are really low. Oooh, that first block is tediously slow. And low energy. The tempos in Melbourne were generally extremely low. So 160bpm was crazy fast.
I posted about the set on the Swing Talk board here, though there's nothing here on

In general terms, I think I took a few chances which were new to or underplayed in Melbourne, but used a lot of familiar stuff which I knew would work. The transitions between styles aren't as smooth as I'd like, and the energy levels are a bit low, but this was my first set, and this was the first set of the night at the venue. If I remember rightly, it was a bit quiet in that moment after the classes and before social dancing. And that set could be heavier on the beginner dancers.

In terms of song selection, I'm surprised I played two Billie Holiday songs. I love her so much, but I rarely play her now. Which is a massive shame - she played with such wonderful bands. Handy Man was probably a moment of 'oh I loooove this song and I _have_ to play it.' I dunno how it went down. This was before Melbourne got into blues, so it might have had mixed results... though the preponderance of supergroove meant that Melbourne dancers were generally ok with lower tempos.

Looking back over my set lists (I've kept them all as playlists in itunes), I played about 22 sets in the next six months. Which is scary. I was a totally new DJ, playing heaps of sets. And I notice most of the second sets at CBD, where I was finishing, ran way over time, from anywhere to 20 minutes to one and a half hours over my rostered 1.5 hours. I do remember the organiser for that venue wasn't all that organised, that there was a shortage of DJs willing to do sets, and that I said yes to every set I was offered. I think saying yes (often at no noticed) was a good strategy in that it got me lots of sets and got me lots of experience and exposure and got me a rep as someone you could call on in a pinch. But I'm not sure how good it was for the dancers.
Looking over the sets themselves, I didn't suck at all (though how can you tell without seeing the effect songs had on the floor?), but I'm not sure it's a good idea to have so few DJs working a social scene. CBD was very popular during this period, though it did decline in the following year.

There's some interesting comment about DJs' sets in the DJed sets thread with some interesting parallel discussions about CBD in this thread. The DJ bubbs thread is also kind of interesting.

I'll try to do another thread on beginning DJing generally. But I don't make any promises...

NB: looking back over those threads from SwingTalk, I'm struck by Brian's awesome music. He was playing stuff I still haven't discovered. It was a sad time when he gave up DJing. :(

Other posts on beginning DJing:

"beginning DJing: how i got into djing" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

March 20, 2010


Posted by dogpossum on March 20, 2010 4:49 PM | Comments (3)

Running report: I can run for 28 minutes without stopping. I'm at run 3 of week 8 of the c25k. I am badass. I am considering some sort of fun run situation.

DJing report: went to BBS and DJed. DJing for blues dancers is a bit boring. Blues dancing events are a bit boring. Having said that, I had a very good time. For my money (and it was), BBS offers the most interesting bands and venues at any Australian dance event. G$ has some great photos here. That's one of his there with this post.
My DJing was ok, and I think I did a pretty good job on the... Sunday night I think it was. On the whole I didn't hear a whole lot of really inspiring DJing over the weekend. Most of the sets seem to lack coherency or flow. And they tended to be really low energy. The low energy is a real suck at an entire weekend of blues - you really need to keep the energy up there so people dance. One exception was Chris Haarm, who did some really nice work warming the room on the Friday night. I think his set was my favourite.
The bands, though, ROCKED. And that's how it should be.
I don't think I'll bother with another blues weekend. I ended up going for a run on the Sunday because I didn't feel like I'd had enough exercise. And that's just wrong for an exchange.

Learnz report: I am working my way through this pgrad diploma. It's really hard not directing your own learnz. I don't like waiting for someone else to decide when I'm ready for the next bit of learn. I also much prefer following my own interests rather than having to follow someone else's curriculum. Remind me to talk a bit about this more later on.

Intertubes report: I have neglected this blog for twitter. And my learnz.

That's it.

"reports" was posted in the category academia and c25k and djing and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music

February 26, 2010

running -> exercise -> dancing -> jazz history

Posted by dogpossum on February 26, 2010 9:39 AM | Comments (0)

There's a man upstairs in our bathroom banging and hammering and sawing. It's really loud. Bathing without a shower is difficult, but not that bad. It'll be nice when we get our shower back, though.

Meanwhile, I'm still on the c25k, and did the first run of week 5 today. It's a nine week program, so I'm over half way. This is the point, though, where most people tend to give up. I actually feel quite good. It's not as difficult as I thought, probably because it starts so gradually and then builds progressively. Today's program involved:
a 5 minute warm up walk
5 minute run
3 minute walk
5 minute run
3 minute walk
5 minute run
5 minute cool down walk

I was surprised that I could do all the running bits without having to stop, and I remember thinking as I finished the first run 'Woah, I just ran five minutes without stopping. Haven't been able to do that in years.' I still breathe really loudly (though not as loudly as I used to) and I certainly couldn't hold a conversation at the same time (which is the ideal running pace). But I didn't have to walk during any of the running bits and I felt pretty ok the whole way.
I actually quite like the sessions. Thirty minutes of exercise is a tiny amount, but it's time well spent - no dilly dallying about - and it leaves me feeling really good. I have pretty bad snots at the moment because our bathroom is being ripped to bits, but that's not affecting my running the way it used to. I have some new aches in my left foot, under the arch, but that feels like a hamstring issue, and I have very tight calves, so I always need to stretch my hamstrings. So, generally, I feel pretty good. I'm knocking on wood as I type, as I can't really believe this is going so well.
There are a few things that seem key to the usefulness of this approach to training. Firstly, the audio cues on the ipod are essential. It tells me when to start running, when to start walking, when I'm half way. Secondly, the music is really good. I choose songs that either pump me up, or warm me up (or down) gently. I might end up using spoken podcasts later, as they distract me from the exercise and make the going easier. After this, the steady progress, with a structure to the sessions that changes weekly (and more frequently as you progress) makes the sessions more interesting. And I think the most important part is having clear goals.
One of the things that's made it difficult to stick to a serious exercise program in the past is the lack of goals. Learning tranky doo is fun, but once you have that under control, it's difficult to feel motivate. One routine after another is also kind of dull. Working on dance stuff with a partner is nice, but I think that without clear goals you tend to get a bit distracted and demotivated. I guess that's why competitions are so useful.

So I really like the couch to 5k program. I'm especially happy with the fact that I can run five minutes without stopping. No pain in my feet, and I can actually breathe. It's very satisfying. To think that I'll be running half an hour without stopping soon is almost beyond the imagining.
One of the other things I like about it, is feeling my muscles toning up. I feel as though my jubbly bits are kind of being compressed and firmed up into muscle. The muscles I have underneath the jubbly are slowly being revealed. I'm fascinated by my arm muscles, which are entirely the result of cycling. I can't believe cycling gives you arm muscles. But then cycling in a hilly city is challenging - you work harder. You use your arms to control your bike, and you tend to overwork your arms if you're too tight in your shoulders and too weak in your core. But I'm also beginning to feel stronger and more stable in my core, which is fab. I'm also finding it easier to activate my lats (so important for dancing) and other individual muscle (and groups) which in turn makes it easier to reduce the energy I spend. Using the right muscles for the job means that I become more efficient in my movement - less flobbering about out of control, less overusing the wrong muscle.
So while I'm muscling up, I'm also finding that other, tighter muscle groups (my lower back, my shoulders) are loosening up. As the rest of my body steps up and starts doing its job, those places can relax and stop doing more than their fair share. It's all very interesting. I'm especially exploring the way these changes affect my dancing and other activities. I can feel myself becoming more stable. I have more energy and greater stamina.
This is also making me the most annoying student in classes on Tuesday night. Hollywood style lindy hop (as in west coast not east, centred on dancers like Dean Collins rather than the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers) is a foreign country. It's fascinatingly technical, using the same principles as the lindy I'm used to, but in different ways. It's complex, and yet when it's done right, it's very energy efficient.
I'm particularly fascinated by the swingout. This type of swingout uses much the same principles of momentum and dynamic energy, but in a very different way. The thing that makes a swingout so amazing is that the follow moves towards the lead, then turns and changes direction, moving away from him. This simple process is actually really complex, in terms of energy and momentum. It's too easy to lose all your energy and momentum when you change direction, so the challenge is keeping that energy in your bodies, and yet still changing direction.
This type of swingout involves a more thorough 'leading' of the follow, but it also seems to use a less 'natural' approach to movement... that statement could perhaps be the product of ignorance, but it seems as though the lead has to be more aware of energy and where the follow is and also where he is. I use a gendered pronoun deliberately. I'm the only female lead in the class, and I'm finding the gender stuff is quite different in this type of scene. An emphasis on vintage dressing seems to reflect a more conservative approach to gender roles. Women follow, men lead. There's also been less emphasis on improvisation within the swingout.
For me, improvisation (within the swingout and elsewhere) is the follow's opportunity to 'speak.' A decent lead doesn't 'allow' the follow time to speak, but actually incorporates these contributions into their leading. So the two really do function as a team. The more comprehensive leading seems to micromanage the follow's movement, and it's been tricky figuring out where and how I should add in my jazz steps (I follow in the second class and usually socially - I rarely lead socially these days, which I am about to change).
The classes this week did look at variations on the swingout, and this was really interesting. It also meant that I had to stop and learn the basic footwork and shape of this type of swingout properly. I'm also wondering whether I should adopt this type of swingout when leading in class. That's the sensible thing to do, but I worry that it will mean I'll lose all memory of any other swingout completely. Which is kind of bullshitty, as any swingout I have now is no doubt so riddled with personal habits and problems it's already kind of broke. Learning a new swingout will make me conscious of all these idiosyncrasies and make it possible to rebuild a stronger swingout.

At any rate, I'm thoroughly enjoying being in classes again. It's so new, it's challenging. I'm also out of practice, in terms of knowing how to learn in class, and I'm quite enjoying the way this makes everything more difficult. I am also the type of student who asks questions and really likes to get things right, so I'm annoying everyone. I still find leading makes more sense. I just have no sense of what my body is doing when I'm following. I'm really not aware of my body and muscles and so on when I'm following. I think it's because when I'm leading I not only have to understand what I'm doing, but also be aware of my follow and what's happening in their body, so understanding my own body becomes the first part of understanding momentum and how we make it work between us. What I don't understand is why I can't figure this out when I'm following.
This stuff makes it really difficult to follow in class. I can look at the moves and understand how they work, and I can also figure out how I'd lead it, but the lead I'm working with mightn't, so I have to let them figure it out. But because I can't feel the follow (because that's me), I don't really understand what's going wrong/right in our partnership at that moment. Meanwhile, I find it really difficult to stop concentrating on the lead and to start engaging with following. Part of me wonders if I should just give up on following altogether. But then the rest of me refuses to be beaten.

I still haven't found a good yoga class. Sigh.

But I have spent some lovely time in the library this week, reading some really good stuff on Frank Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke and Jack Teagarden and listening along to my music as I go. I've also been digging into the library's music collection, listening to some of their neat stuff as I read. It's all been really really interesting. These guys are interesting because they were white, very popular and also totally top notch. And there these moments where they recorded with African American musicians in the 20s and 30s and I think 'how the fuck did this happen in segregated America?' I've also come across interesting references to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a band popularly considered a crappy novelty band who claimed they invented jazz. They didn't. But while they weren't the most awesome band, they were very influential, and I keep coming across musicians and bands they worked with who were very good. This stuff is also interesting because Bix, Tram and Teagarden worked in Paul Whiteman's band. I generally think of Whiteman's stuff as a sort of wet, watered down jazz with strings and sweet arrangements. But this sort of dance music was super popular. And while I don't like it much at all, the sales of this stuff bolstered the recorded music industry generally, which in turn made it possible for artists I do to have recorded. I don't think it's actually that simple a connection, but there's definitely a complex relationship between class, race, musical aesthetics (sweet or hot?) live performances, venue ownership and management, radio broadcasting and recorded music during this period.
I don't know that much about this yet, but it's definitely caught my eye. I hope I'll have time during the semester to chase these thoughts down. Probably not. Classes start next week, and I'm going to have to do some clever catching up after BBS.

Right, that's enough of that.

"running -> exercise -> dancing -> jazz history" was posted in the category c25k and lindy hop and other dances and music and research and yoga

February 25, 2010

eh? what's that they're sayin'?

Posted by dogpossum on February 25, 2010 9:01 PM | Comments (0)

I've made a new 8track. You can listen to it here or...

(Image stoled from Shorpy, king of olden days pictures)

These are all songs that are a little odd. Songs that I have to listen to on headphones, repeating bits to be sure I heard correctly... But these are all songs that I'm loving at the moment. Some of the lyrics are funny (Fats and Teagarden singing about their love for one another), some of the melodies are funny (way down Borneo way), some of the songs feel kind of kooky (another orientalist), sometimes the language is charming and yet also kind of odd (French popswing), some are interesting versions of favourites (first you get a bottle...)... I am madly in love with Jack Teagarden again, so he dominates a little. I always love Fats, because he makes me giggle. Lil Hardin is badass. Teddy Wilson is scarygood - but a piano/vibes duet?

title - year - artist - bpm - length (you can find these songs without the albums, I think... because I'm tired of adding them in...)

Hittin' The Bottle 1930 Frank Trumbauer and his Orchestra (Andy Seacrest, Nat Natoli, Bill Rank, Chet Hazlett or Charles Strickfaden, Fud Livinginston, Matty Malneck, Roy Bargy, Eddie Lang, Min Leibrook, George Marsh, Jack Fulton) 2:59

That's What I Like About You 1931 Jack Teagarden and his Band (Charlie Teagarden, Sterling Bose, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Catalyne, Max Farley, Adrian Rollini, Fats Waller, Nappy Lamare, Artie Bernstein, Stan King) 173 3:23

Borneo 1928 Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra (Bix Beiderbecke, Charlie Margulis, Bill Rank, Frank Trumbauer, Chet Hazlett, Irving Friedman, Lennie Hayton, Eddie Lang, Min Liebrook, Hal McDonald, Scrappy Lambert, Bill Challis) 184 3:11

Oriental Swing 1938 Lillian Armstrong and her Swing Band (Ralph Muzillo, Johnny McGee, Al Philburn, Tony Zimmers, Frank Froeba, Dave Barbour, Haig Stephens, Sam Weiss) 181 2:59

Hey! Stop Kissin' My Sister 1940 Fats Waller and His Rhythm (John Hamilton, Gene Sedric, Al Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones) 191 2:48

Coucou 1940 Le Quintette du Hot Club de France (Hugo Rostaing, Django Reinhardt, Joseph Reinhardt, Francis Luca, Pierre Fouad, Josette Dayde) 153 2:42

It's Tight Like That 1929 Jimmy McPartland, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Gil Rodin, Larry Binyon, Vic Briedis, Dick Morgan, Harry Goodman, Ray Bauduc 204 2:51

Honeysuckle Rose 1937 Teddy Wilson Quartet 168 3:13

"eh? what's that they're sayin'?" was posted in the category 8 tracks and lindy hop and other dances and music

February 20, 2010

upcoming DJing

Posted by dogpossum on February 20, 2010 3:03 PM | Comments (0)

My DJing schedule for the next little while:

Sunday 28th February: DJing @ Blues Night in Sydney (8:30-9:30)

Thursday 4th March: DJing lindy hop @ Czech Club in North Melbourne (9:30-10:30)

Friday 5th March: DJing in blues battle @ Forever Dance (BBS in Melbourne about 1/3 way through the night)

Saturday 6th March: DJing band breaks 9-12 @ Y-Dance (BBS)

Sunday 7th March: DJing 12-1:30 @ The Copacabanna (BBS late night).

Just enough to keep me busy, but actually a terribly demanding load - just little blobs of sets here and there.

"upcoming DJing" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

February 16, 2010

digital resources... mostly

Posted by dogpossum on February 16, 2010 5:38 PM | Comments (0)

This post is really just to track a range of online sources I've used today. I'm really interested in the relationship between different tools, and between online and face to face tools. I want to frame this post/discussion by pointing out that swing DJs are interested in music primarily as dancers and as DJs for dancers. So their interest in music and dance and history is almost always tied to the physical experience of dancing. And dancing is ALL about the body, no matter how intertubed you are. Dancers also tend to have quite extensive online networks, networks of friends and acquaintances which crisscross their country and the world. I just know that if Peter wasn't actually playing music as I type, he'd be chiming in with useful tweeted comments and links.

The body pwns the intertubes any day.

I read this thread on SwingDJs this morning,

which directed us to:

this story about hot jazz in a full-text issue of Life on Google books.

I replied in the thread on swingdjs, but also in a post on my own blog, here.

Reading the list and thinking about hot jazz as I wrote that post, I was reminded of things I'd read in books (!), one of which is also available in full text on google books here.

I have also found full text versions online, but I can't remember where. If you start with The Jazz Study Group @ Columbia and Jazz Studies Online you'll probably eventually find them all.

But while I was reading these things in books, I came across references to a series of photographs and films which are very popular with dances - by Gjon Mili. Mili is best known amongst dancers for his short film Jammin' the Blues which is available on youtube along with other films he made featuring jazz musicians (I link them here.)

There're some iconic photos of dancers in Life magazine in their 'Life goes to...' series. These are available in Google/Life's online collection. Gjon Mili also did some very interesting photos as part of a photo shoot for Esquire in a Jam Session series.
I've already written about magazines and jazz ad nauseum.

Meanwhile, that original Life article listed '30 good hot records'. Which made me think about canons. And discographies as canons. There are various online versions of discographies, but the good ones aren't freely available online. Boo. Hiss.
Canons and discographies made me think about following particular musicians, and all this talk about 'essential' lists of jazz musicians and songs made me think about the Great Day In Jazz photo, which has a documentary film attached, and which Rayned used to structure his Yehoodi Radio show, which you could stream online.

After I'd written that post earlier today, I was still thinking about these issues. And I remembered seeing a note attached to an Australian photo from the 20s in an online collection. I eventually found the photo on in their flickr commons (with which I am obsessed) by typing 'bands jazz sydney' into the search box, getting this list. This is the photo. I was particularly interested in the comment that black American bands were banned in Australia from the date of this photo (1928) until 1955 (when Louis Armstrong visited Australia). I wondered if it was true.

So I asked twitter. This led to a discussion between (mostly) The SwingDJ, DJRussellTurner, a discussion witnessed by all the people who followed one or all of us on Twitter.

TheSwingDJ was sceptical.

DJRussellTurner tweeted clarified the Rex Stewart thing.

DJRussellTurner suggested a distinction between 'band' and 'musicians', and then linked to an an article by Alec Morgan in the journal Scan which used the original photo and added

But, not all musical imports were welcomed by Sydney's moral guardians. Sonny Clay's renowned Jazz band, The Colored Idea, arrived here from the USA in 1928 to play the burgeoning nightclubs. After a couple of white women were found in a hotel room with the Afro-American musicians, the band was escorted back to the ship and told never to grace our shores again. While the occasional black musician was allowed in after careful scrutiny for a limited period, Afro-American bands were not permitted back until the mid 1950's when Louis Armstrong and his band pushed the colour-bar down.

I suddenly decided I needed to know more, and I certainly needed to verify this idea that 'black bands were banned in Australia' during this period. The important question here is why? Why did I want to be sure? Partly because this would indicate interesting things about:
- race and racism in Australia (White Australia Policy)
- jazz and jazz culture in Australia (jam sessions, playing with and listening to other musicians is central to the exchange and cultural transmission of creative, ideological and discursive forms. A lack of African American musicians in Australia would go some way to supporting my continuing suspicions about the whiteness of Australian jazz. And, consequently, white jazz dance.
- the music and entertainment industry in Australia.

I had a bit of a squizz in various online sources, but eventually decided I needed to look at some more newspapers from the day. These sorts of (albeit somewhat unreliable) primary sources can be helpful.

So I started simple, and followed this link from the flickr page. Not a whole lot of help right now, but it would be worth following up the original photographer.

Then I remembered someone on twitter mentioning an online tool which allowed you to search online Australian primary sources. I couldn't remember who it was who put me onto it (I still can't), so I just followed a bunch of links from likely sources.

Until I saw a name I recognised: Trove. And started searching for "Sonny Clay".

I found this newspaper article on Trove which outlined accusations about the musicians' union from the 'banned band''s representatives.

Meanwhile, TheSwingDJ confirmed our suspicions but also noted that Rex Stewart wasn't black, according to the musicians' union (I wish I had his reference for this, actually).
He also tweeted other interesting tidbits including one about 'good reputations' and 'paying' to be allowed to play.

And then there were various comments on twitter from peeps 'listening in' to our 3-way chat, including comments about the photos as resources for fashion, Trove's value for private research projects and so on. I asked for help RE Trove's browser-compatability as I wanted to edit the scanned text of the article, but couldn't log in. Various tweeps offered tips and feedback.

Then I revisited DJRussellTurner's link to the Scan article and the original flickr photo page and discovered that the author of the Scan article had a blog where she discussed this photo and issue. Her thinking about this issue led to her discussion of flappers and gender here and here.
I then checked our her blog's 'about' page and discovered she's at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at UQ where I did my BA and MA and where I still have friends working.

In one of those blog posts she notes in a caption for (a repro of that original photo from flickr):

(Members of Sonny Clay's Coloured Idea (including the singer Ivie Anderson) on deck as they pull into Sydney, 1928)

And this made me think: Ivie Anderson! Best known (in my world) as a singer with Duke Ellington's band. So I did a crappy search of my music (using the wrong date) to see if she recorded with Ellington during this period. I also scanned the photo carefully to see if I recognised her. I was, pretty much, guessing. But I was using photos of Anderson I found online to try and compare them with the women in those two original photos.
TheSwingDJ beat me to it with this link to a source many Swing DJs use quite often. That entry for Anderson includes:

Born in California, young Ivie received vocal training at her local St. Mary's Convent and later spent two years studying with Sara Ritt in Washington, DC. Returning home she found work with Curtis Mosby, Paul Howard, Sonny Clay, and briefly with Anson Weeks at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in Los Angeles. She also found work in vaudeville, touring the country as a dancer and vocalist in the Fanchon and Marco revue, starring Mamie Smith, and with the Shuffle Along revue. She was featured vocalist at the Culver City Cotton Club before leaving to tour Australia in 1928 with Sonny Clay. Returning after five months down under she organized her own show and toured the U.S. In 1930 she found work with Earl Hines.It was while appearing with Hines that Ellington first heard her sing. He hired her in February 1931, and she quickly became a fixture of the orchestra's sound.

(I've bolded the important bits.)

At this point, we're still thinking about and looking up sources. Meanwhile, colleagues from the CCC at UQ have chimed in about the author of that blog, discussions about archiving this sort of research are happening, I'm listening to 1930s Ellington featuring Ivie Anderson and I'm just about to look up youtube for some clips of Anderson to see if I can check her out more thoroughly.

But first, I think I'll go dancing.


"digital resources... mostly" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and people i know and research

magazine themed jazz prn

Posted by dogpossum on February 16, 2010 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

Magazine-themed prn from the 'Jam Session' pics in the Google/Life set Gjon Mili did for Esquire:


(NB that little group in the bottom left hand corner are from Vogue magazine.)

Mili of course made Jumpin' the Blues, and also this freekin great clip of rockstars:

"magazine themed jazz prn" was posted in the category cat blogging and fillums and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

lists and canons in jazz

Posted by dogpossum on February 16, 2010 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

An interesting discussion has cropped up on SwingDJs called "30 Good Hot Records" from LIFE. This is what I'm about to post in response.

I love lists of iconic or 'good' songs/books/films/texts. I love them because though they are presented as definitive, they are always[ more effective as a provocation than a definitive answer to questions about what counts and is important enough to be listed. Discograhies work, pretty much, as definitive 'lists' or 'canons'.

I've come across a few different uses of 'hot' in articles and books from the 1930s, particularly in reference to discographies. Kenney's discussion of jazz in Chicago outlines the differences between 'jazz' or 'hot' bands and music and 'dance' bands. These differences are not only musical, but also inflected by race, class, the recording industry, live venue management and ownership, gender... and so on. I've also come across quite a few discussions in an academic (rather than populist or 'music critic') sources about the expression 'hot jazz'. The most useful sources point out that any attempt to finally define 'hot' or 'jazz' is not only difficult, but also problematic.

Krin Gabbard discusses the cultural effects of constructing canons - in which discographies play a key role - and points out that lists of 'hot' or 'important' or 'real' jazz records aren't neutral or objective lists of songs - they are highly subjective and negotiated by the author's own ideas about music and place in society generally.

Kenney (who's written some absolutely fascinating stuff about jazz music in Chicago in the 20s) discusses Brian Rust's discographies, making the point that Rust distinguishes between 'hot' and other types of jazz recordings. Friedwald talks a bit about Rust (and other discographers) in his articles. Kenney's research into the recording and live music industry in Chicago suggests that who got to record or play what types of music was actually dictated in large part by record companies' ideas about race and class and markets rather than musicians' personal inclination. That last point suggests that you could make some interesting observations about the correlation between race, class, recorded songs, 'popularity' and 'jazz' in Chicago jazz during this period. I don't know enough about it, though, so all I'll say is that you could, but you'd better have some badass sources to support your arguments. And you'd also better be prepared to accept the idea that though America had a national music industry, different state legislations and music cultures resulted in quite different local practices: it'd be tricky to generalise Chicago's story across other cities and states. Not to mention countries.

Life and other magazines' comments on and participation in music promotion in the 30s is also pretty interesting - these guys had ideological barrows to push, just as did Rust and other discographers. One of the effects of publishing this type of list (which was no doubt as hotly contested then as it is now - except by a wider audience :D) is that it does stimulate discussion and debate. And, hopefully, record and ticket sales. One thing I'd be interested in knowing is who owned Life As an example, every time I see that Great Day In Jazz photo, I think about the fact that it was a photo for Esquire magazine, and that Esquire also produced a series of live concerts, recordings... and of course, photo spreads in magazines. While GDIJ works a fabulous representation of jazz it also serves as a canon, and as such is also subjective, ideologically framed and interpreted (eg asking why are there so few women in this photo leads us to questions about gender and jazz?) Canons are fascinating things, and can be the jumping off place for all sorts of great discussions and debates. I think this is why I was so excited by Reynaud's session on Yehoodi Radio where he used the GDIJ photo as an organising structure for the music he chose. In that case, the photo became a listening guide for a radio program. I'd just rather not use them as definitive, fixed lists; I like them more as provocations, or a place from which to begin discussing (and arguing about) a topic.

If I saw a list like the one in Life today, I'd be extra-suspicious. Songs on So You Think You Can Dance, for example, are owned by the company which produces that tv show. There's been quite a lot written about the Ken Burns' Jazz series and its role in cross-promoting sales of records from catalogues owned by the same media corporation. The Ken Burns example is an especially interesting one: that series does not present an 'objective' list of important artists and songs. It is a jumping off place for a very successful marketing project surrounding back catalogues and contemporary musicians like Marsalis. George Lipsitz has written quite a bit about histories of jazz (including Burns'), and he makes this point:

...the film is a spectator's story aimed at generating a canon to be consumed. Viewers are not encouraged to make jazz music, to support contemporary jazz artists, or even to advocate jazz education. But they are urged to buy the nine-part home video version of Jazz produced and distributed by Time Warner AOL, the nearly twenty albums of recorded music on Columbia/Sony promoting the show's artists and 'greatest hits,' and the book published by Knopf as a companion to the broadcast of the television program underwritten by General Motors. Thus a film purporting to honor modernist innovation actually promotes nostalgic satisfaction. The film celebrates the centrality of African Americans to the national experience but voices no demands for either rights or recognition on behalf of contemporary African American people. The film venerates the struggles of alienated artists to rise above the formulaic patterns of commercial culture, but comes into existence and enjoys wide exposure only because it works so well to augment the commercial reach and scope of a fully integrated marketing campaign linking 'educational' public television to media conglomerates. (17)

Lipsitz is interesting because he says thinks like Why not think about jazz as a history of dance? Why not look into the lives of musicians who gave up fame and fortune in massively famous bands to work in their local communities?

Friedwald, Will. "On Discography", May 27, 2009

Gabbard, Krin. "The Jazz Canon and its consequences" Jazz Among the Discourses. Duke U Press, Durham and London 1995. 1-28.

Kenney, William Howland. "Historical Context and the Definition of Jazz: Putting More of the History in 'Jazz History'". Jazz Among the Discourses. Duke U Press, Durham and London 1995. 100-116

Lipsitz, George. "Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz," Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O'Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004: 9-26.

References for my posts on Esquire.

"lists and canons in jazz" was posted in the category cat blogging and djing and fillums and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

February 9, 2010

twitter continues to swallow up my intertubes brain

Posted by dogpossum on February 9, 2010 5:28 PM | Comments (0)

Things are kind of rolling along here in Sydney.

It rained all last week, every single day, and that was terrible. But today it's sunny again. SUN!

This is what it was like last week (and this is WHY I couldn't go out running yesterday morning when it was raining, TWITTER):

I've started doing the couch to 5k, which is really just an interval training approach to running 5km. So far I walk/run about 4km. It makes me feel like a gun. I didn't think I'd like running this much, but the endorphines are fabulous and helping me stave off a case of the unemployed-understimulated-uninteresting-s. It also helps me keep my mood stable - no 'what am I doing with myself?' introspection and anxiety... well, a little bit. But mostly that sort of thinking is under control. I'm also delighted by the effect just a couple of weeks of the program has made to my dancing. That, as well as finally ditching the wedding-exchange cold has me feeling fit, collected and energetic on the dance floor. Yay.

In other news, I'm all signed up for a pgrad diploma in Information Management. It will cost a ridiculous amount of money, but at least this degree will get me a job. I'm especially interested in digital archiving and increasing the accessibility of public collections like the Powerhouse's, the National Archives, the State Library, etc etc etc. It's all a bit exciting. I was asked to teach some undergrad subjects when I contacted the postgrad coordinator, but I said no because a) that's too weird, and b) I want to focus on my own study and to (brace for ridiculously over-achieving ambition) do really well and kick arse. There's a complicated online enrolment process (not like in my day, when we had to line up at the office to hand in our forms in person) and a heap of screwing about to do yet, but it's all happening.

This is a fairly demanding course, so I'm not sure just how much traveling for dance I'm going to be able to do this year... not that we could afford much, what with the zillions of dollars this course will cost. But I will make do with local Sydney and Canberra stuff and a mid year trip to Melbourne and November trip to Melbourne for MLX. The latter are combined with family visits, of course. This means, sadly, that I won't be able to go to Hullabaloo, which I tend to think of as one of the Big Australian Events, both in terms of DJing and dancing. The dancing is good and the music is good at Hullabaloo, and Perth always puts on a quality event with lots of attendees. I'd also have liked to DJ at Hullabaloo (if they'd have me), but we simply can't afford $1000 in plane fares plus assorted expenses. That's a subject and a bit of my course right there.

In other news, I've been experimenting with bread baking. I'm not hugely good at it. It looks ok, but it tends not to taste too good. Sort of sweetish and overly yeasty. I'm going to try some sourdough next (as inspired by Tammi to see if that improves the flavour. A different sort of yeasty taste. But I've not had a chance to get the starter going, yet, so that's a way off. In other food thoughts, we've been eating well, but the shitty humidity has sapped our appetites. Lots of boring salads and little interest in anything else.

On the DJing front, things continue as usual. Lately Sharon has been DJing like a demon, inspired by international travel and an unfortunate laptop theft. I think the theft was actually a good thing, as she's been going through her music, re-adding CDs and transferring files from her other computer, rediscovering forgotten stuff and adding new things. It's meant that her DJing has suddenly had a burst of inspiring energy, and is absolutely great for dancing. She's a madkeen balboa dancer, and much of the music she loves dancing bal to is my perfect cup of lindy hopping tea. Yahoo.

The tempos in Sydney have also jumped up quite a bit (interstate visitors over the wedding exchange weekend last month commented on the speediness), and I have to say that this also delights me, as I really do prefer the higher tempos for dancing. By higher, of course, I mean over 160bpm. Tempos at other Sydney venues remain ridiculously low. I'm not interested in a majority of songs below 120bpm (srsly) with the odd dodgy 'faster' song for 'balboa'. Egads.
We've also got a Swiss DJ in town who's also a bal nut and a solidly swinging classic jazz fan, so nights at the Roxbury have been really, truly great dancing. For me. One thing we've noticed, though, is that the beginners have sort of dropped away a bit. In part, I think because the first half hour (8.30-9 or so) is super-fast tempoed for bal-nuts and crazyjazzlindyhopfools. By 9, things return to normal, but the tempos over all have been a bit higher.
This is great for me, and great for the scene as a whole, I think, as Sydney really needed a wider range of tempos in the classic swing vein. There's lots of superfast neo at Jump Jive and Wail, but that's not much good for lindy hop (well, for my lindy hopping taste). So we just needed some faster stuff. Right now, though, I think we could perhaps re-administer a little more at the lower end of the spectrum (120-140) just for variety's sake, and then we're laughing.

When I DJ I'm very conscious of working the wave (moving up and down the range from 130->200 and down again), and the mega-humidity and heat have made this even more important. My last few sets have seen me working a fairly predictable wave: 140-160-180-200-180-140- etc. It feels as though I'm covering the tempo bases pretty well and managing dancers' energy levels more effectively. I think in the recent past I've tended to clump at specific tempos, neglecting the wave. I've also tried hard to manage energy levels as well. Though dancers are more interested in higher tempos, now, they simply can't hack the physical demands of fast lindy hop in 90% humidity (which is where we've sat for the last two Roxbury nights) and mid 30s temperatures. It's just too draining - the humidity in particular.
I think that balboa has, once again, to be thanked for many dancers' comfort, or willingness to experiment with, faster tempos. Faster tempos simply seem less threatening when you hear them more often. And when you hear really fast tempos, 180bpm just doesn't seem too fast at all. Which is very nice. My own increasing fitness has made it much easier to deal with the humidity and to enjoy faster dancing again. Yay.

Though we have perfect growing weather now (warm, wet, sunny), we still haven't put in a proper herb garden. We are feeling its lack quite seriously, but we just haven't had time to get to the markets for plants, or to get some seeds sprouting. We must get on that ASAP, as fresh herbs are so important in our day to day cooking.

Twitter continues to swallow up my intertubes brain. It's the instant gratification that I like. I'll try to do better.

I'm sure there's more to write about, but I can't think of it. So, enough, then.

"twitter continues to swallow up my intertubes brain" was posted in the category academia and djing and domesticity and fewd and gastropod and lindy hop and other dances and music

January 31, 2010

the 4 clefs

Posted by dogpossum on January 31, 2010 8:52 PM | Comments (0)


The 4 clefs version of the song I Like Pie, I Like Cake is very popular here in Sydney at the moment, played by at least two DJs. I did a little google and found this site discussing them. It's worth a peak, as they have pics like the one above and a few songs you can listen to.

Personally, I prefer the peppier version of I like Pie, I Like Cake (But I like you Best of All) by the Goofus Five, which Trev pointed me to in late 2008, but which I still haven't played...

"the 4 clefs" was posted in the category cat blogging and djing and music

January 29, 2010

danny polo

Posted by dogpossum on January 29, 2010 7:37 PM | Comments (0)

This Danny Polo album The Complete Sets - London 1937-1938 & Paris 1939 plus The Embassy Rhythm Eight 1933 was brought to my attention by the twitter jazznicks, and it's pretty neat. Polo was a British musician. As per usual, the emusic track details are less than awesome, so I spent some time in the library getting details from the discographies. But only for the songs I've bought. Here they are:

Doing The Gorgonzola Danny Polo and his Swing Stars (Philippe Brun, Alix Combelle, Garland Wilson, Una Mae Carlsile, Oscar Aleman, Lojis Vola, Jerry Mengo) 30 Jan 1939 Paris

Don't Try Your Jive On Me Danny Polo and his Swing Stars (George Chisholm, Norman Brown, Tommy McQuater, Eddi Macauley, Dick Ball, Dudley Barber) 11 Jan 1938 London

He's A Ragpicker The Embassy (Rhythm) Eight (Max Goldberg, Lew Davi, Danny Polo, Billy Amstell, Bert Barnes, Joe Brannelly, Dick Ball, Max Bacon) 1 February 1935 London

Money For Jam Danny Polo and his Swing Stars (Tommy McQuater, Sid Raymond, Eddie Macauley, Eddie Freeman, Dick Ball, Dudley Barber) 1 October 1937 London

Move Than Somewhat Danny Polo and his Swing Stars (Tommy McQuater, Sid Raymond, Eddie Macauley, Eddie Freeman, Dick Ball, Dudley Barber) 1 October 1937 London

Stratton Street Strut Danny Polo and his Swing Stars (Tommy McQuater, Sid Raymond, Eddie Macauley, Eddie Freeman, Dick Ball, Dudley Barber) 1 October 1937 London

That's A - Plenty Danny Polo and his Swing Stars (Tommy McQuater, Sid Raymond, Eddie Macauley, Eddie Freeman, Dick Ball, Dudley Barber) 1 October 1937 London

Once again, Paris is important.
And 1937.
Note Una Mae Carlisle in the Paris session - she played piano there.

"danny polo" was posted in the category digging and music

January 13, 2010

musicians' local

Posted by dogpossum on January 13, 2010 9:10 PM | Comments (0)

Musicians' local

"musicians' local" was posted in the category music

January 8, 2010

a new 8track: 9 songs I might play for flappers tonight

Posted by dogpossum on January 8, 2010 1:44 PM | Comments (0)

I'm putting together some music for tonight's set at Swingpit in Newtown. A discussion about 'fast' music on twitter + some low-level interest in 20s charleston and solo jazz encouraged me to revisit some appropriate music in my collection.

I put together an 8track of things I'm thinking about.


There isn't as much solo charleston in Sydney as there was in Melbourne when I left, though there is a bit of solo dancing generally. Very little hot 20s or 20s-style music is played here at social events. I think we might need a rash of workshops on 20s dances generally to stimulate interest and skills... actually, there's definitely interest, it just feels as though people don't really feel confident or know what to do out there to this stuff.
Personally, I'd really like to learn some eccentric 20s partner dances.

At any rate, this 8track is a list of songs that I am considering playing tonight. The sound set up at this venue is very shit, so I'm avoiding the lofi action. Which is a crying shame. But there you go. I had to add the Armstrong version of Oriental Strut, though, as I LOVE it. It also makes me think about Woody Allen films as he plays it quite often in his films (especially Bullets Over Broadway) and I'm trying to get a copy of Sweet and Lowdown.
I'm also a bit hot for Jabbo Smith atm, so I had to add Jazz Battle as well. Same with Johnny Dodds.

I stole the image for the 8track from here.

Track details:

Rhythm Spasm Rhythm Rascals Washboard Band 315 1995 Futuristic Jungleism 2:33
San Les Red Hot Reedwarmers 285 2007 Apex Blues 4:45
Jubilee Stomp David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band (Howard Alden, Mark Shane, Herlin Riley, David Ostwald, Ken Peplowski, Randy Sandke, Wycliffe Gordon) 278 2006 Blues In Our Heart 3:22
Stampede Randy Sandke and The New York Allstars 260 2000 The Rediscovered Louis And Bix 2:47
Jazz Battle Jabbo Smith's Rhythm Aces (Omer Simeon, Cassino Simpson, Ikey Robinson) 259 1929 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 1) 2:41
Hop Head Charlestown Chasers 250 1995 Pleasure Mad 2:57
New Orleans Stomp Johnny Dodds' Black Bottom Stompers 244 1927 Golden Greats: Greatest Dixieland Jazz Disc 2 2:47
Oriental Strut Firecracker Jazz Band 228 2005 The Firecracker Jazz Band 2:36
Oriental Strut Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five (Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, Lil Armstrong, Johnny St Cyr) 191 1926 Hot Fives and Sevens - Volume 1 3:03

"a new 8track: 9 songs I might play for flappers tonight" was posted in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

December 12, 2009

thinking about victoria spivey and discographies as historical resources

Posted by dogpossum on December 12, 2009 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

sp.jpg I've recently come across some Victoria Spivey songs quite by accident. I have quite a few by her, but mostly bits and pieces from various compilations. I haven't put any effort into collecting her, in part because my resources are limited and in the other part because my attention was caught by Bessie Smith. I also tend to prioritise 'songs for lindy hopping' in my purchasing.

I came across some Spivey songs in a Henry Red Allen JSP (I think) set from emusic. It's also on one of the Complete Jazz Series, and I think the latter versions are slightly better quality. On both it was just labelled 'Henry Red Allen and his orch' I think. I found the additional details in the discography at the library. Listed under Victoria Spivey, she did quite a few sessions in New York 1928 with Clarence Williams etc, and then in 1929 she did some stuff in New York again with some really big guns. Below are the discographic details for the sessions that caught my interest:

Victoria Spivey

[S10354] Victoria Spivey (vcl) acc by Louis Armstrong (tp) Fred Robinson (tb) Jimmy Strong (ts) Gene Anderson (p) Mancy Cara (bj) Zutty Singleton (d)

New York, July 10 1929

40252-C Funny feathers
Okeh 8713, Swag (Aus) 1267, 1310, Col C3L-33, Odeon (F)7MOE-2250, Par (E)PMC7144, CBS (F)65421, (Jap)SL-1209/10/11

402526-A How do you do it that way?
Okeh 8713, Swag (Aus) 1267, S1310, Odeon (F)7MOE-2250, Par (E)PMC7144, CBS (F)65421, Spivey LP2001, Jass 5, Biograph BLP C5, Book of the Month Club 21-6547

[there are details about where these songs were published]

[S10355] Victoria Spivey (vcl) acc by Henry "Red Allen" (tp) J.C. Higginbotham (tb) Charlie Holmes (sop) Teddy Hill (ts-1) Luis Russell (p) Wil Johnson (g) Pops Foster (b,tu-2)

New York, October 1, 1929

56732-1 Bloodhound blues (1)
[with recording details I can't be arsed typing out]
56733-2 Dirty T.B. Blues (1)
56734-1 Moaning the blues (1)
56735-1 Telephoning the blues

[there are details about where these songs were published]

When you go to the Henry Red Allen entry, you find him in New York in the same months (July and October of 1929) recording with mostly the same musicians. Luis Russell is the one that catches my eye, mostly because he's (one of) the connections between Allen and Armstrong, leading a band which starred both of them at some points in the 30s.

Here are the details of recordings from the Henry Red Allen entry:

[A1573] Henry Red Allen (tp,vcl) J.C. Higginbotham (tb) Albert Nicholas (cl) Charlie Holmes (sop, cl, as) Teddy Hill (ts, cl) Luis Russell (p, celeste) Wil Johnson (g, bj, vcl) Pops Foster (b) Paul Barbarin (d, vib), Victoria Spivey (vcl) and the Four Wanderers (vcl quartet) added: Herman Hughes, Charlie Clinscales, (tenor), Maceo Johnson (bariton) Olivier Childs (bass)

New York, September 24, 1929

55852-1 Make a country bird fly wild (tfw vcl)
[with recording details I can't be arsed typing out]
55852-2 Make a country bird fly wild (tfw vcl)
55853-1 Funny feathers blues (vs vcl)
55853-2 Funny feathers blues (vs vcl)
55854-1 How do they do it that way (vs vcl)
55855-1 Pleasin' Paul
55855-2 Pleasin' Paul

[there are details about where these songs were published]

I think the sessions under Spivey's own name were the best for blues dancing, though really it's a matter of taste.

FYI, if you're trying to find all the recordings by a particular musician, you use the Musician's Index (if you're using the books rather than the online or CD Rom version of the discography) to find all the page and recording session details for each song featuring that musician. When you're looking at someone like Louis Armstrong, that can get tedious very quickly. In his case, there're whole books devoted just to his discographies. But people like Henry Red Allen (and Eddie Condon) tend to ramble across dozens and dozens of bands and hundreds of individual songs. You tend to get a feel for a particular musician, and you realise that they played in a whole range of bands in a particular city at any particular time. This gets really interesting, particularly when they're using pseudonyms to escape restrictive recording contracts with particular labels.

Just looking up 'Henry Red Allen', for example, won't get you all his recordings. But it will get you the recordings which are credited to him, or recorded by bands with his name attached (eg Henry Red Allen and his Orchestra). This sort of attribution gets interesting when you look at artists like Spivey, who had some of the biggest names in jazz listed as her accompanists.

You can see how I get interested in the relationship between blues and 'jazz' or 'swing' when I'm doing this digging in the discographies. Surely accompanying these singers (and they were accompanying, particularly when it came to people like Bessie Smith) influenced their music in significant ways. And these big names in jazz influenced other musicians - particularly when we're talking about people like Louis Armstrong or Allen.

vspiveys.gif Spivey is interesting because she was not only a seriously famous singer in the 20s, she also managed to survive the declining popularity of blues at the end of the 20s. She did interesting things like play in the Hellzapoppin' stage review (not the film, lindy hoppers, the stage review from which material for the film was drawn) and found her own record company, Spivey Records in the 60s. It was with this label that she recorded Bob Dylan as an accompanist.

I'm fascinated by the idea that you can chart the relationships between musicians in a particular city by using the discographies. All you have to go on is the city, date, song title and musicians. Which is a surprisingly useful amount of information. My attention is caught by the names which turn up all over the place, in all sorts of bands. Zutty Singleton. Paul Barbarin. Buster Bailey. Peanuts Hucko. People I didn't know before I started looking through the discographies. Now I find that following these guys through the Chronological Classics or Complete Jazz Series gives me an overview of a particular city or style during a certain time frame. So if I follow Zutty Singleton through a particular year on CD, I'll hear a range of bands. And I can speculate about the professional relationships between bands and the way creative ideas spread between bands.
Of course, all this information is really only dealing with recorded performances. Though this does include a massive amount of recorded broadcasts and live performances (particularly in the 1930s), we're really only looking at formal recording sessions in the 20s. I always wonder what went on around these sessions. Who did they meet at the restaurant where they had dinner afterwards? Did they go for drinks with the band who'd been in there before? Who sat in on the following sessions to make up numbers or simply out of musical interest? Did these things even happen?

And of course I can't help but think about the race stuff going on. I notice things like particular bands having personnel with names of particular cultural backgrounds. German or European names in Benny Goodman's bands. Italian names in New Orleans bands. Anglicised names in Chicago. Certain names are more common in African American bands than in Anglo-American bands.
There are hardly any mixed-race recordings, so when they do pop up, my interest is immediately caught. And of course, when you get into the French recordings of artists like Bill Coleman, Coleman Hawkins, the remnants of Glenn Miller's band in 1945, you see familiar American names teaming up with French artists. Glenn Miller's former bandmates (Peanuts Hucko, Mel Powell, Joe Schulman, Ray McKinley) are joined by Django Reinhardt.
All this is super-interesting. And that's just the information you can gain from reading through the discographies. When you listen along with the discographies, tracing particular sessions and particular combinations of musicians, you can hear musical developments and experimentations expanding and changing an individual musician's style. Arrangers become much more important. Listening across bands (following a particular musician rather than a band), you hear similarities within a single year. And when you add to that the fact that many bands recorded the same songs in the same year, you hear each of these little moments in creative time explored within the framework of a single composition, arranged in countless ways, exploded by solos and improvisations.

When you think of the music that wasn't recorded, of all the live performances on stages and in back rooms and kitchens, you realise that music was not only everywhere, but that these were communities of musicians, complicated networks forged by the act of making music. And money.

And, finally, in all of this, if I do come across a female name anywhere other than in the vocals, I'm flabbergasted. This is a world of men. Or so you'd assume, if you relied only on the discographies. There were plenty of women in these pictures, just not dug into the grooves on the record. There were women playing and writing and recording music, women running offices, making dinners, washing clothes. It's just that you can't hear them on the records, unless you listen very closely.

Lord Jazz Discography
This is an interesting piece about Henry Red Allen.
Red Hot Jazz.

"thinking about victoria spivey and discographies as historical resources" was posted in the category ideas and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

December 10, 2009

blues djing

Posted by dogpossum on December 10, 2009 5:54 PM | Comments (4)

FYI: I've made a dodgy 8track with examples of the stuff I'm talking about in this post. I'm not entirely confident with some of my observations as I really don't know enough about blues music. So please just read this post (and observations) as my ideas and working-through stuff rather than as any sort of authoritative commentary. The discography details are below the post.


I've been listening to the latest Confessing the Blues podcast. It's interesting to read a blues dancing equivalent to the Hey Mr Jesse show, especially when I'm not really all that conversant with American blues dancing culture.

In case you're curious, blues dancing developed within (or at least in close proximity to) the lindy hop communities. In Herrang, there's been a Wednesday blues night for ages. At American exchanges blues nights would often follow evening dances or even the late night dances. Australia has a slightly different blues dancing history. I remember workshops as early as 2001 in Melbourne, and then occasional classes or sessions by visiting teachers. By about 2005 there was a sort of staggering blues sub- or developing culture in Melbourne.
It wasn't til about mid 2006 that Melbourne's blues nights were running regularly and flourishing. These blues nights were run by the large school in that city and featured classes with a side of social dancing. Interestingly, though, these blues classes were pioneered and eventually pushed through by enthusiastic teachers and dancers who'd been involved in blues events overseas. In contrast to the usual round of lindy hop fare from that organisation, this was much more a grass roots development. I think this has been an important factor in blues dancing's popularity in that city.
In 2006 MLX ran blues events as part of their late night calendar. In 2009 there were three annual blues 'exchanges' or workshop weekends. There are regular blues workshops in Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney. Moving to Sydney last year, I was struck by the very different local blues dancing culture. Melbourne's blues scene is firmly rooted in everyday social dancing and socialising. Sydney, in contrast, again with its blues scene organised by the large school, is centred on classes and has no un-class-related blues social events. The large school had, more or less, transplanted a Melbourne product to Sydney. The product, without that broader enthusiasm and firm social setting, has struggled in this particular market.
That's not to suggest that there isn't a great deal of interest in blues dancing in Sydney. There is. It is more that the events are managed and prescribed by the school, with the impetus from within a commercialised pedagogic model rather than a sort of groundswell of local popular interest. One of the consequences of this (which we see in one of that organisation's lindy social night as well) is an emphasis on using spaces which are suitable for classes and not quite right for social dancing. Blues in Melbourne used smaller, more crowded bar-like venues, and I think this emphasis on socialising is very important. Local teachers also used their own small studio spaces for social events, and I think this interest at a non-commercialised, local-interest level was also very important. It simply meant that the lessons and workshop weekends were serving an already existing market, and were meeting an already present demand. In Sydney, the demand is not so significant, and the classes have had to be marketed quite rigorously for their success. There is not the significant word of mouth promotion that was so successful in Melbourne.
It's been disappointing, as a blues dancer and DJ, to see the local Sydney blues scene struggle. They've been struck by difficult venue changes, by interrupted class and social schedules, and perhaps most significantly, they're also dealing with an organisation which is run from Melbourne, rather than locally. This has seen numerous problems in the lindy hop community, and has - I think - been partially responsible for the stunted growth of the local blues scene.
Blues is an interesting example of the power of localised, groundswell interest and creative and commercial development. In America, and in Melbourne to a more limited extent, house parties and private parties have been important in developing DJs' and dancers' skills. More significantly, dance in private spaces has contributed to the development of community of interest and creativity which is not necessarily mediated by larger commercial dance interests. Though blues in Melbourne has definitely been commodified through the class and workshop structure, it still resists with its emphasis on social dancing and socialising.

But of course, my information and experience is almost two years old now. And I don't have the close connections with blues that I do with lindy hop. Things might not be quite as I've described...

On another point, blues in Australia is largely without the interest in historical musical and dance forms that its American counterparts have been exploring in recent years. There are certainly individuals who are very interested in historical blues dance forms, but the predominant teaching and social event themes are not. One exception was a recent visit by an American teacher very interested in historical context. Brought to Australia by Australian teachers, this visiting teacher conducted workshops in a number of Australian cities. Unfortunately, either by coincidence or by design*, the large teaching school ran a large blues event the weekend after this international teacher left. One of the workshop weekends conducted by this teacher coincided with a large lindy exchange which is run by one of the more enthusiastic Australia blues dancers. Interpersonal conflicts and a generally disorganised approach to promotion meant that the visiting teacher did not receive the broader discussion the visit warranted.
In summary, the commercial interests and interpersonal conflicts which characterise the Australian scene were a direct impediment to the introduction and dissemination of this historical aspect of blues dance at that moment. This issue troubles me as a DJ and dancer. As a DJ, I found less interest in historical blues music and music for blues dancing, which was endlessly frustrating. As a dancer, I could not find local classes disseminating this historical content, and on the social floor I found a resistance to or intolerance for my own experimentation with historical steps and movements.

Since then, the broader interest in history and historical dance forms in lindy hop has seen a trickle-down or follow-on effect for blues dancing in Melbourne. This delights me, and yet I am unsure of its broader effects within the local Melbourne scene or national blues scene. I haven't been to the major blues dancing weekends for a number of reasons, even though I've been (most flatteringlly) invited to DJ at them. They tend to cluster in the second half of the year, right in the middle of the marking period of the semester. And my partner isn't interested in blues dancing at all.
This second point is particularly important to me, and I think, indicative of the national Australian blues scene in general. The Squeeze and I tend to go to exchanges with the thought that we are on holiday together. We both enjoy lindy hop very much. But The Squeeze isn't interested in blues dancing, and I'd really rather save our travelling money for combined trips. Just because I like to go on holiday with my partner. The Squeeze isn't the only lindy hopper with no interest in blues whatsoever.
I think that the popularity of lindy exchanges and of of 'groovy' or connection-centred lindy hop in America were important factors contributing to the development of blues dancing scenes in that country. The cost of flights and sheer distances between cities in Australia limited the number of annual lindy events for a long time. It was only in about 2005 that traveling for weekend events - let alone social weekends - became very popular and affordable here. The last couple of years in particular have seen social dancing weekends (exchanges) rise signficantly in popularity.
As we move into a culture which prioritises long weekends full of late night dancing and no workshops, however, we are also following America into an interest in historical lindy hop forms. It is as though we missed the broader, saturated interested in groove and connection-centredness. In Melbourne, though, this approach to dance did rise sharply in popularity. But a little later than the US, and with less lasting influence.
My doctoral research suggests that the sudden and more significant penetration of American lindy trends into the Australian scene is almost entirely due to the influence of online media. Youtube, discussion boards and lately Faceplant and (to a much lesser extent) Twitter. Youtube in particular suddenly gave us access to the dancing bodies of America in a way previously prevented by the cost and time of flights. We could actually see what was happening on the dance floors in other countries. The last year in particular has seen a massive increase in dancers' use of online media for the dissemination of images of dancing bodies.
Faceplant has not only connected dancers internationally, making it simpler to map the networks of inter-local communitas (and this glocal networking is something I wrote about quite extensively in a number of articles as well as my doctoral thesis), it has also connected their online clip-viewing habits. A clilp featuring a particular dancer or dance is suddenly right there in front of dancers on Faceplant, showcased and framed by the 'friend' relationship, by the tagging of featured individuals and by clip's placement in the 'live' feed of updated status and posted content.
Faceplant and other online social networking services and tools have not seen dancers necessarily adding more content to the intertubes. But it has seen them suddenly drawing connections between individuals, dance events, and online tools. Podcasts which previously existed only in the menus of discussion boards for some Australian dancers suddenly leapt to the front of their minds when linked from Faceplant. More importantly, individual dancers (and DJs) making contact via Faceplant began sharing their own online resources - lists of links, clips, audio files, music purchasing sites, comments or updates about their experiences at international or national events.

Faceplant has not changed the way dancers interact. But it has suddenly sped up connections between individuals, and tightened the relationships between them as a consequence. As I see it, the most important consequence of Faceplant has been its integration of a range of online tools, particularly YouTube and the hosting of AV content with individual blog-light or tweet-like content of networked friends. Dancers aren't doing anything new online. They're just doing it faster.
Though one thing they are doing now that they didn't do a few years ago, and which has far more lasting importance, is travel. Online contacts and networks do facilitate travel (and the Frankie95 event is the very best example of word-of-mouth promotion via online networks), but it is the actual, face to face interaction with other dancers in other cities that has effected the most substantial changes to Australian lindy hop and blues dancing.

But I've rambled off-track a little. What I had meant to say, originally, was that if we had had this depth and breadth of online contact in the early 2000s and late 1990s, blues dancing (via groove and connected-centredness) would have traveled to Australia earlier and been more substantially established here before the American interest in historicism had developed. But it did not, and so we sort of skimmed over the supergroove moment. Local cultural influences held sway, and the teachers who traveled internationally to their preferred destinations (Herrang, Camp Hollywood, wherever) continued to be the guiding influences in their local communities.

What, then, to reiterate, is happening in blues in Australia? I can't speak with any (convincing) authority on this. I can say that I suspect a greater interest in historicism. But I can't be sure - I haven't seen any local Sydney interest in this _at all_. Melbourne remains the largest blues dancing community in the country. I will try to get to some national blues events this coming year and comment further.

So, then, with all this in mind, what exactly am I doing DJing for blues dancers? In the simplest terms, there's often a shortage of DJs willing to do the late night sets at exchanges, and there's a shortage of blues DJs in Sydney. I'm no longer quite as willing to do the super late sets, but I have contacts who've seen me DJ those later sets, and seen and heard me DJ blues. These contacts are who help me secure gigs. I have no idea how good a blues DJ I am. I don't think I suck, but I'm fairly certain I'm not the most amazing blues DJ in the universe. At this point, I aim for 'don't break it' and am surprised if I manage anything more.
With that, I'm not sure if my comments about DJing for blues dancers are at all useful or even accurate. But hells, as if that'd stop me filling up the intertubes with _something_ other than pictures of kittehs.

Returning to that Confessing the Blues podcast. In the program someone had written an email asking a series of questions. The presenters answered in detail, with side trips for rants and other digressions. As to be expected and welcomed in any discussion of DJing.
One of the questions was:

What music do you play at a blues dance?

...or something to that effect. You can listen to the podcast for their answer. Mine is as follows.

What exactly makes it into my playlist depends on a number of factors. I don't pre-plan my set lists. Though I do make short-lists of songs I might play, I develop the actual list as I go, responding to what I see and hear and feel in the room. These factors are shaped by:

  • The scene. When I say 'the scene', I'm referring to the local community. The sorts of people out dancing regularly; the sorts of music played regularly; the venues used; the class content and teaching styles; the 'regular' DJing.
  • The crowd. This refers to the people who are actually there at that moment, at that event. This is affected by the context - is this after a class, is it a blues session at a late night at an exchange, is it a set at a blues event, is it a free-floating social event, is it band breaks, is it in a bar, a studio or a hall? These things all determine the type of people at the event, and the ways in which they interact.
  • The event itself. Is this a lindy exchange? A blues exchange? A social dance at a blues workshop weekend? After-class at a weekly blues event? After class at a monthly or fortnightly blues event?

In terms of the songs that are already in my 'maybe' list - the music that I actually own - I personally:
  • like stuff that's 'blues structured';
  • like stuff that's identified as 'blues';
  • but I also like slow drags and other musical forms which 'work' for blues dancing.

I tend to favour historical music, but certainly not exclusively. The 'blues' genre is mighty and wide, and still a living, viable music today. I do not stick to one particular historical period - I range from the 20s to the current day.
I look for a particular feel. As an example, in cataloguing my music I distinguish between 'kissing songs' and 'blues songs'. Kissing songs are ballads, or songs that make me want to grab The Squeeze and cuddle him. Or they make me think of nannas having polite slow-dances with their husbands [Moonlight Serenade - Glenn Miller = kissing song example]. Blues songs make me feel like dancing. I've heard other DJs talk about tension and release in blues dancing songs. I guess that could mean the difference between a kissing song and a blues dancing song. Kissing songs are polite, blues dancing songs demand your attention. But I don't think that definition is quite useful for me. I've also heard people talking about blues songs having a 'pulse', but that doesn't even begin to work for me, because I'm looking for that rhythmic 'bounce' in my lindy hopping music (and dancing).

I'm also sceptical of comments that a piece of music 'is slow lindy not blues'. I think that there is a range of dances which aren't necessarily lindy hop (slow or otherwise) but which are also more than a slow-dancing cuddle. When I'm blues dancing, I don't even bother thinking 'no lindy hop!' I think 'dance!' If some lindy gets in there, good enough. And, to be frank, I sure as fuck don't bother classifying each of my movements as 'lindy hop' or otherwise. I'm just dancing. Historically, lindy hop and other vernacular dances were all about change and cross-polination. There weren't terribly many rules about dancing beyond social conventions. Context, the music and mood shape the way I dance. So a shimmy can be either incredibly sexually provocative, it can be slightly silly, or it can be an incredibly macho shake of the shoulders. So I don't make any rules for what moves or steps I do where. But I look for a different feel in the music when I'm blues dancing.

I think that this is where I have to leave my discussion of how to define blues dancing music. The ways I choose and buy my music might be more useful.

My musical tastes are motivated by my dancing interests and by my musical interests. As a DJ, I'm very interested in historic musical forms, but I gather most of my music almost accidentally when I'm buying music for lindy hopping. Or when I'm 'going complete' with an artist (eg the lovely surprise of Herny Red Allen with Victoria Spivey [Moanin' the Blues by Spivey et al is on the 8track]). As an example, I bought the Mosaic 'Classic Columbia, Okeh and Vocalion' Count Basie/Lester Young set. This is, as the title suggests, a complete collection of recordings by a band leader/musician during a particular time period with a particular recoding label(s). Basie is an interesting example. He has his roots in Kansas, and he also has his roots in blues music. This set includes a number of songs that I think of as 'classic blues' including I Left My Baby [which is on the 8track]. These songs have been performed in many ways, at many tempos, and in many styles. On this set, the 1939 version of I Left My Baby is 86bpm, and the mood is slower, more introspective, more intense. We're encouraged to listen to the vocals and the solos by the slower tempo. There's an intensity that makes you want to move, but to move with meaning. And this song is along side a host of songs that are perfect for lindy hopping. Some of which are, incidentally, blues structured, but with a higher tempo and a different energy and mood.

The distinction between 'blues' and 'lindy hop' isn't fixed or definite - one set a song can set the room to lindy hopping another night it can get them bloozing.

I make musical choices when I'm compiling my 'maybe' list based on my musical tastes, and on what I would like to dance to. So my sets are subscribing to my tastes and preferences. I've tried buying music to suit general trends, but I find I end up with music I don't especially like and don't DJ very often. So I don't do that much.

My sets are, though, guided by the brief I've been given by the organiser. I like to talk to them about what they want, or to just have a couple of lines in an email outlining their preferences. I like this when I'm DJing for an unfamiliar lindy hop crowd. I like managers of regular events to give me updates on their preferences as well, particularly when they're as astute as some I've worked with in Melbourne. Canny event managers see when their crowd is changing and developing in its musical and dancing tastes, and asks the DJs to work with that. I'm happy to take that sort of direction. If I don't like their vision, I don't do the gig. I've been lucky enough to DJ in two cities with relatively healthy social scenes, and with a few different events to choose from. But I also put a lot of effort into developing good relationships with event managers, where I can ask what they're interested in, and I can make suggestions or speculations.

I choose the songs I'm going to play, ultimately, by what I see going on on the floor - who's there, how the room feels, and so on.

More specifically...
I tend to keep it below 160bpm. 160 is about where I'll begin my solid lindy hop. More probably, I'll sit below 120 with occasional forays up into the 140s. But the tempo will be dictated by feel. So I might add in some slow drag stuff at higher tempos.
There is no basement tempo - I will go low.

What moods am I looking for?
With lindy hop, I tend to look for higher energy music. But this isn't the case with blues.I tend to range across the energy levels and moods. Some of my favourites include:

  • upenergy, 'beer room party' music. I think of this as 'Andy' music. I remember having a revelation listening and watching Andy DJ - he came in loud and proud and didn't DJ down into the cuddle zone, mood wise. The crowd was lively and boisterous. I really like this. This energy can be found in soul, early RnB, etc. I am a bit keen on Chicago blues at the moment, and this stuff is really good for that party feel [Hound Dog is my current obsession and example of this style on the 8track.]
  • lowenergy, cuddly stuff. This sort of music encourages close connection and often sensuous themes. Stuff that encourages introspection and serious facial expressions. I won't play this at an after-class event first off. I usually work into this vibe later in the night/set. Unless I'm following from a DJ who was doing this stuff. As a DJ and dancer, I prefer blues events to work with more than just this vibe. I know that this feel was the primary goal of a lot of blues dancers in Australia at first, particularly at late night house parties. But I think I'd die of boredom if this was all I had to work with as a DJ or dancer [I Got It Bad by Oscar Peterson is the example on the 8track.]
  • humourous, medium to high energy. This is often vocal-driven. There may be sensual or even sexually explicit lyrics or musical elements, but the sex is subverted or sort of tipped on its side by humour. So you feel silly dancing sexily unless you're being ironic or otherwise adding layers of meaning to what you're doing. I put my dirty, salty nannas here [My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More is the 8track example.]

Generally, I think a song's a 'blues dancing song' when I listen and think 'this makes me want to dance slowly and it doesn't make me want to lindy hop.' I really like to 'solo blues dance' (whatever that fucking means), so I like that stuff.

Examples of songs/styles that I play:

  • big bands playing blues songs during the 30s, 40s and 50s. eg Basie with Jimmy Rushing singing I Left My Baby;
  • - small bands with vocalists singing blues structured blues songs. eg Victoria Spivvey with the Henry Red Allen small groups; Bessie Smith with small bands. These tend to be blues queens accompanied by badass musicians [Moaning the Blues by Spivey et al is the 8track example];
  • small bands with or without a singer doing blues structured songs [a Duke Ellington sextet doing Tough Truckin' is the 8track example];
  • Chicago blues, especially as it leads into soul. Big Mama Thornton. Blues structured. Important instrumentation. Can be massive big energy, or less crazy [see Hound Dog on the 8track].
  • New Orleans, slow drags and slower walking styles. I really like this style, and I tend to play quite a bit of this. It's very popular with dancers who are keen on old school lindy hop. I like to play slow drags for the long, sensual/miserable feels. I watch the tempos, and I don't tend to live here all night during a set. This stuff is important when I'm transitioning. I often find that I'm only one of a few DJs who play 'old school' blues sets at an event, so I feel obliged. [St James Infirmary and The Mooche are good examples by Aussie bands on the 8track]

How do I actually combine choose songs when I'm DJing a blues set?
Pretty much the same way I do when I'm DJing a lindy hop set. Except I sit down more. And wear a jumper because I tend to get pretty cold at those super late nights. I like to work a wave, energy wise, and often tempo-wise. But I worry less about working the tempos. The energy is more important. I'm also much, much more careful about transitioning between styles. Mostly because the music I might play is representative of so many different styles. But also because the range of styles means that you have a range of moods and energy types on offer. And you want to really bring the crowd with you, or work with the crowd rather than jolting and jostling them about.

I guess, what I'm saying overall about the way I DJ for blues dancers is:

  • slower than lindy hop, but not all slow all the time;
  • blues structured or blues identified songs and styles are good;
  • emotional range is far broader than with lindy hop (where I tend to DJ the 'crazy manic happy' vibe);
  • historical forms and songs please me, so I tend to favour them.

Songs I won't play:

  • Trip hop, hip hop, contemporary styles that I think of as 'dancing alone'. Because I hear this stuff at normal clubs and venues, and I dance 'normally' there. Also, those DJs know this stuff and I don't, and I'd much rather a DJ with those skills and that collection make this stuff sound good than I stuff one into my set as a sort of random tokenism.
  • Soul and Funk. I will play blues songs by soul singers, but I prefer not to play what I think of as solid soul or funk. I love that stuff, but it's not blues. I will and have occasionally dropped in a soul favourite, but often as a sop to popular taste. I don't mess with funk, I stick to soul. And I prefer earlier soul. Again, ultimately, I don't have much of this, I don't know it well, and so I'd really rather not embarrass myself trying to be 'cool' with it [the Etta James song is a soul song I do play].
  • Songs with male singers and sexist lyrics. I hate that shit. So I don't play it.

*I would suggest coincidence if it were not for the fact that this strategy has been employed time and again by this organisation. While I suspect that they are simply this clueless and disconnected from the broader national scene, I am also quite sure that they are disinterested in broader community development and good will.

8track set list
Moonlight Serenade Glenn Miller and his Orchestra 84 The Aviator 3:25 [an example of a 'kissing song']

I Left My Baby Count Basie and his Orchestra with Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing 86 1939 Classic Columbia, Okeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940) (Disc 2) 3:13 [an example of a big band with a blues shouter doing a blues structured song which works for blues dancing. Also, a song from a big chronologically ordered set by a particular artist, which also has a lot of great lindy hopping music on it.]

St. James Infirmary The Cairo Club Orchestra 109 2004 Sunday 3:33[An Australian band doing a song which I think of as 'New Orleans' and sort of like a slow drag (though not really...well, whatevs). It also has a slightly higher tempo and works for lindy hop]

Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 76 Very Best Of 2:52 [A Chicago blues queen singing a very famous song. This is an example of what I think of as 'party music'. Lots of energy, lots of sass]

I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) Oscar Peterson 55 1962 Night Train 5:09 [Cuddle music in the supergroove vein.]

My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More Alberta Hunter 76 1978 Amtrak Blues 3:49 [A small group with a female vocalist doing a humourous song that works for blues dancing]

Moaning The Blues Victoria Spivey acc by Henry 'Red' Allen, JC Higginbotham, Teddy Hill, Luis Russell 100 1929 Complete Jazz Series 1926 - 1929 3:02 [A 'classic blues' song by a blues queen accompanied by some shit hot musicians, some of whom had very high profile careers with big bands which recorded songs we play for lindy hop]

Tough Truckin' Duke Ellington Sextet 96 1935 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 1) 3:09 [An instrumental song recorded by a small band which works for blues dancing]

The Mooche Michael McQuaid's Red Hot Rhythmakers 117 2006 Rhythm Of The Day 3:41 [An Australian band doing a song which I think of as New Orleans, though it isn't (I think it was recorded by Ellington in New York...). The instrumentation feels New Orleans - banjo, reeds, a particular percussive sound. The Ellington 1928 is of course the superior recording, but this version is very popular with dancers in Melbourne and the band itself is also very popular]

Please Please Please James Brown 74 Sex Machine 2:45 [A soul song from the 70s or 60s (I forget which) but which I will and have played for blues dancers... though with my tongue in my cheek]

I'm Gonna Take What He's Got Etta James 57 1967 The Best Of Etta James 2:35 [A soul track that I do play for dancers, and which works very well.]

"blues djing" was posted in the category 8 tracks and lindy hop and other dances and music

December 8, 2009

8 songs from 1935 that I love

Posted by dogpossum on December 8, 2009 7:49 PM | Comments (0)


Spreadin' Rhythm Around Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Billie Holiday, Johnny Hodges, Cozy Cole) 195 1935 Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 01) 2:56
Chimes At The Meeting Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 245 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:01
Swing, Brother, Swing Willie 'The Lion' Smith and his Cubs, Willie 'The Lion' Smith vocal 231 1935 Willie 'The Lion' Smith 1925-1937 2:52
Murder In The Moonlight Red McKenzie and his Rhythm Kings (Eddie Farley, Mike Riley, Slats Young, Conrad Lanoue, Eddie Condon, George Yorke, Johnny Powell) 193 1935 Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 2:55
Chasing Shadows Louis Prima, Pee Wee Russell, Frank Pinero, Garry McAdams, Jack Ryan, Sam Weiss 170 1935 Louis Prima Volume 1 3:04
Truckin' Henry 'Red' Allen and his Orchestra 171 1935 Henry Red Allen 'Swing Out' 2:54
Swingin' On That Famous Door Delta four (Roy Eldridge, Joe Marsala, Carmen Mastren, Sid Weiss) 190 1935 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 3:00
There's Rhythm In Harlem Mills Blue Rhythm Band (Lucky Millinder, Henry 'Red' Allen, Buster Bailey) 207 1935 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 3:11

I love all of these songs a great deal. Why?
Billie Holiday is the best. And in this band, Wilson not only has her gun pipes, but also Johnny Hodges and Cozy Cole. omg orsm.
Teddy Wilson was freaking GREAT stuff and turned up in all sorts of bands.
Louis Prima was actually cool, once.
I especially <3 the vocals in Chimes at the Meeting: "Goodnight sister pork chop." Also: more Teddy Wilson.
Willie 'The Lion' Smith is foshiz. I like this tinkly version of a song we tend to associate with Billie Holiday.
Murder in the Moonlight pleases me with its silly, cheesy lyrics: love in the first degree and all. +1 for Red Allen.
The Delta Four are just one of a million bands featuring Roy Gun Eldridge.
That version of Truckn' is fucking GREAT. I DJ it a lot. I love the kind of lazy pathos matched with a song about a dance fad. Madness. +1 for Red Allen.
There's a Rhythm in Harlem is mo good. I've crapped on about versions of In The Mood, and this is one of my favourites. + Red Allen.

There's quite a bit of overlap in band personnel here, not only because my tastes are fairly consistent, but also because musicians got around. Which no doubt contributed to some musical and creative cross-polination. And some broader consistencies or at least repeating patterns in music in that year.
I could have picked multiple versions of the same song from the same year, but I didn't.

"8 songs from 1935 that I love" was posted in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

December 1, 2009

8 dirty nannas

Posted by dogpossum on December 1, 2009 6:25 PM | Comments (0)

I've made a little 8track of 8 of the women singers I played in my late night set at MLX9.


I tend to think of the women I like to DJ for blues as 'dirty nannas', and I've banged on about this here ad nauseum. This isn't quite 100% dirty nannas. Some of the women here were younger when they recorded these songs. But all of them had attitude. I tent to play far too many vocal tracks when I DJ for blues dancers. I think it is, in part, because I'm really not a very experienced blues DJ, and because I don't have a whole lot of music I'd play for blues dancers. But it also probably has something to do with the fact that I like my music for blues dancing to carry levels of meaning. More than just a straight out 'grab you partner and cuddle' imperatives. I like irony and parody and suggestion.

At any rate, this is only a small chunk of the stuff I played in that set, and when you listen to it here or on the 8track site it won't be in the order I played them. So imagine there are other songs in between them, cushioning the changes.

A note: that version of Fine and Mellow is about the most perfect performance on earth. You can (and really should) watch it here:


Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 76 Very Best Of 2:52
Rosetta Blues Rosetta Howard acc. Harlem Hamfats 103 1937 History of the Blues (disc 02) 3:00
Jealous Hearted Blues Carol Ralph 80 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 3:48
Kitchen Blues Martha Davis 80 1947 BluesWomen: Girls Play And Sing The Blues 3:05
Fine And Mellow Mal Waldron and the All-Stars (Billie Holiday, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Hinton) 79 1957 The Sound Of Jazz 6:22 best live on CBS TV 'Legendary sound of jazz' 1950s small female vocal Swinging blues 60 14/01/07 4:58 PM
3 O'clock In The Morning Blues Ike and Tina Turner 64 1969 Putumayo Presents: Mississippi Blues 2:40
Hard Times Mildred Anderson 67 1960 No More In Life 4:15
Gimme A Pigfoot Bessie Smith acc by Buck and his Band (Frank Newton, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Buck Washington, Bobby Johnson, Billy Taylor) 1933 Complete Jazz Series 1929 - 1933 3:30

"8 dirty nannas" was posted in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music and travel

November 30, 2009

MLX9 set 3

Posted by dogpossum on November 30, 2009 7:10 PM | Comments (2)

Goodness me, but that 3-5am set was a bit of a push for nanna. I used to always be there right til the end, ready willing and able to play blues til the very last dancer lay down and died. But not this weekend. I was exhausted by 2. But I still managed to get it on.

The main room closed at about 2.30am, and while I and the DJ before me were rostered to do 'blues' sets, we both figured it was a good idea to play more transitional sets. Noni played a spankingly good set of what I think of as 'power groove' - hi-fi, lower tempos, but good, fat, chunking energy. It was really great to watch and listen to, but a bit of a challenge to follow. I was just blank (again). I really don't handle these late nights very well any more. We were in the back room, which I much prefer for dancing (wooden floors, not parquetry over concrete, a smaller, more intimate setting, slightly darker lighting, etc etc etc) and the main room had closed.
The lindy hopping crowd had moved into the foyer full of couches, or started filtering into the back room. Keith, the DJ before Noni and I, had played my favourite set of the weekend: olden days stuff. Stuff I love to dance to. Small and large bands, the former of which especially suits that back room. Then Noni and I were to follow up with blues. So the crowd was still, generally, a lindy hopping group, but with a fair few blues dancers or people who dance either. It was a tricky moment, really. I'm not sure how I would have handled it as an organiser. MLX is a lindy event, so lindy should always come first, but blues is very, very popular in Melbourne and MLX has given good blues in the past.
We'd had similar issues the night before when I finished the night out in the lindy hopping main room at 4am (as requested by the organisers): people were really still interested in lindy hopping. The problem, really, was that the organisers and volunteers were just too shagged to keep going. And of course their night doesn't end with the DJ, it continues on for an hour or two afterwards as they clean up and push dancers out.

At any rate, I feel pretty ok about my set. I didn't know when to move to blues, though, and would have appreciated some guidance from the organisers. But they were particularly unhelpful with this sort of thing that night. So this is what I played:

MLX9 29-11-09 3-5am Blues

All Right, Okay, You Win Gordon Webster (with Brianna Thomas, Jesse Selengut, Matt Musselman, Adrian Cunningham, Cassidy Holden, Rod Adkins, Jeremy Noller) 137 2009 Happy When I'm With You 4:41
Intro / Time's Gettin' Tougher Than Tough Jimmy Witherspoon with Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis 134 1959 The 'Spoon Concerts 3:35
I Ain't Mad At You Mildred Anderson 158 1960 No More In Life 3:04
Blues For Smedley Clark Terry, Ed Thigpen, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown 137 1964 Oscar Peterson Trio + One: Clark Terry 6:57
Here I Am (Come and Take Me) Al Green 95 1975 Greatest Hits 4:15
Son Of A Preacher Man Aretha Franklin 77 Greatest Hits - Disc 1 3:16
I Got What It Takes Koko Taylor 72 1975 I Got What It Takes 3:43
Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 76 Very Best Of 2:52
I Just Want To Make Love To You Etta James 106 1960 The Best Of Etta James 3:07
3 O'clock In The Morning Blues Ike and Tina Turner 64 1969 Putumayo Presents: Mississippi Blues 2:40
I Hate To Be Alone Roosevelt Sykes 77 The Bluesville Years Volume 11: Blues Is A Heart's Sorrow 2:04
Telephone Blues George Smith 68 1955 Kansas City - Jumping The Blues From 6 To 6 3:03
Built for Comfort Taj Mahal 98 1998 In Progress & In Motion (1965-1998) 4:46
Sleep in Late Molly Johnson 86 2002 Another Day 2:47
Reckless Blues Louis Armstrong and his All Stars (Velma Middleton, Trummy Young Edmund Hall, Billy Kyle, Everett Barksdale, Squire Gersh, Barrett Deems) 88 1957 The Complete Decca Studio Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars (disc 06) 2:30
Perdido Street Blues The Lake Records All-Star Jazz Band 107 2009 The Rosehill Concert 6:05
Sister Kate Firehouse Five Plus Two 100 Dixieland Favorites 4:31
Wild Man Blues Sidney Bechet and his New Orleans Feetwarmers (Sidney de Paris, Sandy Williams, Cliff Jackson, Bernard Addison, Wellman Braud, Sid Catlett) 88 1940 The Sidney Bechet Story (disc 3) 3:20
Winin' Boy Blues Jelly Roll Morton and his New Orleans Jazzmen with Sidney de Paris, Claude Jones, Albert Nicholas, Sidney Bechet, Happy Cauldwell, Lawrence Lucie, Wellman Braud, Zutty Singleton 91 1939 The Sidney Bechet Story (disc 2) 3:10
Rosetta Blues Rosetta Howard acc. Harlem Hamfats 103 1937 History of the Blues (disc 02) 3:00
Gimme A Pigfoot Bessie Smith acc by Buck and his Band (Frank Newton, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Buck Washington, Bobby Johnson, Billy Taylor) 1933 Complete Jazz Series 1929 - 1933 3:30
Papa Ain't No Santa Claus Butterbeans and Susie with Eddie Heywood sr 116 1930 History of the Blues (disc 01) 3:20
You Took My Thing C.W. Stoneking with Kirsty Fraser 111 2006 King Hokum 2:51
Jealous Hearted Blues Carol Ralph 80 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 3:48
Riverside Blues The Lake Records All-Star Jazz Band 88 2009 The Rosehill Concert 4:47
St. James Infirmary Allen Toussaint 107 2009 The Bright Mississippi 3:51
Kitchen Blues Martha Davis 80 1947 BluesWomen: Girls Play And Sing The Blues 3:05
Fine And Mellow Mal Waldron and the All-Stars (Billie Holiday, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Hinton) 79 1957 The Sound Of Jazz 6:22
I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl Nina Simone 65 1967 Released 2:33
Hard Times Mildred Anderson 67 1960 No More In Life 4:15
Back Water Blues Belford Hendricks' Orchestra with Dinah Washington 71 1957 Ultimate Dinah Washington 4:58
Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 76 Very Best Of 2:52

The first few songs were very much transitions from Noni's vibe: high energy, hi-fi power groove with a live or high energy feel. That new album by Gordon Webster (who is also a dancer) is very versatile, and I heard a lot of it this weekend. I quite like this version of All Right because it's not the Barbara Morrison one. Then more Witherspoon live. I really, really like Mildred Anderson's voice, and though this song isn't what I'd think of as good lindy hopping music, it is quite fun early r n b or jump blues (I'm not sure of the distinction). I wanted to move towards blues (as briefed), but I wasn't sure people were ready to get cuddly. I also wanted to get to New Orleans in the near future, but wanted to keep the chunky basement party feel.

Blues For Smedley was a mistake. I don't know what I was thinking. Except, perhaps, that I wasn't quite thinking clearly and hadn't really decided what I was doing. I think I might have been trying to mellow the crowd out. I just bored us all with an interminable Ray Brown solo. Again.

After this, things were kind of flat/mellow. So I tried some (wonderful) Al Green because he's touring here very soon. And because I love him. I was also thinking about that r n b/soul/ house party vibe and deciding that was what I wanted to do for the next little while.
Aretha was purely an attempt at populist easy-scores. It's also a sing-along song. I DJ it at blues dances every now and then, and it still rides well with me. I was kind of trying to get to the soul/rnb side of Aretha rather than the soul/funk side of things.

I Got What It Takes was a test: were they ready for blues dancing? For slower, sexier stuff? This is where I got a bit confused. The floor emptied and refilled with a completely new crowd when I moved between higher and lower energy stuff over the next half hour or so. It was as though the blooz guys were moving in for the blooz, then sitting down when the kids interested in lindying on got up. So I was confused. I was a bit too tired to go survey the foyer and see what people were into. I would kind have liked to do a lindy set, but, really, I'd prepped for a blooz set, and I wanted to work that vibe. In retrospect, I could have done as a band would have: moved from each style alternatively. And an early New Orleans style would have worked for me. A brave move, I think, but could have worked.
Oh well.
This is clearly one instance where a bit of clear guidance from the organisers would have been helpful. And usually I can judge these things pretty well. But I was so freeking tired, and really having trouble focussing. I was also alternating between standing up and jiggling and dropping into my seat, exhausted.

Hound Dog was the perfect vibe for this particular moment. If I had more of this stuff, I'd have played it all night long. This is the stuff DJ Goldfoot plays. It's early rnb, it's gritty, it's not, in any way, associated with Elvis Presley or that sell-out, rip-off white-wash bullshit. I have decided to blow my remaining emusic credits on lots more as soon as our internet gets unshaped.

This is an interesting stylistic moment, actually. I'd put it, clearly, in the blues music camp. It's definitely blues music. But it's quite high energy. A lot of this stuff is above 100bpm, though it's really heading towards the average tempo for pop music today (about 120bpm). But it doesn't really feel as though it's in the jazz camp any more. We can hear rock n roll, just, sort of, in the next room. But it's also remembering jazz and early blues. And echoed in the work of people like Sharon Jones.

I think that I'd really, really, really like to go to an afternoon or Sunday night gig at an exchange that featured this type of band in a grotty basement bar or nightclub. Beer, food, dancing, talking shit, hanging out, singing along. Not hardcore anti-social lindy hop where we all leap about like rabbits, but real party music, where people pick up and fight and get back together and laugh and drink have fun til they're exhausted.

So then I played a Tina and Ike Turner song that's a little mellower. I love this early Tina Turner stuff - she's just so great. I wish I had more.

Historically speaking, I'm not sure how people danced to this stuff. I suspect it was a little like this:

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

That's how I dance to it. I spent about two band sets talking to a good friend about the advantages of having a whole heap of jelly to shake and being over 35. We laughed a LOT, frightened a couple of twenty year olds and talked a great deal about >35 year old boob-sag and boob-bounty. Ultimately, if there's a pistol on the mantelpiece in act one, it's going to get used by act three. And, really, it's a crime to pack heat and not flaunt it.

Speaking of which, this Taj Mahal song is still a favourite. It's a good thing I don't DJ blues much these days, or this song would be massively overplayed. I love the lyrics. And the fact that it's a man singing. There were actually two blokes dancing together to this song and it was a delight. I think, unfortunately, the gender-flexi subtext of the song added to the social challenge of two men blues dancing together eventually led to their abandoning the dance. I was disappointed.

Sleep in Late was my transition song. I was thinking 'New Orleans'. And also '1920s.' And 'blues queens.' Which, really, is where I want to be most of the time.

That version of Reckless Blues is another I overplay. But it's hi-fi and a really useful transition track.

That version of Perdido Street Blues is super-saucy and really fucking great. And it's live, and featuring Duke Heitger. I'd had the Bechet/Armstrong version on my shortlist all through my Saturday lindy set, and was really glad I managed to stuff it in somewhere. At this point a heap of people returned to the room for dancing. In retrospect, I think they were lindy hoppers looking for uptempo stuff, but then again, I'm not entirely sure - some of them were also hardcore blues people. Ah well. Maybe they were looking for that particular style?
I'm not all that keen on the Firehouse Five any more. They're a bit cutesy. But I couldn't resist another slower version of a popular fave.

And then I _finally_ got to Bechet. If you're thinking about New Orleans, you really have to play some Jelly Roll. This is a version with cleaner lyrics, which is a good thing, as the other version is really obscene. Nothing coy or double entendre about it at all - it's just straight up obscenity. And I kind of prefer a little clever word play.
At Rosetta Blues, I was thinking 'tinkly piano' and 'dirty nannas.' I'd had a few requests for some dirty nannas kicking arse and taking names, so I figured it was time. I play this song almost every time I DJ blues so, once again, it's a good thing I don't do much blues DJing these days. I fucking love it.

I'd had Bessie Smith lined up for ages, but hadn't quite had the guts to do it. I've never DJed Bessie Smith before... well, I think I've DJed Do your duty (with Bessie Smith acc by Buck and his Band (Frank Newton, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Buck Washington, Bobby Johnson, Billy Taylor in 1933), but not for a long while. It was an absolute delight to see dancers really getting into her and really responding to her performance. Smith is really incomparable as a vocalist, and even all these years later, mediated by layers of wax and crackle, she still pwns.

Pappa ain't no santa claus was a stretch. I should perhaps have not played it. Or not have played the next song. The Stoneking song is almost exactly the same as Butter Beans and Susie, but the performances aren't any where near as good. I have ongoing reservations about Stoneking's appropriation of black blues performance styles and songs, and kind of wanted to show how he's not as good as the originals. It didn't go down as well as the preceding songs, but then it was the third or fourth in a row, and this stuff is a bit challenging for Australian dancers at the moment (in my experience, any way, and my experience certainly isn't terribly broad).

All this annoyed me, and I was particularly irritated by Stoneking's bullshit, so I decided to just change gears immediately. Carol Ralph's song is another good, solid transitional track when I want to get to what I think of as 'New Orleans'. That's a good song, and it kind of trucks along with a nice, rolling rhythm.

Riverside Blues went down well as well, with an effect similar to Perdido Street Blues. I like it that I play the same artists for blues dancers and for lindy hoppers, just at different tempos. I like the implication (or evidence?) that you can't have swing or jazz without the blues, that blues dances (and the blues idiom more generally) gives lindy hop and swing its backbone.

The Allen Toussaint went down as well as it usually does, and I was tempted to just play another. Or even the entire album. It's gorgeous music, beautifully produced, and a wonderful tribute to and reimagining of the New Orleans classics. But I played it in part as a way of dropping the energy. It was time to cuddle-blues. This version of a blues dancing favourite is so lovely. I love listening to it, and it's really nice seeing dancers work with the dynamic range, and exploring the layers of rhythm at work here.
I was also trying to make my way to the lovely version of Billie Holiday's Fine and Mellow. I think Laylie had actually sung it with the band earlier that night (I can't really remember, though). I love this Holiday version because it's so, so taught with emotion and suggestion. She's trashed, but her musicianship is flawless. It's also a live performance.

So Kitchen Blues, with its light touch and Lutcher's delicate piano and lovely, rich (yet restrained) vocal are a great introduction. Kitchen is instrumentally sparse - just piano and drums, I think.

Fine and Mellow did as expected. Cuddles all round. It gives me goose bumps every time I hear it in a dark room on a big sound system.

I almost played the Bessie version of Sugar in my bowl, but went with the super-sensual Simone version instead.

The more Mildred Anderson. This time slow, slow, slow, with her lovely, velvety voice really stretched and achey.

Back Water Blues is something I always play for Cheryl when she's in the room, because she loves Dinah. And because I do too. And I figure, if I'm playing Bessie, I better play a whole lot.

And then I had to call last song because it was 4.57 and I was utterly exhausted. The kids would have danced longer, but, frankly, they would have danced til they died, so I wanted to end it before it made me hate all blues dancers. And I like to end with a full room, rather than letting it peter out.

This song's so nice, I played it twice. There was some comment on that, but, what the fuck - it's 5am and I'm the boss. And it's a fucking good song. And people liked it as much as I did, so they had a fun dance with it. There were more than a few voices joining Big Mama in the howling at the end.

So, generally, it was a pretty good set. It went better than I'd thought it was. I discovered that I'm probably a bit too weak for super late night DJing these days. Though sitting down makes it easier. Blues is boring to DJ. Super boring. Because the dancers are really introverted and partner-centred. I never see anywhere near enough solo stuff (if any at all), and I don't see enough extroverted, show-off stuff or parodic/ironic riffs on the parodic/ironic lyric content, but then, that's blues dancers for you in general. They tend to be a bit... serious.

MLX9 is over now, and I'm kind of relieved. My ankle is pretty swollen, but it doesn't hurt that much. I didn't dance much, which really sucks, but then it's kind of good because it means that I didn't hurt myself. I spent most of my time talking to people, which was fabulous. I also made a serious effort to get to all the band gigs on time so I could watch the bands. The more I DJ, the less interest I have in listening to DJed music; I want bands. And the bands at MLX9 were really really good. A really good cross-section of styles, from recreationist 1920s hot jazz to 1950s Ella and Basie. And things in between. I have a few clips to upload at some point so you can see what I mean.

Now, I think I need to go to bed. Because it's finally after 7.30 and I don't feel ridiculous letting myself sleep. The Squeeze has been fast asleep beside me in the bed for ages already, and it's very sooooothing.

"MLX9 set 3" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music and travel

November 29, 2009

MLX9 set 2

Posted by dogpossum on November 29, 2009 2:30 PM | Comments (0)

Because I <3 Timmy.

Last night I did my second set, starting at 2.40am. It wasn't the best I've ever done, it wasn't as good as last night. Here's my list of excuses:

  • I started my period and I was beginning to feel really rough. Also, a little angry. Don't DJ angry.
  • The preceding DJ was using the booth monitor which was sitting next to me where I was preparing my for my set. It was very loud and full of bass and jiggled my sore menstrual guts in a painful way. Did not want.
  • Everything seemed really loud. It did not please me. But I turned the volume waaay down when I started my set.
  • I felt really good about the job I did the night before. Quite a few people had said they were really looking forward to my work in my second set. The pressure was on, and I felt a bit under the pump. And I crumbled.
  • I was cold. The night before I was boiling. But last night I was cold. So I wore Scott's (tiny, kindly leant) jacket and it squeezed me.
  • I really wasn't on top of my music; I didn't have enough badass stuff at the front of my brain.
  • I couldn't really find my focus til the last part of the night

I have plenty more excuses, but these are the important ones.

MLX9 28/11/09 2.40am-4:00am

Froggy Bottom Jay McShann and his Band with Jimmy Witherspoon 155 1957 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 2:37
Sent For You Yesterday (And Here You Come Today) Count Basie and his Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing 172 1952 Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings (Disc 2) 3:13
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra 144 1958 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 3:13
Flat Foot Floogie Carol Ralph 186 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 3:44
Sweet Nothin's Midnight Serenaders 154 2009 Sweet Nothin's 3:14
I Ain't That Kind of a Baby Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys 159 2008 Ready For You 2:59
Putting On The Ritz The Cangelosi Cards 195 Clinton Street Recordings, I 3:38
Shake That Thing Preservation Hall Jazz Band 157 2004 Shake That Thing 6:30
Deep Trouble Les Red Hot Reedwarmers 179 2006 King Joe 2:55
Tishomingo Blues Carol Ralph 128 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 4:15
Davenport Blues Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra with Jack Teagarden 136 1934 Father Of Jazz Trombone 3:14
The Harlem Stride Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra 199 1939 Live At The Savoy - 1939-40 3:29
Whoa Babe Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra (Lionel Hampton voc) 201 1937 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 1) 2:53
Everything Is Jumpin' Artie Shaw and his Orchestra 170 1939 Self Portrait (Disc 1) 5:07
Fifteen Minute Intermission Cab Calloway and his Orchestra 165 1940 Cab Calloway and his Orchestra 1935 - 1940 vol 02 (disc 04 - New York-Chicago 1939-1940) 2:54
Just Kiddin' Around Artie Shaw and his Orchestra 159 1941 Self Portrait (Disc 3) 3:21
Blackstick Noble Sissle's Swingsters with Sidney Bechet 183 1938 The Young Bechet 2:46
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra 165 1937 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 3:10
Truckin' Henry 'Red' Allen and his Orchestra 171 1935 Henry Red Allen 'Swing Out' 2:54
Ain't Nothin' To It Fats Waller and his Rhythm 134 1941 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 3:10
Light Up Buster Bailey 189 2008 Complete Jazz Series 1925 - 1940 2:48
Chasing Shadows Louis Prima, Pee Wee Russell, Frank Pinero, Garry McAdams, Jack Ryan, Sam Weiss 170 1935 Louis Prima Volume 1 3:04
Algiers Stomp Mills Blue Rhythm Band (Lucky Millinder, Henry 'Red' Allen, J.C. Higgenbotham, George Washington, Edgar Hayes) 219 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 3:08
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 1950 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 3:04

The preceding DJ had been playing a set of favourites and crowd pleasers, all of which were at moderate to slow tempos. The set began a bit old school, but moved into a more mixed, and then more contemporary set. The floor was full the entire set. I think that this is where my personal priorities as a DJ become mixed: do you take a risk and play a mixed tempo set and really push dancers, so that the hardcore kids really stretch _and_ the newer/slower/injured/older/not full-on dancers get some fun? Or do you play a set pitched primarily at the latter group and guarantee a floor full?

I didn't get the floor as full as the previous DJ, but I did hit the 3am kill zone, and lost a few folk. There was a full blues room with some great DJs, and blues is almost as popular as lindy at MLX, so that room was very full, and there's not a lot of lindy/blues cross over once people are in a particular groove. Also, I didn't really get it together. I couldn't quite find my groove. I think, basically, I was too tired for the job. Goddess help me with my 3-5am set tonight. But I just couldn't quite find my flow, couldn't quite get in the zone, couldn't really get it together. So I felt as though I wasn't really _with_ the dancers, and it really showed. But, ah well. What can you do?

The last song of the last set was a soul/funk track, which meant that I could either change gear without the clutch or find a transitional number. I began with an old fave and my workhorse starter: Jimmy Witherspoon doing some chunking, in your face hi-fi jump blues. I should have realised when I began with that, that I wasn't quite happening. But I had a short list of about 30 possible songs, and that also tells me I couldn't quite get a handle on the dancers.
I wanted to get to old school, big band lindy hopping action. So I went with 50s Basie and Rushing as a transition.
Then I got distracted and confused. Rather than going straight to someone solid like Lunceford before getting into more unusual stuff, I was pulled off-course by Carol Ralph (an excellent Australian act). I think part of me was thinking about the previous DJ's populist approach, and I wanted to maintain that general, all-crowd interest with something with vocals and hi-fi. It's a great song - a really great version of a well-known fave - but it pulled me away from my mission.

But from there I figured wtf, and did a little Midnight Serenaders loveliness. A little saucy, but kind of quirky and accessible. Followed by Janet Klein, who does similar stuff. Then the glorious Cangelossi Cards. This little chunk of three songs (which a friend described as 'old fashioned radio style songs') went down really well. It was a lovely room to play at that moment. Willing to experiment with quirky stuff, interested in the more complex musicianship and arrangement, enjoying the funny/suggestive lyrics. So what did I do wrong?

At this point I thought 'I could do an entire set of new bands.' But I discovered that that stuff wears a little. I should have moved from the Cards to something different. But I went with the Preservation Hall. That version of Shake that Thing is fab - long, though - full of energy, lots of shouting. But LONG. And while it filled the floor, it did tire everyone out. It also tends to get a bit wearing, what with all the shouting.

The Les Red Hot Reedwarmers was positioned wrongly. It's a great song, and goes down well, but it was too great a mood change from the Pres Hall. I should have played it directly after the Cards instead. It's kind of a light, wacky feeling version of a really nice song. But it really conflicted with the Pres Hall. I should have gone into something solidly lindy hop or solidly big band or solidly olden days here instead.

So I figured I'd fucked up a bit. The floor was emptying. We were right in the middle of the kill-zone: 3.15/3.20. If you don't keep them on the floor here, they go home. If you do keep them on the floor, you have to be careful with their energy. Let it get too low with too much slow or mellow stuff and they get tired and sit down. Let it get too high and full on and they get overkill and tired and sit down. And when they sit down two or three songs at that time, they go home.

Ralph was ok here, but it was just a little slow. And a bit too in-your-face, really. Which is in contrast with the way this song usually works - it's a good floor-saver earlier in the night.

Then I played Davenport Blues. Again. Yes, I'd played it the previous night as well. I love it more than anything. And I wanted an old school medium energy song that kind of chugs along and then builds a little. But I just couldn't think of anything else. Which means that a) I was too tired, b) I was too uninspired, c) I don't know my music quite well enough atm, d) I was just not _on_. Sigh. It's moments like this that I get frustrated with myself. I know I can do better, but I just don't quite bring it off.

So here I thought: 'ok, wench, fuck this shit up properly; get those motherfuckers dancing. Do what you do, don't try to do what other people do.' Thank you Ella with Chick's band, live @ the Savoy in 1939 (not '41, Brian :P ). Chunking fun that did what I wanted.
It did clear out some of the lagging tireder not-hardcore-lindy hoppers, but then I was thinking 'ok, can we dance badass at this point, please?' I figured that the earlier part of the night had been more accessible, it was time to really push things. Which is kind of dodgy thinking, I know. But we are at the biggest, most hardcore lindy exchange in the country.

Whoa Babe has a fabulous intro. But it drags in the middle. It made people crazy, but then it screwed them over and let them down instead of sustaining them with crazy energy. I should have chosen something a little more badass all the way through. This is another point where my tiredness and not-on-ness really showed.

So I decided to save it with something familiar and live and pumping. That Shaw track is great. It's long, but it's really worth playing because it's so energetic and great. It's also a very accessible tempo/energy combination. And it worked. Unfortunatey the version of Fifteen Minute Intermission was almost incoherent audio mess on the sound system. Sigh. DJfail. Again.

The next Shaw track saved me again, but then I fucked it with Blackstick. I had had reservations about that one, but I thought 'it's high energy, it's a fave.' I should have reminded myself 'it's squawky, New Orleans flavoured and kind of unrelenting' a little more loudly.

Then I just thought 'Hamface, what would YOU like to dance to right now? What do you love?' And I decided: something lighter-feeling (ie not a wall of sound or face-punching intensity). Something musically a bit interesting. Something at an easy tempo. Something with a lovely riff that just makes you feel really good. A sort of melodic sweet-spot that makes you feel really good with its repetitive, charming gentleness. Peckin' was just right.

I love to follow this song about a dance move (where there's a line dissing truckin') with this spunky Red Allen version of another song about a dance move. I love it that they're both kind of sell-out pop song tracks about pop culture. But that I love the scrunchy vocals in Peckin and I love the kind of lazy, sardonic, vocal part of Truckin. They sort of tip the sell-out factor on its side. This version of Truckin really _feels_ like the dance step. Sort of slidey, scuff-and-drag shuffle with a quirky finger in the air - the lighter melody waggling over a chunky, drag-shuffle rhythm. And Red Allen making it all work together.

And then my fave Waller song. A slightly bigger group for him, and a nice, easy tempo. Friendly, fun, dirty lyrics. It's a great song. And people loved it. Not quite selling out to the Waller craze because it's a bigger band. But mostly selling out. But then: I loved Waller when all the kids were into the Soup Dragons.*

I thought Light Up was one of those Herrang-fad songs that everyone knew. Perhaps not. It's a great little song, that did go down well. It has a big break in the middle with almost utter silence. I hadn't been paying attention, so when it came on the crowd yelled and I was caught hopping. At first I thought 'hey, what's gone wrong now?' and couldn't figure out the error - it was still playing. All was cool. And then it started again, and everyone laughed and yelled and it was all cool.

At this point, I had them. The floor was filling for every song, regardless of tempo. I had found my groove. Lighter feel, not in-your-face. Mixing tempos. Interesting musicianship. Quirky not-big-band, mid-30s coolitude. It was also about then I was told I had to wrap it up. Which was frustrating but also a very great relief. I like to finish on a high note, and I don't like to drag a set out to the point where there's no one dancing but a couple of friends. There was a general outcry from the dance floor, but I was very firm. And then Cheng was very firm. I let them know we had to stop to give the volunteers a chance to clean up. It was also 4am and there were a lot of people there and a lot of junk to clean out of the room. They wouldn't have had that room done til 5am at least.

Meanwhile the back room was continuing with blues. We went home because we were EXHAUSTED.

I have to add: Yvette Johansson and Andy Swan did their mid-50s Ella and Louis show at the evening dance, and it was just GREAT. I sat and watched and had a lovely time. I danced about four songs (I'm not dancing much - I need to keep an eye on my stupidly swollen ankle), and those four songs were fucking amazing. It was a really good show. They were so professional, Yvette has great stage presence and really commands the band, calling the solos, checking the tempos, working the crowd. She's a gem. A lot of people commented on these things, and it was really nice to see how the dancers really responded to her/their work. There was a massive ovation at the end of their second set, and I did think they were going to demand an encore right then and there. That second set was really tops. And the third was tops. Talking to Yvette, she said that she'd planned a mellower, gentler set of favourites for the first one, then heated it up for the kids in the second. That's a dancer/seasoned band-for-dancer speaking right there. It was also nice to see how she worked the dancers' energy and really engaged with them, talking and interacting with them from the stage.

I have really enjoyed the MLX9 bands: I think I'd really rather there were bands at each event, and far less DJs.

But I have also heard some nice DJing. Loz Yee had only just begun DJing when I left Melbourne, and in the last year she's really started kicking arse. I enjoyed here band break sets an awful lot. Sharon Callaghan was a gun, but unfortunately wasted on a first set to an empty room (sigh). Same goes for Sarah Farrelly. But I made an effort to be there to hear them, and I enjoyed them both.

I have also pretty much decided that the sistahs are pwning the blokes, DJing wise. Justine and Alice at SSF/SLX, then the Loz/Sharon/Sarah trifector at MLX. But there's always tonight, and I'm sure the fellas will bring it.

*I also like their old stuff better than their new stuff. And I listen to bands that haven't even been formed yet.

"MLX9 set 2" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and lolfrankie and melbourne and music and people i know and travel

November 28, 2009

yay MLX9!

Posted by dogpossum on November 28, 2009 1:49 PM | Comments (0)

I've just woken up, and it feels as though we've actually had another day in between yesterday and today. We got to bed at about 4.30am, which is actually pretty civilised for MLX. In previous years I've left the venue at 6am. Today I did also wake up at 9.30am, which is insane. So I ended the insanity and went back to bed.

But now I am awake, and needing to do some quick DJ prep for tonight's set. Mostly because I played all my guns last night and am left with the same old spooge for tonight.
Here's last night's set:

MLX9 Friday 27th November 2009, 1am-2.30am
title artist bmp year album length

Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 164 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 2:15
San Francisco Bay Blues Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band with Barbara Dane 160 1964 Blues Over Bodega 3:42
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band with Barney Bigard, Helen Andrews 160 1946 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46 3:13
St. Louis Blues Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra 183 1939 Ella Fitzgerald In The Groove 4:46
Leap Frog Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra (Luis Russell) 159 1941 The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946) (disc 7) 3:00
Davenport Blues Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra with Jack Teagarden 136 1934 Father Of Jazz Trombone 3:14
Madame Dynamite Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Sidney Catlett) 176 1933 Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 2:56
For Dancers Only Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 148 1937 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 2:41
Flying Home Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra 197 1942 Lionel Hampton Story 2: Flying Home 3:11
Savoy Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra with Trevor Bacon 166 1942 Anthology Of Big Band Swing (Disc 2) 3:05
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and his 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 2:49
Sugarfoot Stomp Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra 244 1939 Live At The Savoy - 1939-40 3:09
Stomp It Off Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 190 1934 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 3:09
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 153 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:26
Shortnin' Bread Fats Waller and his Rhythm 195 1941 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 2:41
It's You're Last Chance To Dance Preservation Hall 179 2007 The Hurricane Sessions 4:31
Shake That Thing Mora's Modern Rhythmists 227 2006 Devil's Serenade 2:58
Savoy Blues Kid Ory 134 1950 Golden Greats: Greatest Dixieland Jazz Disc 3 3:01
Call Me A Taxi Four Of The Bob Cats 175 1938 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 3:13
Jump Through The Window Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra (Zutty Singleton) 154 1943 After You've Gone 2:42
Jumpin' At The Woodside Count Basie and his Orchestra 235 1939 The Complete Decca Recordings (disc 02) 3:10
Keep On Churnin' Wynonie Harris 146 1952 Complete Jazz Series 1950 - 1952 2:56
Big Fine Girl Jimmy Witherspoon with Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Vernon Alley, Mel Lewis 156 1959 The 'Spoon Concerts 4:55
Every Day I Have The Blues Count Basie and his Orchestra with Joe Williams 116 1959 Breakfast Dance And Barbecue 3:49
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 143 1999 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke 3:34

I followed Sarah Farrelly, who is one of my favourite party DJs. It's a pleasure to step into the DJ seat after her: she builds the fun, and then I come and play in it.

The last song was a joke. Because I'd been trying very hard to avoid my usual party-favourites. The room was very hot and humid and the dancers, though trying very hard and full of exchange beans, were really having trouble keeping their energy up. So I tried to work a pretty sharp-angled wave. There was also a pleasingly diverse crowd - lots of noobs, lots of old sticks, all the states represented - so I tried to work those tempos. This was only the second night of MLX and the first late night, so I wanted lots of energy (this IS FUCKING MLX MOTHERFUCKERS!), but I figured the peeps wouldn't quite be at their most lindy-crazed just yet. It was a super-prime set, and I felt very lucky and excited to have it. So I tried to do my best. I also used my 'DJ standing up because the dancers are standing up' policy, and it worked. I find I lose my DJing nerves faster and I feel more connected to the dancers. I also figure there's something interesting to look at if you're not dancing - down the front of my shirt as I bend over to check the computer.

I tended to avoid the 'safety songs' with simple lyrics and hi-fi familiarity (eg Blip Blip and its ilk) and to go with the big, fat swinging big band. Because this is lindy hop, yo.

Playing For Dancers Only was a tactical decision. It was nice to play it not because it's a safety song and I knew it would work, but because I was thinking 'ok, I need some high energy, big band classic swing of a moderate tempo, something familiar but also something with serious staying power and iconicism*' And that song was just perfect. I like it because it makes me think about Frankie Manning. Then, of course, Flying Home also reminds me of Frankie, because of its role in the Spike Lee Malcolm X biopic. And it's also carrying the iconic weight of twenty years of post-revival lindy hopping culture. They're also both really great songs, and I think that sometimes we forget how great our overplayed favourites are. So I tried to use them both not as safety songs (as I've said), but as great songs in their own right. I also wanted to revive a tiring room after a couple of what I think of as Chicago tracks.

Basically, though, my set 'theme' (if there was one) was big bands playing in big ballrooms to crazy crowds. Hence the Ella live at the Savoy stuff, Flying Home and so on.

Savoy has been (re)popularised by the Silver Shadows, but it's also a standard. But it's not always a song every scene plays a lot, so I like to use it. And, of course - Savoy! I don't play it that often, but the Silver Shadows reminded me of it. Which is nice.
By that stage people were kind of frazzled and hot, so I shifted gears. Back Room Romp is a song I overplay, but which not everyone else does. It has a mellower energy in the beginning - tinklier. But it has a steady, chugging rhythm with funky upenergy flourishes that make you want to dance. So it gave the kids an energy rest, but also an energy injection of a different type. This is part of my working what I think of as an 'energy' or 'mood' wave as well as a tempo wave. I like to pound the dancers with high energy songs, but I also like to mix the styles and types of high energy to move their mood around as well.
I came in with Sugarfoot Stomp just one song too early. They needed something about 160 or 180 in between to build things a little. This is a great song, but it's a bit complicated and 'fussy' for such a high tempo if you're not really ready for it. But it has great energy (live! Savoy!) and it's familiar. But it's not a version I hear very often. It was a bit of stunt DJing, really, because I wanted my average tempos up a bit.
Stomp It Off always sounds mellower and slower when I play it after a hardcore faster song, so I like to use it to trick dancers into higher tempos. It's also fully sick. I had intended another build from here, but the room was HOT and people really weren't recovering as fast as they usually do in a cooler room. So some very familiar Willie Bryant.

Shortnin Bread was my concession to the current Fats Waller fad. I love that man, but I'm not always convinced he works 100% with every crowd. But I freeking love this song. I think it's one of his very best dancing songs. It always goes down well, and it did this time. It's another song that doesn't sound as fast as it. It also has that lovely chorus at the end which is kind of furiously crazy and awesome.

Here, the energy was high, but I felt as though I was just about to push that barrel over a cliff if I kept going, so I switched it up. The Preservation Hall has that lovely, chaotic New Orleans instrumentation and improvisation (which Fats heralded in that last chorus), but it's a slower song. It's simple, melodically and vocally - there aren't many words, really, but they're repeated. And the message is perfect: "it's your last chance to dance, so get up!" It made the crowd crazy. Sweet. I have played this for crowds where it's died. I think its in-your-faceness requires a larger, more robust crowd. I wanted to stuff in some 'charleston', so I played a lesser-played version of a familiar song. It was a bit too fast for this tiring crowd.
Savoy Blues was a recovery song, with more of that New Orleans flavoured style, but I think of it as a transition song, leading me from NO to classic swing. Call Me a Taxi was a strange choice in retrospect, but it has that lighter, easier feel than the previous face-kickers, and it also feels slower than it is. It has a lovely melody and really invites you to play.

Jump Through the Window is a song I used to play all the time, but had left behind for a while for a break. The recent Frida/Skye performance clip has popularised the song, so it's a good one for the crowd. This chunked the energy up again. The Taxi song had given them a rest, and many people were ready to go again.

I didn't play Jumpin at the Woodside intending to provoke a jam, but it has kind of Pavlov's lindy hopper effect. I played it because it's a really good song, and it builds on the energy of the Window song really nicely. At the end of that jam (which I didn't watch), I moved straight to an 'everybody dance!' song because I don't like to overdo jams. And that one was kind of lagging - not much crowd noise. I also like them to want more than to get tired of it. The Churning song is overplayed everywhere. But it's a great builder/spanker. It's at this point that people got their second wind and went insane. It was crazy. The dance floor was jammed, and people were losing their biscuits (in a non-vomit way)

So I figured it was time for more dirty southern sounds, maybe some sort of Kansas activity. Live Jimmy Witherspoon was the go. It was interesting playing him at this point, mid-set, because it changed the way I listened. It's a live song and it's in the middle of a performance, so it feels as though it's carrying on existing energy, with lots of crowd energy. The lyrics don't come in for a while, so it has that 'holding pattern' feel for a while. But the instrumentalists are mad-awesome.

As you can see, I was going hi-fi here. I wanted to change the energy in the room, to shake things up and kick the dancers into a different mood, so they'd be distracted and get over their hot-and-sweaty tiredness. It worked.
They were then utterly shagged, so a super slow Basie live track to let them breathe.

Then, seeing as how I was plumbing the favourites, I figured I'd play the most overplayed song in all of christendom. It went down a TREAT. And then I ended!

So I guess I did play a bunch of faves, but I used them in a different way. I was proud of myself for not just defaulting to them in a moment of panic, using them as a crutch. I actually used them for their own awesomeness and relationship with other good songs. The fact that this was also my first set of the weekend is probably another contributing factor: I like to open a weekend with faves and party songs. But it was a late night, prime lindy hopping territory, so I wanted to play solid lindy hop. Avoid the jump blues for the most part, and go a little easy on the eccentric or smaller group sound.

Tonight's set is later - 2.30-4 - so it'll be slightly different. I'll see what's happening at 2.30am, and play it by ear. I'm hoping for some slightly different stuff - the more interesting eccentric, small group and unusual songs. Earlier jazz (ie late 20s and earlier 30s) and more complicated rhythms. But I'll really wait and see.

*Is that a word?

"yay MLX9!" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and lolfrankie and melbourne and music and travel

November 27, 2009

Monsieur Truffle on Smith St

Posted by dogpossum on November 27, 2009 5:23 PM | Comments (0)

Monsieur Truffle on Smith St

Originally uploaded by dogpossum

We are fooding and lindy hopping our way through Melbourne, visiting all our old favourites and discovering a few more. Monsieur Truffle on Smith St in Collingwood is run by a bunch of hippy chocolate nerds. The truffles were so rich, this is all I could manage - half of these three. I just said to the guy "just a few little blobs to taste, please. With a milky coffee." The Squeeze got angry coffee and a gluten free chocolate cake.

It's a lovely shop and it smells nice.

We also went to Books for Cooks on Gertrude Street to buy books. I got a big, colourful one about Cajun cooking - expanding from my passion for Mexican fewd to cuisines within gastronomic proximity.

And we began (after a painless bus trip down Bell Street to Sydney Road) at A1 bakery for baked goods. It was difficult to pass my favourite Italian patisserie on the corner of .... Moreland and Sydney Roads? Perhaps it's a little higher. And I was also a bit keen for serious felafel or doner kebab at the Kebab Station in Coburg. But I held off for pide goodness.

And then, finally, we bought ourselves much-needed shoes. PHEW.

Oh, and last night we went to day 1 of MLX9. It was fucking crowded. Hot. Busy. Exciting. The band was made up of dancers and was really very good and fun. With dancers coming up to sing or take a turn on an instrument all night. My favourite was arriving as the brass section wandered through the crowd (as they did all night) playing 'When the Saints' at a slow, sauced-up funereal pace.

This is the biggest MLX so far, and it's the biggest event in Australia. I'm DJing a prime lindy hop set tonight at 1.30am and I'm a bit nervouse. Doing some hardcore prep now.

We've also done some quality family time (visiting the elderly, yet seriously bad-ass nanna yesterday morning, a father at lunch time, and tonight we dine with the aunt and mother) and spent some time with our extra-favourite buddies.

Oh, and last night we had tea at the Town Hall Hotel, and I was reminded of the awesomeness of Melbourne pubs and the fuckedness of Sydney pubs.

I will continue to nom and dance my way through the weekend. My ankle is a bit sore, but not as bad as expected. I did not bring enough Tshirts to get me through the weekend. Thank goodness it's cooler!! Knock on wood....

"Monsieur Truffle on Smith St" was posted in the category brunswick and djing and fewd and gastropod and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music and travel

November 19, 2009

modernism + jass = orsm punnage

Posted by dogpossum on November 19, 2009 5:29 PM | Comments (1)

A new 8track:

Or check the linky.

Songs include:

Putting On The Ritz The Cangelosi Cards Clinton Street Recordings, I 3:38
All I Know The Countdown Quartet 2002 Sadlack's Stomp 2:57
Digadoo Firecracker Jazz Band 2005 The Firecracker Jazz Band 5:20
My Daddy Rocks Me Les Red Hot Reedwarmers 2006 King Joe 6:17
Who Walks in When I Walk Out Midnight Serenaders 2009 Sweet Nothin's 3:21
Zonky New Orleans Jazz Vipers 2006 Hope You're Comin' Back 5:06
Eh la bas Preservation Hall Jazz Band 2004 Shake That Thing 3:52
Sud Buster's Dream Rhythm Rascals Washboard Band 1995 Futuristic Jungleism 4:18

I'll do another one of just Australian bands when I get a chance. Putting this together I found I had far too many modern bands to include in just 8 tracks, which suggests I should have put this together by theme. I guess the theme is 'new' and 'things I like at the moment.'

"modernism + jass = orsm punnage" was posted in the category 8 tracks and cat blogging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

November 18, 2009

house update + (much) exchange-inspired DJing thinking

Posted by dogpossum on November 18, 2009 11:51 AM | Comments (6)

Well, we are in our new house, and have been since the 2nd November. It was a bit of a push, and neither of us is all that keen to do any more painting, though we did manage to do the kitchen the weekend before last, which was necessary, as it stunk. It still stinks, and we want it OUT. But if the bathroom is leaking, that'll be the next job on our list, and then we'll have to wait til we save up lots more money for renovating. I've already been to Ikea to check up on kitchen and bathroom options and prices, and I can say, categorically, that Ikea sucks. It sucks because it's horrible shopping there, and because they don't deliver (they can organise an expensive delivery for you, though). But we are tough.
Otherwise, the flat is very nice to live in. The wide doors from the lounge room onto the verandah are very pleasant, and the long views out this door and the large windows in every room make the place seem much bigger. It's also a positive delight to live in a community (because it really is a community - people are very friendly and involved in the grounds and facilities and general community of this complex) with so many large trees and, consequently, so many birds. Lorikeets, rosellas, mynah birds, cockatoos, curlews, magpies, pigeons, sparrows, etc. The rosellas are my favourite at the moment. There's a pair considering moving into a hole in one of the big trees, despite the mynah's bullying attempts to see them off. There are also lots of bats at night.

On other fronts:
We've just had the Sydney Swing Festival weekend, and that was quite busy. I was organising DJs for the weekend, and I was very happy with their professionalism and capable skills. It was a delight to work with them all. It was also very nice working with the organisers.

As a punter, SSF was much improved on last year, though my stupid foot is still limiting me; not nearly enough dancing as I would like. Though everyone else made up for that. I liked the Sunday night band quite a bit as well. If you have faceplant access, you can listen to them here.

It was also nice catching up with a number of DJs and listening to their music and talking DJing talk. It's also very nice to see how exchanges inspire new DJs... (this DJ in particular was inspired and challenged by the good work she heard.) There were a number of interesting conversations about DJing in general, and about DJing skills in particular, which caught my attention. I'm of the opinion that a scene needs a DJing critical mass to maintain the interest and inspiration of both DJs and dancers, and that as new DJs develop they challenge the old sticks to keep their skills on-track and to think critically about their own work. A body of DJs also provides buddies for DJing nerdery talk.

The latter are things I find particularly useful. I really like the way new DJs not only make me move out of my comfort zone musically (making me move beyond my 'safety songs' and streeeetch), but also critique my own work and think critically about what I'm doing. Why did I play that song? Why did it work? Why didn't it? I especially like it when other DJs come up with songs in their sets in combinations I'd never expect or think to use. Especially when they play musical styles I don't usually use.

I think that having a few DJs in the scene keeps me working rather than just sitting back and being lazy. They remind me that I'm not actually the best DJ in the world, and that I actually have a lot to learn. I know. Really. I suppose this issue best points out the limitations of hierarchies within a cohort of DJs (and there certainly are hierarchies, even when you're all buddies) and the benefits of humility.

Exchanges are particularly useful, because they're the one time you know that every other DJ will also have that same collection of 'safety songs', and that just playing CJam Blues or Lavender Coffin won't work. In fact, just sitting on those favourites will really highlight how lazy I'm being, when I have a big, fat collection of music sitting there unused.

I'm not arguing that we should neglect the favourites at big events; I think that the faves are very useful at these events, especially on the opening night, for newer DJs, or for adding a little squirt of familiarity if you're playing a varied set. But I am arguing... or rather, I am suggesting, that in these situations, surrounded by DJs of sound skill and collection, I don't feel I can just hack through the same 20 songs. I really feel inspired to take my DJing to a new level. Having the faves unavailable (whether because I've chosen not to play them, or because they've already been played) pushes me to play a wider range of music.
And exchange crowds - particularly ones like those who attend the upcoming MLX9 - are not only willing to dance to new music, they're also looking for a wider range of music, in part because they're 'at an exchange!' but also because they're dancing with a range of new people, and they're feeling all energised and willing to play and experiment and be stretched themselves.
So this past weekend, where the other DJs were all capable, competent DJs who had that body of faves as well as a range of new and interesting and not-played-very-often songs, really reminded me that I can do better. And that a lazy DJ is a dull DJ who isn't learning anything new. And I like DJing because it challenges me. Challenges my knowledge of music and of my collection, but also my knowledge of rhythms and musical styles in combination, and my ability to judge the crowd. And I like the way DJing can fall flat; I like the element of risk, of possibly looking dumb in front of a crowd of people. It keeps me sharp. Ish.

This sort of relates to an issue that came up over the weekend, and comes up every now and then... or, rather, an issue I've seen on SwingdDJs once or twice in the past. Do DJs have a responsibility to 'educate' dancers? I kind of feel as though this one's a straw man. An argument that exists mostly as an argument, and not as a real issue. The premise is that DJs owe it to the dancers to play music that the dancers don't know. The other (more ideologically loaded premise) is of course that DJs know more about the music than the dancers (which isn't necessarily the case) and that DJs have more importance and influence than dancers. It also implies DJs occupy a position of power and privilege which I'm not entirely comfortable with.
I find that experienced dancers are very likely to have a broad musical knowledge, and that dancers with good musical and dancing skills tend to have a very complex understanding of music. In many cases, the DJ is not as capable a dancer as the people they're playing for, and so it's likely they won't understand the music in the way that these dancers do. And that's a particularly provocative statement, I know. I'm not suggesting a 'those who can't dance, DJ' scenario, but I am making the argument that DJs do not have a monopoly on musical knowledge. I am also increasingly of the opinion that you cannot DJ well if you're not also dancing. And the more you dance, the more dancing you experience (partners, scenes, events, tempos, styles, etc), the better your DJing will be.

I do feel, very strongly, that we should avoid privileging the power and status of DJs. After all, they didn't play the instruments or write the score, they're just very good at buying it. And, hopefully, very good at listening to it and predicting how a crowd of dancers will respond to it. Not to mention having good observation skills. So I find the suggestion that DJs are in some way 'educating' dancers both patronising and arrogant. Problematic in the extreme. So I avoid it.

How, then, do I imagine my role in playing music? Particularly in terms of playing 'familiar' and 'unfamiliar' music for dancers? I think, first and foremost, my DJing is all about me. Me. Me. Me. I buy and collect and listen to music that I love. When I first started DJing I did set out to collect the standards and songs that the dancers would like, songs that I knew would be an 'easy win' with the dancers. I still do occasionally seek out songs that will suit a theme or an event's style rather than my own personal preferences. But, ultimately, it's a waste of my time and money and energy to buy music I don't like. So I don't. I buy music that I love. I seek out new artists who catch my interest and fuel my passion for dance and for music itself.

I tend to follow individual musicians between bands and cities and through time. So I might go on a Louis Armstrong bender. Or an early Chicago kick. And when I play this music I'm certainly not thinking 'with this song I will educate the dancers about early Chicago hot jazz.' I usually think 'I fucking LOVE THIS SONG! I MUST PLAY IT THIS WEEK!!!!' And then I do. And I hope people will like it. If they don't, and I still think it rocks, I play it again at a different event or on a different night, in different combinations with other songs. Sometimes I look at people dancing to it and think 'these guys are struggling, but more experienced dancers would be ok.' Or I think 'hmm, this is great for newer dancers, but it's not quite structurally challenging for experienced dancers.' And sometimes hearing it on a loud system and watching people try to dance to it makes me realise that, well, I was wrong. It's a good listening song, not a good dancing song. Or it just isn't a good song.

I think that my judgement of whether a song is going to work improves every time I DJ. The more scenes I DJ in regularly, the more exchanges I DJ, the more I travel and dance, the more live bands I listen to and watch, the more confident I feel about judging a crowd and their responses to the music I want to play. That's not to say I'm actually any better at it, but more that I have the confidence to experiment.

That bit about live bands is important. There is no comparison to a live band for dancing. DJs simply don't cut it. Even if a band sucks, there's something about watching a group of people making music, and then dancing to/with them, that wins every time. And when a band's really good, and really working with the dancers (and it is a conversation), then it's sublime. Bands, unlike DJs, aren't looking to present a 'range of music' for dancing; they're just playing their songs, their way. So they're not interested in finding 'new artists'. It's quite acceptable for a band to play _only_ songs or compositions by a single artist or band. They are interested in new compositions, but they'll usually arrange them to suit their band's size and skills and interests. They'll rework a song.

Isn't that a fabulous idea? That's the sort of idea I really love. That's how dancers work, too. We take an existing or common or shared step and rework it to suit our personalities or abilities or what we hear in the music at that moment. And that's jazz, really. Unlike popular music, where doing a 'cover' is kind of a big deal and an act of homage to another artist or an attempt to co-opt their cred or whatever, 'standards' in jazz serve as a shared set of parameters for band and dancers, where each can work through their interpretation. And as with jazz dance, the shared structures allow for - require! Demand! - improvisation within those delineated spaces. So you're 'copying' but you _must_ also make it your own.

The problem with DJing is that while you can, to a certain extent reframe and recontextualise familiar recordings of songs by recombining them with other songs, or playing them at different times to different dancers, you're still stuck with playing the same, exact recording. The notes are always the same. The intonations are always familiar. It is the exact same expression of emotion or intention or idea that it was last time. DJs can get around this by using different recordings or versions of the same song, but, ultimately, each of those recordings is still a static object, a moment caught in amber.

So I think, really, the 'educating' comes when you dance to a live band. Otherwise, it's simply DJs doing what a dancer could do for themselves - play recordings they've found online or in a CD or a record or wherever. But bands do something we can't, as DJs - they _make_ music.

I think the idea of DJs educating dancers really is a straw man. It's fake target, a distraction from more interesting discussions. It's also a way of ideologically framing the DJ's role within a community or discourse. And it's most interesting effect is to establish a hierarchy of knowledge and power with DJs at the top. And that's crap. Let's be a little more interesting, shall we?

Writing about bands working from the songbook of only one artist reminds me of another issue that came up over the weekend, and which I've talked about with other DJs quite a few times. When - or is it - ok to play more than one song by an artist or band in a single set? I remember Brian Renehan's response to this when it came up on SwingDJs years ago. He played a set of nothing but Basie. I know Trev did this recently as well. Nothing but one single band for the entire set. And because it's Basie, the rhythm section would be the same. When Brian did it, no one noticed it was just one band, but they _did_ notice that it was a great set.
I regularly play more than one song by the same artist in the same set. This is usually because I've just bought a bunch of stuff by one artist and I just _have_ to play as much of it as I can. Sometimes it's because I'm working a 'wave', where I move between styles, and eventually come back to where I started. I even play two songs by the same artist in a row. Or more than two! Sometimes nothing suits the previous song like another by the same artist.

I think that there's only a problem with repeating an artist if you're accepting the idea that a DJ must play a diverse set, or that they are 'educating' dancers or otherwise intent on exposing dancers to as wide a range of music as possible.

...actually, I draw the line at Lou Rawls. One Lou Rawls song is too many in my book. More than one... sheesh. Shoot me now. But that's just my personal opinion and an expression of my musical taste, not a definitive stance on the technique. I just don't like Lou Rawls...

To return to that issue of a DJ playing a diverse set versus a DJ playing a fairly 'samey' set. This is something I've wrestled with myself. Should I play a diverse set, covering a range of styles, or should I specialise? There are advantages to each, and which approach I take depends on the set and the crowd and the time and the place. I tend to play a diverse set if I'm playing for new dancers, mostly because it's all new to them as dancing music, so I like to offer a sort of smorgasbord. But I have also done all old-school for new dancers as well, and had just as positive response as when I've played a mixed set.
As a DJ doing larger gigs, it can be an advantage to be known as someone who can play a mixed set - you have more flexibility. But by the same token, if you're a specialist, you're hired specifically to play that stuff you specialise in. And when you specialise, your knowledge of a particular styles acquires a depth and rigour that a mixer mightn't have time for.
As someone who organises DJs for exchanges and large dance events, I like to have both types of DJs on the program. Mostly, I look for DJs who have a decent collection (ie, they will be playing beyond the 'safety songs'), and a decent collection (in other words, songs of a reasonable sound quality and of a style suitable for lindy or other jazz era dances). Whether this collection is of one particular style, or of a range of styles is neither here nor there - either is good. Either is useful. I might favour the mixers for an opening night, but not necessarily. I'm far more interested in how a DJ combines songs, and their judgements about song length, suitability for that crowd and so on. I want a full, crazy dance floor. The rest is icing.

If I have DJs who can offer icing on hand, then I'm extra happy. Dancers are generally easier to get on the floor at an exchange, so I'm not just looking for full floors, I'm also looking for DJs who work the energy levels in the crowd (up and down the tempos, up and down the emotional scale, back and forth across styles within an era or general 'type'). And who really stretch themselves in terms of rummaging through their collection for 'new' stuff. In my experience, music collectors tend to also be music fans. And that's good. But not enough. You might have a large and esoteric collection, but if you can't get every kid out on there on the floor and keep them there, you're just a wanker.

As a dancer at an exchange, mind you, I like to hear unfamiliar songs. I like every song to be new to me. The good thing about jazz, especially swing, is that it has consistent and fairly predictable structures. So even if a song is new, you know what's coming next: phrase by phrase, chorus, verse, whatevs. You feel it building to a crescendo, you preempt breaks, you feel the easing or release of tension. So even if it's new to you, a song is still 'familiar'. I guess this is why live bands are so great - they're harder to predict, and so much, much more interesting.

But back to the issue of playing more than one song by any single artist. Here, I think it's worth asking, 'what counts as a single artist?' I mean, are we talking the exact same band, with the exact same personnel? That's a tricky one. Many of the bands from the 20s-40s really only recorded a few songs together in any one session. Then it was likely the personnel'd switch out as musicians went off to other gigs. So it's very difficult to play songs by the 'exact same artist' in a row.*

... though now I'm thinking of that ripper session the Mills Blue Rhythm band did in 1936, the one with Algier's Stomp....

So, if it's not the exact same band that counts as the 'artist', is it the composer, the person who wrote the songs? I doubt many dancers could pick that one. I know I couldn't. The same arranger? That might be interesting - some Henry Red Allen action, perhaps. Or Ellingtonese. The same vocalist? Sure, but even if you're working within just that criteria, there's a world of difference between Billie Holiday's stuff from the 30s and her stuff from the 50s. Same goes for Ella Fitzgerald. Or Louis Armstrong. I wouldn't tend to play a set entirely made up of vocals anyway. I'd actually be more likely to play a set of all instrumentals.

What about a particular soloist or musician? Now, that'd be a fun set to DJ, especially if you're talking about someone like Charlie Shavers, or someone who most people don't recognise immediately. Even if it was a particularly recognisable musician, I think it'd be ok. I mean, a set made up only of songs featuring Louis Armstrong could be perfectly awesome. You'd get some King Oliver, Armstrong's Hot Fives, Armstrong's orchestra, Sy Oliver's bands, Ella/Oscar Peterson/Louis supergroove, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Jelly Roll Morton Red Hot Peppers, Bessie Smith accompanied by Armstrong alone, Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, some stuff starring Sidney Bechet... and so on and so on. It'd be a diverse and really interesting set.

How about a band leader? That's a bit more telling, particularly when you're talking about band leaders who had shorter careers, or whose best music was recorded during a shorter period. But if it's a truly cracking band leader, with a really awesome band during an especially awesome period... I'd probably draw the line at a set of 1930s Basie alone, but not because it'd be crap music. It'd still make for a ripper set, with lots of dancing oomph. And that's the goal, isn't it? Good dancing?

This issue is, again, something of a straw man, I think. It assumes more importance if you don't have a list of personnel and arrangers in your library... which many of us don't, I'd suppose. Even me, with my obsessive time in the discographies has a long way to go before I have all that information for all my music (and it's a bit of a mobius strip - the more I collect, the further behind I get, the more I get, the more I want...). I'm sure the hardcore collectors are more up on this stuff, and that the longer you've been in the game, the better you get at picking particular musicians or arrangers, but generally...

I also think that a DJ sharing their passion for a new (to them) artist or band with repetition is ok. I think we all do it, eventually. And sometimes it turns out that the band we were obsessing over is crap. And sometimes it doesn't. I like to hear a DJ's enthusiasm exposed this way. So long as it's not Lou Rawls.

My position on this is: more than one song by a single... artist/band/whatever is ok. So long as I'm not playing songs that all sound the same.** So long as I'm actually going for a diverse set. If I'm doing a Bessie Smith retrospective, showcasing Basie or working my way through the best of contemporary street jazz bands... well, then I'm going for it.

My final point is, I guess, that many of the 'rules' we give ourselves as DJs are fairly arbitrary, and don't really accommodate the range of circumstances in which we play. Each of us is a different DJ with different musical interests and ways of watching the crowd and understanding what we see. We all play different types of gigs (well, we'd hope so) and we all articulate what we do in different ways.... if we even bother with that at all.
Generally, I don't have any DJing rules for myself, beyond:

  • Make all the people dance.

No exceptions. I want 100% strike rate. Anything less, and I'm not working it hard enough.

To achieve that I might add some general guidelines:

  • Watch the dancers; spend more time looking at them than at my computer.
  • Stand up, don't sit down when I'm DJing (this is a new one for me, and surprisingly important.)
  • Don't go into sets with an agenda. Don't say "Tonight I will play x% of this and x% of that, I will play y number of artists and z range of tempos." This always go wrong, and at the very least, limits my DJing; it means I'm following rules rather than following the dancers.
  • Work a wave. Whether it's a range of tempos, a range of energy levels, a range of styles, a range of band sizes or a range of eras, vary what I play so that I can best manipulate the dancers' energy level and mood.
  • Be prepared to be wrong and to start again. Sometimes I just suck, and sometimes I just need to play CJam Blues.

I might approach sets for different events in different ways - lots of energy and higher tempos for exchanges; mellower stuff with a sparser sound for a smaller gig; a few more 'simpler' structured songs for a beginner-heavy gig - but this stuff will really vary with my mood. And I try not to pre-plan. Because it's bad news.

So, ultimately, the rules are "There are no rules!" and, quite possibly "Keep it simple, stupid." The latter meaning, of course, "MAKE THEM DANCE! ALL OF THEM!"

*Which in itself is interesting. These days we might think of a band as a group of artists creating art for our arty ears. But the big bands - and the swing era in particular - really emphasised the idea of bands as working enterprises. Music - live music - was an essential part of everyday leisure time activities. So it carried a more workmanlike quality (well, so to speak... I exaggerate). Of course, we can still talk about swing musicians as artists, particularly when they were _on_, but the act of playing swinging jazz professionally certainly wasn't in accord with a romanticised vision of the artist in a garret creating art. It involved a lot of long, hard, dirty hours on the road, on stage, in shitty studios and in late night diners. The race politics at work meant that if you were a black musician (particularly in the south), your job was pretty fucking hard. And racism was not only rife, it was institutionalised. No hotel room for you, baby.

** So no freeking Lou Rawls. Well, just one song. But someone else can play it, not me.)

"house update + (much) exchange-inspired DJing thinking" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

October 21, 2009

rhythm rascals

Posted by dogpossum on October 21, 2009 6:49 PM | Comments (0)


I've just discovered the Rhythm Rascals (c/o the very excellently helpful Peter Loggins) and they're GREAT.

The site is not.

But I thoroughly recommend picking up a copy of Futuristic Jungelism if you like seriously hot 1930s washboard jazz. It'll blow your pants off.

"rhythm rascals" was posted in the category cat blogging and digging and lindy hop and other dances and music

October 15, 2009

blog - attend me!

Posted by dogpossum on October 15, 2009 10:14 PM | Comments (3)

Watching this clip is like the way I think about dancing. I mean, when I watch dancing, I think of it as a series of shapes and lines. Well, I don't actively, consciously think of that, it's kind of how I see it.

flight patterns from Charlie McCarthy on Vimeo.

But it's not just how I see it. It's also how I feel it, and how I hear the music. The music is like a series of patterns and shapes - each sound is a shape or a series of forms. And they fit together. So you get repeating patterns and you get random moments, but they all work as part of a whole piece of music.
When I watch a really good dancer, I see those shapes and lines that I hear in the music. When I watch a really good dancer, they make me see the music in particular shapes. Their bodies make the shapes, but their shapes tell me how they hear the music at that moment. And it changes each time they dance.
When it's two people dancing together, you see two people making shapes at that moment. They make the music into something you can see.

When I watch that clip, it reminds me of dancing, because it's making something moving into something still or constant. It's like that with dancing - it's something moving. Your brain recognises the shapes and connects the dots with a sort of line of understanding or meaning. But that line doesn't really exist, except in your head.

And when I'm actually dancing, it's like my body makes the shapes of the music. But it happens outside my conscious brain. I can practice and practice and learn to understand how to control the shapes my body makes, and refine the way I use it as a tool, but, really, the best dancing happens when your brain turns off and you just connect your body up to the music in a direct line. A direct current, from the musicians to your body.

I've been watching these clips from ULHS and thinking about the way the camera angle has changed the way I watched the dancers.

Blues Finals ULHS

blues finals ULHS

blues finals ULHS

Usually dance clips are shot from the middle distance, not from above. So we see the dancers in tableau, front elevation. They move and turn horizontally or vertically in front you. But these clips are from above, so we look down onto the dancers. And suddenly I see them from a completely different angle. I notice things I hadn't seen before. In the first clip the follow sits out, her hips back, while she's in open. I see it from above in a way I wouldn't have from below.

Watching the later clips, especially of Todd and Peter dancing with their partners, these leads' propensity for spinning their follows is emphasised. We see the follows spin and spin and spin. From a side or front view, we'd see the different types of spin, and the movements would be more interested, because we'd see more than the tops of these women's heads.
This simple shift in perspective reminds me that when most dancers watch other dancers or think about dancing, they're thinking about their own view from the edge of the dance floor. They're not thinking about other perspectives. Suddenly, opera and traditional theatre with its tiered seating seems more radical than any busted fourth wall.

I do like these three clips from ULHS. I've heard a bit of smack talk about them, critiquing the leads as too 'leady'. Of course they are - these two are the lead-centric leads; it's just that other leads are suddenly seeing this for the first time. Any follow could've told you before, because any follow will have felt with her body the effect of all that centrifugal force. Other comments have been that this 'isn't blues', that 'it's lindy'. Which is exasperating. I really hate bullshit lines where people declare a particular sequence of steps indelibly lindy hop or blues. I especially, especially hate it when people declare a song 'slow lindy' rather than 'blues'. Use your fucking imagination, kids.
How the fuck can you be so sure of the boundaries of a dance? When I'm dancing, I certainly don't think 'no way, buddy, that's lindy hop there'. I feel a lead and I might think 'oh, this feels like tango' or 'a nice swingout, here, even at this tempo!' but I'm not thinking 'now I'm lindy hopping' when a lead adds some swingouts to a slow 'blues' song.

It's madness, just madness, to my mind. It is all just movement, and you can make even one single move feel and work as any type of dance - you just have to work with the music and your partner and what's going on in the music.

I have to stop typing now. I'm typing is so fucking crap right now - all that using a pod and only using 140 characters has fucked up my typing. I need to do more writing.

Blog - attend me!

"blog - attend me!" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

October 12, 2009

jazz in france: purely speculation

Posted by dogpossum on October 12, 2009 4:09 PM

I like thinking about the American jazz musicians who went to France. I like to think of the African American musicians, persecuted and segregated and marginalised while record companies and promotors made squillions from their music, escaping to Paris where they were appreciated and valued and feted as musical giants.

I like thinking about American musicians meeting French and European musicians in Paris and getting together to make new music. I like thinking of the gypsy tradition getting together with the African American tradition and making music which subverted and transgressed and basically broke all the freeking rules.

I think this is why I like this album. You can hear Django and Stephan quite clearly, and you just know they were having lots of fun. I like imagining these guys getting together in a small back room and playing their hearts out. The locals excited to be playing with American friends they'd admired from afar; the American visitors excited to be playing with the amazing local talent.

I like this album as well. The story behind these recordings is a good one. After Glenn Miller was lost at sea during the war some members of his band were left in France with little money to cover their expenses. So they recorded some action with some local talent, including Django. These recordings are far hotter and more exciting than any of Miller's later work (though his early gear is fully sick).

I don't know much about American jazz in France, but I like thinking about it. It also reminds me that Ken Burns' Jazz documentary sold itself (and its audiences) short with its insistence that jazz is a purely American phenomenon.
This sort of thinking also reminds me of the effects of musicians touring in Australia during the same period. Not to mention dancers.

As I said, I know next to nothing about this. But it's something I like to imagine. Especially the bit about black American musicians leaving a country where they couldn't even stay in the same hotels or eat in the same restaurants as white musicians, and arriving in France where their music was massively popular and the people were really excited just to meet them.

"jazz in france: purely speculation" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

October 11, 2009


Posted by dogpossum on October 11, 2009 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

Another DJ roster. Geez. At least this one's simpler. The politics no less... challenging.

"again?" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

recent emusicing

Posted by dogpossum on October 11, 2009 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

Jim Cullum Jazz Band Chasin' the Blues. Just a few songs from this album, mostly because I'm a bit over this New Orleans revival sound. This album is really pretty freakin good, though. These are all live performances, and they rock. Their version of 'Bugle Call Rag' is lots of fun.

Each month I pick up a couple of songs from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. This time from Shake That Thing. I like the shouty, live-ish feel of their stuff.

Bill Coleman in Paris 1936-1938. This isn't something new. The recordings feature some top gun musicians: Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt, etc etc. I picked up this entire album.

Some Joe Liggins from the 1946-1948 Classics collection and the 1944-46 collection. This is solid jump/rhythm n blues stuff which I tend to put in the same category as Louis Jordan. Not exactly awesome lindy hopping action, but great fun nevertheless.

A couple of things from Celebrating Bix!. This has some pretty shit-hot musicians on it. I was following Vince Giordano around emusic and found this. More revival stuff.

The problem with this revival stuff is that it often lacks the fire of the originals - it's technically pretty amazing, it's clean, it's crisp, but it can often feel a little sanitised. Too perfect.

"recent emusicing" was posted in the category digging and music

long overdue roundup

Posted by dogpossum on October 11, 2009 11:40 AM | Comments (2)

I'd really like:
Gordon Webster's CD 'Happy When I'm With You';

Duke Heitger's CDs 'Prince of Wails', 'Krazy Kapers', 'Duke Heitger's New Orleans Wanderers;

Probably some other ones as well.

I'd also like to get over this cold I've had since Wednesday. I've been lying in bed napping and watching telly for days and it's getting really old.

The Squeeze has installed the new version of Movable Type. It's pretty fancy. I should probably have switched to a better blogging application, but that's a lot of work. Meanwhile, MT and I are struggling on together.

Twitter has stolen my life. Mostly because I can use it on The Squeeze's old ipod touch when I'm lying in bed being pathetic.

We have bought a flat and are moving in in three weeks. I haven't booked a mover, bought paint for the painting we'll do in two weeks, finished packing, given notice to our land lord or... done a bunch of other jobs. I'm not freaking. I have booked the lawn mower guy to come do the lawns the week we move out.

SLX was fun, but boy did I get a heavy dose of the exchange flu for my efforts. We have another exchange coming up in the near future (SSF) and I hope I'm together for that. We'll see. Then it's MLX in November in Melbourne, and I really hope I'm well by then - it's the biggest social dancing event of the year for me. And DJing. I'd like to get a bit on top of my DJing for that.

PS I've just come across this great set of live toobs of Heigter playing in a restaurant, over on Jazz lives.

"long overdue roundup" was posted in the category domesticity and music and objects of desire and television

September 23, 2009

zora neale hurston

Posted by dogpossum on September 23, 2009 1:55 PM | Comments (1)

I keep returning to Zora Neale Hurston.

Negro dancing is a dynamic suggestion. No matter how violent it may appear to the beholder, every posture gives the impression that the dancer will do much more. For example, the performer flexes one knee sharply, assumes a ferocious face mask, thrusts the upper part of the body forward with clenched fists, elbows taut as in hard running or grasping a thrusting blade. That is all. But the spectator himself adds the picture of ferocious assault, hears the drums and finds himself keeping time with the music and tensing himself for the struggle. It is compelling insinuation. That is the very reason the spectator is held so rapt. He is participating in the performance himself – carrying out the suggestions of the performer.

The difference in the two arts is: the white dancer attempts to express fully; the Negro is restrained, but succeeds in gripping the beholder by forcing him to finish the action the performer suggests. Since no art can ever express all the variations conceivable, the Negro must be considered the greater artist, his dancing is realistic suggestion, and that is about all a great artist can do (Zora Neal Hurston)

Hurston, Zora Neale, "Characteristics of Negro Expression" The Jazz Cadence of American Culture. Ed. Robert G. O’Meally, 1998. New York: Columbia University Press, 298-310.

(I can't find the original date for this right now - will look later).

I like this discussion of performer/spectator interaction, and the necessity of spectators participating in the performance. This is call-and-response at another level.

"zora neale hurston" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

September 22, 2009

blackfaces and performing identity. again.

Posted by dogpossum on September 22, 2009 4:56 PM | Comments (0)

EDIT: Sorry there are so many typos/bung urls, etc. I just wrote and posted this without editing, and now I can't be arsed - Zac Efron is calling.

Dancing the cakewalk was very popular just before the turn of the century and afterwards. It had evolved from slavery, when blacks mimicked the formal dances of the whites, sometimes, evidently, to the delight of the slave owners. Clearly, the blacks were doing some subtle things unseen by the whites, who doubtless were amused by these 'inferior' blacks attempting their dances. The cakewalk had resilience, however, and toward the end of the century fashionable whites were doing it. So here was a black dance parodying white dance danced by trendy whites. Finally, black dancers, responding to the new popularity of the dance, displayed it, improvised on it, and ended up dancing a black dance parodying white dance danced by whites now danced by blacks. Singing a song in black skin in blackface is part of the same structure; the black dancers are doing something else in their cakewalk, and so is the singer (Gayle Pemberton (from The Jazz Cadence of American Life, p 279))

I am endlessly fascinated by the idea of performing identity - slipping on a mask, stepping into a costume, painting on skin. I'm particularly interested in the scope for performance offered by dance and song - singing black, singing white, singing gentile, singing jew; dancing black, dancing white, dancing class, dancing gender. There's quite a bit written on it, including by me in regards to gender performance (with specific reference to swivels in a swingout, women leading and women solo dancing in a lindy-dominated scene). There's stuff written about white bands 'playing black' in recordings and on radio, and about jewish musicians playing gentile or black or... this is where it gets complicated. I think I like this idea because we are all performing identity at any time (and I always think of Judith Butler here), but we are only occasionally explicitly engaged in performing a specific identity or persona.

Imitation and impersonation in dance fascinate me (and I dedicated chunks of chapters to the issue in my PhD), in part because the line between imitation-as-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery and impersonation-as-ridicule-or-derision is so thin if there at all. Sometimes the perfect imitation intended as compliment is read as derision. Sometimes a performance gains its very value through the delicate tipping point - is this derision? Is it flattery? Are we laughing at this dancer, with them? I've taken great pleasure (and satisfaction) myself in imitating dancers who've irritated me, and then integrating that imitation into a dance so that it only reads as derision if you read on the slant. Safety in subterfuge and all.
I think that issues of power are indelibly inked in performances of identity, particularly in regards to race and class. Its particularly true of cakewalk, and disturbingly true of blackface and minstrelsy. Minstrelsy is a topic which has attracted great scholarly attention, and there is material written about black artists performing in blackface. I am interested in the way this putting-on of identity (and race and class) begins to blur and confuse when we drill down, as Pemberton's paragraph implies. I like it that we can't quite be sure of what is going on. I like this element of confusion and of deceit and of slippery meaning. It is a type of power in itself, particularly when the performer is disenfranchised by the setting, the society, the culture. It reminds me of the great pleasure of a lie well told.
The only thing better than a good story well told is a bold lie well embroidered. And not found out. I like the tension of deceit, I like the boldness of a pile of bullshit presented in conversation or public assembly. I like its creative edge, I like the way it breaks the rules and tips over our ideas of what is 'true' and what is 'good'. We all know that a story is better told with a little embellishment, and a good part of the bettering lies in the knowledge that there is some untruth here. Something made up. Something sneaky.
I think this is why I am particularly fond of the story about Marshall Stearns and cats corner. The story goes: Stearns, in the course of his research into African American dance in the 1950s, was told a series of stories about the Savoy ballroom and of ballroom culture in Harlem in the 20s and 30s. He was told that if an untried novice dared take to the floor in 'cats corner' (where all the very best dancers danced), they would be taken outside and beaten. He was also told a number of other stories of dubious veracity. Some years later ageing dancers told another version of the story, with the important aside: oh, they was having a game with Stearns; it was exaggerated, it wasn't like that.
Now, my favourite part of this whole story is that we aren't quite sure where the deceit begins. Or where the untruth leaves off. Was the original story exaggerated, a lie? Was the later amendment another lie? I also like it that the researcher (whose book Jazz Dance is the authoritative text on the subject) is the butt of the joke, whichever way it lies. He has no way of knowing what was true and what was not. His research - his data - is 'corrupted' by the subjects. The power of the researcher in-the-field is neatly undone by a few layers of maybe and perhaps-not.
This of course reminds me of a brief discussion on twitter a little while ago, where a friend asked 'does the subject have a duty to participate in research which is of benefit to the whole community' (I paraphrase here, because I've forgotten the wording). I thought immediately of this story of cats corner, and of my own wrestling with the 'power' of the researcher and the 'might' of the research. I eventually decided that to suggest that researchers have a 'right' to data, or that subjects have a 'responsibility' to participate is to enshrine the power of researcher (white, middle class, male... or otherwise empowered) and the disempowerment of the subject. And, above all, this thinking values particular types of knowledge and discourse above all others - the written word, the published page, the institutionalised speaker and voice. A large part of my thesis was spent discussing the importance of dance as public discourse for the utterly disenfranchised African slaves who had absolutely no access to public discourse. 'Meaning went underground'. Meaning became slippery and dependent upon particular knowledge and experience for its 'proper' deconstruction/construction.

I think that I like the idea of a research subject lying to a researcher. I like the way its purpose was no doubt (but then, entirely questionably) for humour's sake - for a joke, a laugh at the expense of the naive. A joke eventually to be found out, and then (hopefully) to be shared again. Because it is the finding out of the joke, of the deceit, of the lie, that makes it work. If a joke, a deceit, goes unnoticed, it isn't a lie; it's a truth. And I suppose this is where it is most powerful. And dangerous.

I came across that Pemberton quote today and was reminded of the issue. There was a brief question about blacks in blackface on twitter, and that set me thinking about it again...

Of course, I need to just add that all this is interesting when you think about jazz. Jazz is about improvisation (making stuff up) within a broader, shared structure. In the case of jazz, this shared structure is the score or melody or riff (or whatever). In terms of social interaction, it is culture and social norm. In dance, it is the partner structure (lindy hop) or the sounds of steel heels on wood (tap) or... I am most interested in jazz music and dance because improvisation - innovation, making things up, creativity - is an essential part of the formal system. Without it, we are just listening to dull old lists of rules. With improvisation (which includes impersonation and performances of other people) there is light and laughter and excitement. And interest. Lots of interest.

I talked about performance and gender here in reference to Beyonce and all the single ladies, Armstrong and performing blackness/masculinity and the power of satire and humour. More Armstrong and gender/class/ethnicity stuff here, here and here.

I wrote about hot and cool and cakewalk (and contrasting layers of meaning) here.

There's also some talk about gender and performance in dance here and here.

"blackfaces and performing identity. again." was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

September 18, 2009

8 songs about food

Posted by dogpossum on September 18, 2009 11:03 PM | Comments (1)

8 songs with lyrics about 'eating'. And when I say 'eating', I mean 'sex'. Well, mostly. Some are actually songs about food. Probably. But not the Fats Waller ones.

There are approximately 60 squillion billion jazz and blues songs about 'food' and 'eating'. These are only 8, but 8 that I really like, or that we sign around our house, or that are just plain good.

Bessie Smith's 'Gimme a Pigfoot' is the best, because it's a song about simple culinary and social pleasures - a pigfoot and a bottle of beer. And she's not going to be payin' 25c to go in NOwhere.

"8 songs about food" was posted in the category 8 tracks and cat blogging and djing and fewd and lindy hop and other dances and music

September 14, 2009

8 1930s Ellington tracks that'd pwn Bechet in a ninja fight

Posted by dogpossum on September 14, 2009 6:49 PM | Comments (0)

As if Bechet and Ellington'd ever get into a ninja fight!
As if this is the final list of Ellington orsm!

8 of my favourite songs from Ellington's (small and large) 1930s bands.

1. Jungle Nights In Harlem Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 1930
2. Shout 'Em Aunt Tillie Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 1930
3. Rockin' In Rhythm The Harlem Footwarmers with Duke Ellington 1930
4. It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) Duke Ellington and his Orchestra with Ivie Anderson 1932
5. Stompy Jones Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 1934
6. Digga Digga Do (M 187-2) Cootie Williams and his Rug Cutters 1937
7. The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and his 52nd Street Stompers 1937
8. Top And Bottom Cootie Williams and his Rug Cutters 1939

"8 1930s Ellington tracks that'd pwn Bechet in a ninja fight" was posted in the category 8 tracks and cat blogging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

September 6, 2009

in which we ask 'why ya buggin?!' and then learn to whom the house actually belongs

Posted by dogpossum on September 6, 2009 5:18 PM | Comments (3)

Last night I did one of the most challenging gigs I've ever done. It was for a very large event - around one thousand punters and dozens of performers, including a large band, two troupes of swing dancers, heaps of burlesque dancers and some international MC talent. My role was fairly extensive: warming the room at the beginning of the night before the burlesque performers; handling the music for an hour's worth of burlesque and lindy hop performances; DJing a (very crowded) smokey back room full of non-dancers. I was also required for a couple of hours of rehearsals in the late afternoon before the event began.

The first bit - the room warming - was the easiest. I've done this sort of thing many times before, and it went well. I played the usual high-energy, hi-fi swinging jazz, so it's not worth giving you the set list, really. There was a designated dance floor with a series of graduated standing areas overlooking the dance floor and the stage. This bit went well - swing dancers (of all stripes) getting down in the usual way. I think I did a pretty good job getting a crowd of mostly non-dancers wearing full 'gangster' getup excited. But there were delays and the main act started half an hour late. This can be challenging, especially as I was being updated every five minutes: "one more song, one more song." So I was working on a song-by-song basis, and couldn't really manage the energy in a more complex way. Crudely put, if the performance was the climax, I was keeping these guys on the brink for an uncomfortably long time. If I'd known there'd be so long a delay, I'd have let them down a bit, then worked them up again. But then, that's the way these things go sometimes, and it taught me something.

The performances were nerve wracking. Me plus a light guy carefully managing a series of complicated lighting effects and music for ten different performances, with a bunch of spruiking and MCing in between each. The bit that made this so nerve-wracking was that each performer had a different cue - some entered with their music, some had the music begin after they were in position, etc etc etc. In itself, challenging, but not freak out stuff. But the running sheet I'd been given didn't include all these cues and some of the cues had been changed. These sorts of things could have been ironed out in rehearsals, but the rehearsals weren't managed, and there was no real communication between the performers and the tech doods (including me).

Watching the lighting guy (a young fella who obviously loved what he was doing) work, I was absolutely stunned by his skills. He was working with performers who ranged from those who really didn't know what they wanted to the super-professional. The first act included a shadow screen set up, which then transitioned to standard spotlight/varying light scheme set up. And he managed it marvelously. Though he turned to me with a 'omfg, that was tense' expression at the end. I was really impressed by the way this bloke synchronised the lighting, the music and the performance. He was literally moving along with the music and performer, the way he worked the lighting clearly an extension of what he felt in the music. As you might imagine, the performers' ability to articulate their creative intentions was absolutely pivotal here. But he was the type of young bloke who worked well with women, and also had really good people skills.

At this point, I have to say: I'm not keen on burlesque. Sure, some of those women (and there were all, but one, women) had some mad choreographic skills, some kickass technical movement/technique skills, but not all of them. And, ultimately, this was about revealing and displaying and exhibiting the female body for titillation. Only a couple really had control over the audience, really working the responses and manipulating them effectively. Only one really used more than one layer of meaning in their performance.
Having seen these women backstage in their pre-show jitters, then rehearsing, then finally performing, I was able to see a little more than the final 'product', and this gave me a bit of critical distance. While most of the acts really didn't have that sensual/provocative/erotic edge that makes you forget what you're doing and _respond_, having the distance of the tech booth/rehearsal process allowed me to step back and technically assess what I saw rather than to respond. I know there are arguments for burlesque as women reclaiming sensual performance or using bodies and femininity for control, and I am also very much aware of the fact that there is also a vast range of types of burlesque, but, ultimately, there is some seriously gendered shit going on here. And these are women's bodies displayed for an erotic gaze which is, essentially, male (for all the reasons Laura Mulvey described). And I'm not comfortable with this.
I am, however, far more comfortable with some of the blues dance and multi-layered performances of the jazz dance vernacular. There, humour is an essential defuser and complicator of the erotic frisson. The power dynamic is far more complex, and far more interestingly negotiated. I guess I'm also more used to women in lindy hop and charleston, where their bodies are displayed, but in acts of athleticism and strength, in partnership with men (who's bodies are equally on display). The historical context and content of these dances is also more complicated; while you might make an argument for burlesque today as decontextualised and potentially more liberatory or transgressive, its roots are -absolutely - in the objectification and commodification of the sexualised female body. And burlesque cannot, ultimately, easily escape this. At this point, I have to just signpost, briefly, the queer eye. Or rather, the awesomeness of badass dykes at this event, and their responses to the burlesque costuming and performance. 1) It was different; 2) It was less problematic. I also have to say: the women in the audience knew how to cheer the boy burlesque performer, but the response to the women performers was more subdued. I think it's the humour that makes the difference: it releases the tension of the eroticism.

From the performances, I was to have a 30 minute break, but this didn't happen. I just ran for a toilet break, then it was off to the back room, where I was down to do an hour of DJing for a crowd of drinkers, 'casino' players and dancers. The DJ in there had the room in a frenzy. It was amazing. Within a song, I was mad keen to dance - I wanted to forget DJing completely and just dance like a fool. I wanted to jump into that crowd and go nuts. But the DJ had another gig to go to, and I was supposed to take on. But it was a real challenge. He was playing a range of 50s-70s soul/funk/early RnB, etc. All amazing stuff - nothing ordinary or really familiar. Etta James tracks I'd never heard. Freeking awesome original versions of songs I only knew in white-ified jump blues-made-into-rock-n-roll incarnations. In other words, fucking great music, but a difficult place to begin when you're billed as a 'swing' DJ.

I have tried moving from this stuff to jazz before, and it's really, really difficult. The flattened out tempos of swing - the swing - often feels too 'smooth' and laid back for the dancers after the jagged, up-and-down energy of kicking rock and roll. The melodies can also be too complex.
So I began with a bit of Etta James, then some Aretha Franklin. Sell out stuff - nothing new or unfamiliar. I had no idea where to go from there. So I tried my usual transition-to-swing stuff (a bit of funkified 50s/60s high energy groove). I felt the energy drop immediately. Then I went to the swing. Man, that floor emptied. Five songs later, I was desperate. I'd been asked specifically to play swing. But even neo swing wasn't going to work here. The good, solid chunking lindy hopping favourites weren't working. There were very few lindy hoppers in the room, but there wasn't room on the floor for them to dance. And when they did dance, the other non-dancing punters would clear a spontaneous circle around them, which wasn't what I wanted - I wanted 100% crowded-floor dancing action. And then I thought, 'hells, what's the jazz version of badass, kicking 50s/60s/70s RnB/funkity/soul rock-n-roll?'

It seems charleston is the best dance after all.

For the next hour I played nothing but hi-fi 20s-style hot jazz. Stuff that makes me want to charleston til I wish I'd worn two bras instead of one. Because that shit was the badassery of the prohibition era. The room was full of chicks in fringed dresses and blokes in suits and fedoras. And smoke. And there were blackjack tables and beer on the floor. It was a fairly skanky place, with a raised level where punters could sit and drink and watch. At one point the room was packed with chicks making up charleston, blokes who looked like they'd been reading The Sartorialist fancifying their footwork and badass dykes in awesome suits trying to pass me their number. It was the funnest of fun gigs ever.
I came in with Zonky, because I figured most people would know the 'Inspector Gadget' riff. And because the New Orleans Jazz Vipers do that sort of punk-street-jazz thing so well. It was a bit long, but it had the sort of chunky 1-2, 1-2 rhythm that makes me want to fling my arms in the air like I just don't care. People really, really liked it. It's 200bpm, which is twice as fast as your average pop song.
By this stage I'd realised that the sound set up was flawed. After the wonderfulness of the main room, I realised why the preceding DJ had pointed out the dodgy gain/master relationship. Information I passed onto the following DJ, who struggled even more than I did. This made me decide that I was only going to play hi-fi repro stuff. After the difficult earlier songs, I wasn't brave enough to try the lo-fi. But I didn't mind - I've been buying lots of repro stuff lately, and I wanted to see how it would go down. Vince Giordano, master of repro hot jazz, was the perfect option.

Shake That Thing made people shake their things. As Skeets Tolbert said, "stuff's out, stuff that's never been out before". A room full of women in corsets and stockings amounted to a room full of boob-outage. It was awe-inspiring. There was a gang of dykes in a combination of formidable bosom/corset, suit/moustache costume who really dug the 20s thing and were actually very nice to me, cheering me on (which I needed in the early stages). There was a guy who had a Tesla moustache, an ivory-topped cane and bowler hat who was a whisker away from perfect cake walking awesomeness. There was plenty of high-action prancing and elaborate posing in the crowd, and it was just fabulous. At the beginning of that song a bunch of lindy hoppers burst into the room and charlestoned their stuff out. It was a definite high point in my DJing career: a room of mixed punters in hardcore 20s costume dancing like crazy maniacs to the hottest music I know.
Then I figured I'd ease off a bit, energy wise, and play some Midnight Serenaders, a band I figured would absolutely fit in with this crowd. Same sparse, 1-2 rhythm, spankin' trumpet solos, hot jazz action.
I wanted to go a little quirky here, and to break the 'no cheese' rule, so I played some Janet Klein, because I like the way the words of I ain't that kind of a baby contrasted with You Got To give me some. It's cutesy, but in a modern way; heavy on the retro, but with a punky aesthetic. And because I was talking dirty, I had to go with some Asylum Street Spankers and the ubiquitous Shave em Dry. It was a pretty dirty, dirtier than the crowd were expecting, I think. But some in the room knew the band, and the live recording adds energy to the room. The stomping beat is infectious and the mood is generally heaps of fun.
By then I'd been sitting a little lower on the tempos, and I wanted to kick the energy back up again, to capitalise on the boost Shave em Dry always gives. This version of Digadigadoo is absolutely rocking. It's super fast, and super fun. I've DJed it for dancers a few times before, and even though it's really long, it keeps them dancing like nuts. It worked a treat with these guys too. but they were absolutely shagged by the end. So Minor Drag for a rest. More NOJV. Yes, I played a lot of them. But that's because they rock. I wanted to do some Loose Marbles, but I didn't know their action well enough to risk it on such a chancy crowd. MD was a bit too long, and a bit too minor key to really work. So I went with If You're a Viper to use the drug references as a cheap win. But it wasn't so successful. Note to self: if you think a song tries a little too hard and doesn't quite win you over, it won't work on a crowd of non-dancers either.
I like this version of Stevedore Stomp (Duke Heitger). I wanted to see if a slightly swingier edge would work with this crowd. It went down well, but apparently they don't hold no truck with that new-fangled rhythm. They were really quite tired by then, though, so I dropped it down with another punt - the MS's version of Handyman. Which people liked, but I didn't like all that on-dance-floor snogging and sexing up. So I chunked it back up with some more Giordano. And teh orsm. By this stage the next DJ was ready to go, so I played one more to give him time to plug in properly, and then I was off. And went straight to the bar where a nice barman refilled my 2L water bottle, goddess bless him.

Yes, I did play two versions of Shake That Thing. I've done that a couple of times lately. Because I am, basically, lazy. And a bad DJ. But it's a really good song, and I like the two different treatments. I was looking for a version of Charleston or Charleston is the best dance after all, but I was, frankly, too fucking tired after six hours of DJing, to find it.

So, overall, it was a really fun set. Started really badly, was heartbreaking to bust that preceding DJ's fucking awesome vibe, but finished well. If only lindy hoppers would hack a set that fast. Guess it takes a bunch of alcohol, pin-striped suits and masses of magnificent bosom to bring out our inner badassery, I guess.

This is the (mini) set:

Zonky New Orleans Jazz Vipers 203 2006 Hope You're Comin' Back 5:06
Shake That Thing Vince Giordano 230 2004 The Aviator 2:59
You Got to Give Me Some Midnight Serenaders 190 2007 Magnolia 4:02
I Ain’t That Kind of a Baby Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys 159 2008 Ready For You 2:59
Shave 'em Dry Asylum Street Spankers 131 1997 Nasty Novelties 4:21
Digadoo Firecracker Jazz Band 247 2005 The Firecracker Jazz Band 5:20
Blue Drag New Orleans Jazz Vipers 181 2002 The New Orleans Jazz Vipers 4:23
If You're A Viper New Orleans Jazz Vipers 156 2004 Live On Frenchmen Street 3:57
Stevedore Stomp Duke Heitger And His Swing Band 239 2000 Rhythm Is Our Business 4:18
My Handyman Midnight Serenaders 95 2007 Magnolia 5:11
Quality Shout Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks Orchestra 232 1993 Quality Shout 3:03
Shake That Thing Mora's Modern Rhythmists 227 2006 Devil's Serenade 2:58

If I'd had any idea I'd be playing this stuff, I'd have spent more time on it than I did on the neo. But I had no clue. If I could do it over, I'd come in loud and proud with some skankin' charleston. I'd stick to the hot stuff, lay off the swing and keep the tempos high. I'd use the same sort of stuff. In a perfect world, I'd use the original recordings as well as newer stuff. But the newer guys, the guys who're into the hot jazz - the punker-street-jazz guys - really encapsulated the energy of that event. The neo swing world has more in common with punk than swing jazz, and hot 20s jazz really has more in common with punk than swing, attitude-wise. It's just built for showing off, and doesn't have the shmaltzy edge some swing can have.

It was a long, hard night, I didn't do quite as well as I would have liked sometimes, I worked really hard in challenging conditions, and I realised my DJing skills were quite specific: I can work a room full of people who know how to dance. But I'm challenged by a room of non-dancing drinkers, especially as my music is so unfamiliar. Non-swing dancers are challenged by the swing, I think. Another small, but very important thing I learnt: lindy hoppers like space between the songs to stop and talk and change partners - at least 5 seconds. Non dancers don't know what to do with the gap. Though I ended up getting applause at the end of songs they liked, which was weird, but I guess that's what you do with some dead air when you like something.

"in which we ask 'why ya buggin?!' and then learn to whom the house actually belongs" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

September 3, 2009

Leo Mathisen, Duke Heitger, etc etc etc

Posted by dogpossum on September 3, 2009 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

What? There's a Leo Mathisen CD I don't own?!

Leo Mathisen: 1938-40 Leo’s Idea from Little Beat Records is the one Mathisen CD from this (very awesome) label that I don't own. And I WANT it!

But I also want more Duke Heitger. I have a copy of Rhythm Is Our Business from emusic, and the more I play it, the more I like it. Some of these recreationist doods can really suck, but re-listening has convinced me that there's something good going on here. But one album just isn't enough.

I also want:

Prince of Wails. The title track is a fave, and I'm keen to hear how this small group recreates teh orsm of Moten's group... in fact, I'm back to loving Moten in a big way.

Krazy Kapers as it looks a little more swingy and hence a little more all-purpose.

What is This Thing Called Love because the track listing is freeking A1.

I've had nothing but fabulous experiences with Jazz By Mail - super-fast postage times (though I've had a couple of CD covers get a little crushed in their light-weight cardboard boxes - nothing major, though), reasonable prices. And I'm especially keen on their Stomp Off Records stuff - an indy label chock full of top notch hawt jazz artists.

"Leo Mathisen, Duke Heitger, etc etc etc" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and objects of desire

August 24, 2009

midnight serenaders and janet klein

Posted by dogpossum on August 24, 2009 4:50 PM | Comments (0)

mssn.jpg I am currently extremely nuts for the Portland band Midnight Serenaders' album Sweet Nothin's (even though I'm unsure about that inverted comma in the title).
I bought the album from emusic this month and have been listening to it over and over. I played three songs from it at the after party I DJed on Saturday (though the first was to an empty room as I tested the sound gear): Swing Brother, Swing, Sweet Nothin's and Who Walks in When I Walk Out?. They all went down a treat.

msm.jpg I really like this band: some of the musicians have bluegrass/jugband/ole timey roots, some jazz, and the steel guitarist used to be in Helmet. The female singer plays the ukelele, an instrument I have mixed feelings about. I'm not keen on the Aussie folky/community ukelele sound, but I do like it in an Hawaiian, jazznick context. I'm also fond of the way this band combines the 'street jazz' sound that's very popular with some American dancers atm (a la the Loose Marbles, Cangalossi Cards, etc) with a more sophisticated studio mix. They also remind me of the Hot Club of Cowtown, which can only be an awesomely good thing.

I haven't bought their other album Magnolia, yet, but it's only a matter of time.

I've also just bought some songs from Janet Klein's second album Ready For You which has a similar style, but leans a little more heavily on the cutsey recreation of 20s girl singers. Klein has other albums, but I'm not so struck on the Paradise Wobble album on emusic, which is mostly vocals and ukele. I prefer Klein with the band balancing out the cutesy with some badass instrumental action.
I played That's What You Think from Ready For You at that same after party, and it also went down a treat.

Though I have a feeling both these albums will work with dancers, I'm pretty sure the after party was kind of a loaded option: this was a crowd of post-ball dancers with a couple of drinks under their belts and a serious interest in part-aying. The presence of a few Melbourne dancers also reminded me of the seriously slow average tempos in Sydney - come on, gang, let's get lindy hopping!

EDIT: I just bought Magnolia from the Midnight Serenaders, via CDBaby's downloads. It was supercheap ($9.99 US/$11.92 AU) and supereasy... which isn't a good thing for our bank account... The little I've heard of the album is fuuuully sick.

"midnight serenaders and janet klein" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

Armstrong and Middleton for the win

Posted by dogpossum on August 24, 2009 4:00 PM | Comments (4)


The awesomeness that is Louis Armstrong and his All Stars in 1956. Velma Middleton features prominently as the badass performer she was. Image stoled from here. Looks like Kid Ory in the background on trombone, but I could be (and probably am) mistaken.

I have a bunch of this All Star action from Armstrong, but I rarely DJ it. It is fully sick, though.
This version of All that meat (and no potatoes) is ok, but not fabulous.

They do a version of Reckless Blues which I quite like. The interesting thing about that song is that Armstrong first recorded it with Bessie Smith in 1925, then again with Middleton in 1957.

Just to demonstrate Middleton's awesomeness, here she is with Luis Russell's orchestra in 1942:

"Armstrong and Middleton for the win" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

August 19, 2009

recent djing (is this politics?)

Posted by dogpossum on August 19, 2009 12:25 PM | Comments (0)

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

(that fabulous photo is from this site).

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

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

Canberräng 7 August 2009 9:00-10:30pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swingpit 14 August 2009 10:30pm-midnight

Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 1950 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 3:04
Oh! Gram'pa Cab Calloway and his Orchestra 147 1947 Are You Hep To The Jive? 3:04
Shout, Sister, Shout Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Buster Bailey 140 1941 Apollo Jump 2:45
Just Kiddin' Around Artie Shaw and his Orchestra 159 1941 Self Portrait (Disc 3) 3:21
Davenport Blues Adrian Rollini and his Orchestra with Jack Teagarden 136 1934 Father Of Jazz Trombone 3:14
Madame Dynamite Eddie Condon and his Orchestra (Pee Wee Russell, Eddie Condon, Sidney Catlett) 176 1933 Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 2:56
Summit Ridge Drive Artie Shaw and his Gramercy Five 128 1940 Self Portrait (Disc 2) 3:21
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 153 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:26
Hot Spot Blues Leo Mathisen's Orkester 167 1942 Leo Mathiesen 1942-43 Terrific Rhythm 3:06
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 146 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 3:01
Paper Moon Monica Trapaga with Bob Barnard, Paul Furniss, David Blenkhorn, Peter Locke, David Seidel, Andrew Dickeson, Monica Trapaga 140 2006 Sugar 4:05
Gimme A Pigfoot Lavern Baker 120 1958 La Vern Baker Sings Bessie Smith 3:11
Keep On Churnin' (01-09-52) Wynonie Harris 146 1952 Complete Jazz Series 1950 - 1952 2:56
Sent For You Yesterday (And Here You Come Today) Count Basie and his Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing 172 1952 Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings (Disc 2) 3:13
Big Fat Mama Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra with Trevor Bacon, Buster Bailey 135 1941 Apollo Jump 3:09
Bearcat Shuffle Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy with Mary Lou Williams 160 1936 The Lady Who Swings the Band - Mary Lou Williams with Any Kirk and his Clouds of Joy 3:01
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra 165 1937 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 3:10
Truckin' Henry 'Red' Allen and His Orchestra 171 1935 Henry Red Allen ‘Swing Out' 2:54
The Basement Blues (low-downer than any low down blues) Nobel Sissle and his Orchestra with Sidney Bechet 153 1931 Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Sidney Bechet 3:16
Georgia Bo Bo Graeme Bell and his Australian Jazz Band 137 1952 Graeme Bell the AMI Australian Recordings 2:40
Bli-Blip Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five 140 2007 Moppin' And Boppin' 2:44
Flat Foot Floogie Carol Ralph 186 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 3:44
Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan 147 1956 A Tribute To Andy Razaf 3:19
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie and his Orchestra 144 1958 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 3:13
John Silver Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra 155 1938 Swingsation: Charlie Barnet and Jimmy Dorsey 3:15
Turn It Over Bus Moten and his Men 148 1949 Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Disc 3) 2:38
Don't Falter At The Altar Cab Calloway 138 Are You Hep To The Jive? 2:44
All This Beef And Big Ripe Tomatoes Julia Lee, Cleophus Berry, William 'Bill' Nolan, Franz Bruce, Clairborne Graves, Elmer W. Price 143 1951 Kansas City Star (disc 5) 2:09
Laughing In Rhythm Slim Gaillard and his Peruvians 142 1951 Laughing In Rhythm: The Best Of The Verve Years 2:56
Algiers Stomp Mills Blue Rhythm Band with Henry 'Red' Allen, J.C. Higgenbotham, George Washington, Edgar Hayes, Lucky Millinder 219 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 3:08
I Diddle Dinah Washington 153 Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones 3:05

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

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

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

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

(The Madison takes on.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"recent djing (is this politics?)" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

August 15, 2009

what makes a good jam?

Posted by dogpossum on August 15, 2009 7:46 PM | Comments (2)

Not, foodie friends, a post about preserves. But a post about jam circles and the dance 'jam'.

When you say 'jam' to most lindy hoppers, they think of that exciting moment at a dance when a particularly exciting song prompts dancers to freekin BRING IT. A couple lights up and dances like serious badasses. The appropriate (and instinctive response) is to watch and cheer and goad them on. In the olden days, if the floor was crowded (as it usually was), a little space would clear around the dances to give them room to really bring it. These days, a circle (often ridiculously big) forms in an unnatural way to allow room for a little entertainment. Today, the initial couple are often replaced by other couples, one after another, entering the cleared circle at the end of a phrase. The dancers crowded around clap and cheer and egg on the 'performers'.
My favourite jam sees dancers crowded close (risking losing an eye), and couples pushing to get in there and show off. The energy in the room leaps and I feel like screaming like a crazy fool. Sometimes I do.
My least favourite jam is 'staged'. In the very worst case scenario someone announces "We're going to have a jam now," and couples enter the circle in a very formal, almost staged order, to pull out very staged, rehearsed sequences of steps. There is no spontaneity, there is no excitement, and often, there's no me - I've gone to the bar for a drink.
My favourite jams are usually to live bands - a band simply brings the energy up and dancers freekin lose their biscuits (in a non-vomiting way).

Jams aren't a new idea, by any means. Forming a circle into which dancers enter and 'perform' is as old as Africa in African American vernacular dance, is found in indigenous Australian dance, in European folk dance and most other dance cultures around the world. The performance ranges from formalised, ritualised and highly prescriptive to ecstatic, out of control, crazed. Audiences are encouraged to participate - to clap and cheer, to sing or chant along, to exclaim; to respond.

DJing jams can be a bit tricky. I've done quite a few now, and I kind of have a feeling about the types of songs to play and the way I can develop the energy in a room to the point where that spontaneous group-hysteria showing off happens*. These sorts of jams usually happen at an exchange or special event, somewhere when people are relaxed and ready to partyhardy, when they're out of town or hosting guests, excited by new dance partners and music and DJs or bands. I usually find them happening on the first night of an exchange, later in the night, or at a late night during the weekend.

If I'm DJing, I've been gradually working the energy and tempos up, so people are charged with those happy hormones and really having a good time. I make sure I work 'the wave'**, giving people lower tempos to rest and higher tempos to challenge them, keep their heart rates up. I also try to play higher energy songs with that fat, four-on-the-floor rhythm that makes it impossible to mistake the beat. Old school, classic big band swing is most effective in these situations, and I tend to avoid lyrics. Lyrics tend to anchor the meaning of the song - like labels or titles on a photo - and I like instrumentals for the way they feature groups and individual instruments rather than just showcasing one singer. The most important part of this working up of the crowd is mood and emotion. They have to be feeling really, really good. Not just a couple of experienced, hardcore lindy hoppers, but the whole room, from the dancers to the people watching on the side lines. Otherwise you get a kind of emotion-sink, where the good vibe drains away. When the whole room is involved, the energy increases exponentially, as people add their good feelings to the mix.

I don't really know how to explain what it feels like to be in there, on that type of dance floor, in that type of room. I think of the process of getting there as 'warming the room', literally and figuratively. I find that if I'm DJing, I have to actually be in there with the dancers, feeling the good feelings. It helps if I'm DJing standing up. It doesn't work if I'm not invested as well.

But when I have them there, before they've peaked and are on the dowhill slope to exhaustion, I suddenly drop in a badass 'jam' song. These are songs that I have either tried before with dancers and seen result in a jam, or which feel like the sort of songs that make it impossible to stand still. They're usually higher tempos, because higher tempos usually mean higher energy. Just freakin exciting, like quick cuts in a film, or quick exchanges of dialogue, or jerky movements in an action film. I also like higher tempos because they're challenging - we want to see badassery in a jam, and we're often moved to stare at or be impressed by faster, badass dancing. But it's not really just being a 'good dancer' that's important here - you have to really bring it, bring some attitude or emotion or delight or excitement or awesome physical sense of the music.

But when I say 'challenging', I don't mean a song that's particularly difficult, melodically speaking. The best jam songs usually have straight forward rhythms - four on the floor and no cheating, as Basie said. That's the simple, straightforward 4/4 time. We're usually up around 200-250bpm, so you're looking at about 4 beats per second. Which works out at at least 4 steps per second, usually more because we like syncopated rhythms in lindy hop. That's a fair bit faster than your resting heart rate. But that rhythm, that beat has to be insistent and consistent. Bam-bam-bam-bam throughout. This is maintained by the engine room of the band - the rhythm section. Basie stuff is awesome for jams, mostly because his rhythm section was just so tight and pumping. Basie on piano, Jo Jones on drums, Freddy Green on guitar and Walter Page on bass. Just chunking away through those big band songs.

Here's one of my favourite Basie songs, Jumpin' At The Woodside. Recording in 1939, this is one of the most-played, best-known Basie songs. You can easily argue that it's overplayed. It is. But for good reason.

It's not slow. At about 230bpm, it's twice as fast as your average pop song. But it swings so you don't feel rushed. Each beat is delayed; it's not bashed into, no one's rushing to reach the next beat. The intro is super exciting. Basie marks out the time with a nice, solid lower-register piano, then the other three parts of the rhythm section come in, one 8 (or two bars) at a time, until by the end of the first phrase you have a nice, fat, chunky rhythm that shouts "DANCE!"

I don't usually play this song intending a jam circle, but I do find that if it's dropped into the room at just the right moment, people lose control.

(That's a picture from MLX6. I was actually playing Jumpin' At The Woodside there, but the 1960 version which is a bit quicker and a bit clearer. It's not quite as awesome as the 1939 version, but it's pretty freakin great.)

Jumpin' At The Woodside also one of those songs that's often played deliberately to inspire a jam, so dancers are wired to read it as 'jam song!'

But one song is often not quite enough for a crowd of crazy jammin' dancing fools. I'm also quite fond of some Jimmie Lunceford, songs like Runnin' Wild have the right sort of chunky rhythm, but Lunceford Special has that same pulse-stirring introduction.

Lionel Hampton's 1942 Flying Home has the right feel, but is a little slow for a really pumping jam. (it's only about 190bpm).

I might play this as a sort of prod to get dancers in the mood. It's an iconic track, one which dancers know well. Not in small part because of this sequence from Spike Lee's film Malcolm X:

Frankie Manning was a consultant for this sequence, and the scene is in no small part a homage to various iconic historic lindy hop sequences (including the longer 'jitterbug contest' scene from the soundie Keep Punchin).

So Flying Home isn't exactly go-to gear for a jam, but it's useful for the way it pumps up energy in the room and gets people thinking about showing off. Having said that, it's so iconic, that playing it at the wrong time can just sound cheesy. If you're playing for a crowd of experienced dancers who've been round for a while, it mightn't be quite quick enough to get their pulses up, and it might bring back uncomfortable memories of earlier days wearing zoot suits.

What exactly makes for a good song for a jam, then?
High energy songs with a good, solid beat. I like a big band, an instrumental, something that sits solidly in the swing era, the lindy hop era - the mid 30s to early 40s, leaning on the late 30s. Something familiar is good, because dancers are better able to hit breaks and really show off.
Exactly which song I play will depend on the crowd. 'Fast' is relative and really is determined by the experiences and preferences of the crowd. Same goes for 'familiar'. But I do insist on something with a solid beat. I also avoid that later 50s sound, or a sort of shuffle super-groove, super-swinging rhythm. I like a nice, solid, built like a brick shithouse beat.

When to stop?
Often when I've played that one song, people are raring to go, wanting more. I'll often oblige with a second song. Something faster, something madder, but in the same style. But I won't do more than two songs, not unless the room is really going off, with couples fighting to get into the jam. If I see energy lagging, the crowd losing interest, the performers pulling out the same-old, same-old shtick, if I see those performers getting a bit full of themselves and not sharing the spotlight, I'll not play a second song. I certainly won't play a third. My goal is to use a jam to lift the energy in the room to climax point. I want everyone in the room to feel it. I usually follow up with something high energy, but much slower - 160bpm is nice, but I can go lower. I want that next song to say 'this is not a jam'. I want it to say 'get on the floor everyone!' I've noticed that if I time it right, all the kids watching will swarm onto the floor. If a DJ leaves it too late, lets things go on too long, the energy fizzles out and things get a bit embarrassing.

*There are few things finer than the dance-and-music inspired group hysteria of social dancing, where you lose control of your body (not in a bowel-loosening way, thankfully), you become totally uninhibited, and it's like you're dancing all the best dances in the world, right then. The room is physically and emotionally hot, and your body is running with awesome endorphines, adrenaline, all those good-time drugs.

** Where the tempos move up and down through a 'wave' - eg 120bpm - 140bpm - 160bpm - 180bpm - 140bpm - 150bpm etc

"what makes a good jam?" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

July 16, 2009

amiri baraka at last

Posted by dogpossum on July 16, 2009 2:31 PM | Comments (2)

Finally, I've made it to Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones). It's taken way too long.

I've just read this: Jazz and the White Jazz Critic. I didn't read it there (in a google books page that make me suddenly think 'what the fuck do we bother with publishers and book deals? All our rights as authors are dead with this one new technology... which really just does as the photocopier did for us all 20 years ago, but faster). I read it in a paper book.

And I got excited.

And then I went here and read that story. But mostly I looked at the youtube clip and got a bit excited.

I recommend the Jazz and White Critics article, as it sums up my misgivings about the jazznick fanmags and magazines and newsletters and recreationists.

Here's one bit I like:

There were few ‘jazz critics’ in America at all until the ‘30s and then they were influenced to a large extent by what Richard Hadlock has called ‘the carefully documented gee-whiz attitude’ of the first serious European jazz critics. They were also, as a matter of course, influenced more deeply by the social and cultural mores of their own society. And it is only natural that their criticism, whatever its intentions, should be a product of that society, or should reflect at least some of the attitudes and thinking of that society, even if not directly related to the subject they were writing about, Negro music (Baraka 138).

And here's another:

Most jazz critics began as hobbyists or boyishly brash members of the American petite bourgeoisie, whose only claim to any understanding about the music was that they knew it was different; or else they had once been brave enough to make a trip into a Negro slum to hear their favorite instrumentalists defame Western musical tradition. Most jazz critics were (and are) not only white middle-class Americans, but middle-brows as well (Baraka 140.)

This article is important because it was written by a black man in the 60s, and published in Down Beat magazine. I can't remember whether Down Beat was moldy fig or modernist, but I think it was the latter. I cannot tell you how rare it is to come across a commentary by a black writer on jazz from the 60s or earlier. Doing all this reading of 'jazz histories' I'm beginning to think I might have to kill myself. It's tedious. I like Baraka's comment about 'gee-whiz' approaches to jazz. I was just saying to The Squeeze the other day that I'd have liked one of these guys to stop gushing about how wonderful jazz is, and to actually open their freakin eyes and see what's going on around and beside the music. Hells, even in the music!

I'm gearing up for Blues People and will report back later.

"amiri baraka at last" was posted in the category cat blogging and ideas and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

July 14, 2009

jjj's hottest 100: where was Lil Armstrong?!

Posted by dogpossum on July 14, 2009 2:01 PM

John has posted an interesting piece about JJJ's Hottest 100 and I thought I'd better comment at length here rather than cluttering up the comments thread there. I will annotate for those who haven't been following the twitterati/bloggy chat.

[Point raised by others: the hottest 100 was a bit 90s-nostalgia trip for blokes who were teenagers in the 90s]

JJJ and Rage have always felt a bit 90s-nostalgia to me. But perhaps that's because the 90s were about the last time I listened to mainstream music...

I was wondering where Blondie, Siouxie and the Banshees and other punker chicks were at in the hottest 100?

[This is where I get into some stuff I've been thinking about]

To be honest, I wouldn't really expect JJJ's list of 'hottest 100' songs to come up with anything particularly inclusive or properly representative of rock (let alone the broader music world). It's a list made by listeners of one particular (state funded national) radio station in one particular historical moment, so audience demographics, radio playlists and radio/record company relationships are going to be the guiding factors.
I'd be more interested in 4ZZZ's list - localised indy music? Or in comparing hottest 100 lists from different radio stations and then different media sources generally.

[Here I address a bigger couple of issues]
Someone noted that I should respect the opinions of the women voting in the hottest 100. If not, wouldn't that also be neglecting women's contributions?
My response is that this approach simply accepts the broader social and institutional factors that have lead us to this point. It is more the case that the hottest 100 and the way it is run and organised is at fault, and that it's more useful to discuss the way the music industry works, and to think about the audiences of JJJ and popular music generally. In other words, I do not accept the premise of the question - that it is not JJJ that is at fault, but women (and their voting or failure to rock).

Firstly, here's a point that's been raised by a couple of books I've been reading about women in jazz (Placksin and Dahl, primarily):

women have been making music forever. It's just that the music industry has not recognised this. Both Placksin and Dahl point out that the profound absence of women in jazz histories is in fact a complete fallacy. There are and have always been plenty of women in jazz. It's just that they haven't been scoring recording contracts, haven't had properly managed careers, haven't been promoted or even hired by venues or band leaders, and haven't even been allowed into bands in many cases. Placksin and Dahl produce a massive list of fully sick jazznick sisters, and make the point that there _were_ plenty of women in jazz. We just have to look beyond the popularly accepted myths about jazz history.

So, in reference to the Hottest 100, there are heaps of women who rock. It's just that people aren't seeing or hearing them. Who are these people?

a) the DJs playing music on the radio,
b) the station programmers making up playlists,
c) the record company promotions teams who aren't sending promo material to radio stations,
d) the record companies who aren't putting women musicians under contract,
e) the company and radio peeps who aren't looking beyond their own memories of the music world - they're not actually getting into the library to see what's there,
f) the audiences of these radio stations who are (voting) and buying/listening to music,
g) and of course the machinery of live music, where bands get their starts - the venues and festivals and so on simply aren't giving chicks a go. If women even feel comfortable asking.

So, there are fully sick women musicians.

There are fully sick women musicians who rock.

There are fully sick women musicians being recorded.

There are fully sick women musicians playing live gigs all the time.

It's more that the problem is with the music industry not promoting their music, and that the music industry itself is inimical to any type of professionalism which is not aggressive, competitive, misogynist, etc. It's not that it's even a masculinist culture; it's more that a particular set of skills and personality traits are required. And these tend to coincide with hegemomic masculinity.

Sigh. Just once, I'd like this not to be about the goddamn fucking patriarchy. Or capitalism.

[This is where I think about industrial and cultural factors which might prevent/discourage women from getting into bands/rock]

I was just reading an interesting discussion of the way different instruments are perceived as 'female' or 'male' (Dahl). This was an issue in the 20s and 30s - there's a famous quote from Jelly Roll Morton where he states that there was some concern that playing the piano would sissify him (and this from such an aggressively heterosexual man). Looking through jazz history for women musicians who played instruments (other than vocals), there's a preponderance of pianists. In the 10s, 20s and 30s the piano was an acceptably ladylike instrument, as was the voice. This is not to say that there weren't women playing guitars, trombones, trumpets (the most masculine of 1930s instruments), etc. It's just that they weren't recorded and didn't feature on stage in a big way until the war years, when all-girl bands became a novelty. Even though bands like the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were massively badass, and bands led by people like Lil Hardin Armstrong had a very long history of badassery and fully sick jazz roots and cred.

I wonder if 90s grunge was important for stimulating a garage band phenomenon which offered young blokes something else to do in the garage beyond fiddling about with cars? There's also that story about Seattle's climate facilitating the development of such a vibrant live music scene (similar comments are made about lindy hop today - Seattle has a massive lindy scene, in part - I suspect - because indoor activities suit rainy, miserable weather). But part of me is sure that all the time spent fiddling about with instruments has something to do with the way girls and boys are encouraged to spend their leisure time - domestic duties for girls, guitars for boys?

[Here is where I testify and you hear a lot about me. And me.]

I spend quite a bit of time in music shops (usually the DJ Warehouse, but often a music store when I'm looking for cables), and I am almost always (as in 99.99% of the time) the only woman in there. I've never dealt with a female retail worker. I have the same experience in jazz music shops. I don't mind this, really. I'm used to being around blokes, and I'm not exactly your conventionally feminine chick. I'm not adverse to kicking arse and taking names. But more importantly, I'm stubborn and determined, and it'll take more than a cock to distract me from purchasing the perfect headphones.

I'm a DJ rather than a musician, and the mainstream DJing scene seems just as male-dominated as the band scene. In swing (where I'm DJing), most top tier DJs are male, whereas the gender divide is fairly even in the everyday, bread and butter DJing. ie, women and men are doing the everyday DJing for regular events (keeping the local scenes going), but there are very, very few women at the top end, doing the big name interstate and international DJing.

Sound familiar? Looks like there are glass ceilings in the swinguverse too.

This is partly because of social/cultural factors: DJing is an intimidating world, with an emphasis on technology and a fairly intimidating culture. Women DJs are no more collaborative and supportive of new DJs than male (I've found), but they're less likely to speak up in online DJing talk and less likely to pursue a DJing career aggressively. They do good community stuff, men can do good community stuff, but male DJs tend to have the skills and appproach required by professional DJing.

Economics are also important. DJing requires:

- A fairly steady income (which can be frittered away on music, software, hardware, etc),

- copious amounts of time (to spend cataloguing music, dealing with tossers in music shops, practicing, learning to use technology, researching music, participating in online DJ talk (networking, skilling up, etc), etc).

Basically, you need time and money to get a certain skill and experience base.

- Actually getting gigs also demands some serious networking, and it's very masculine, male-dominated networking: you have to really work hard to get into the gang if you want good, high profile, paid gigs.

Working conditions are challenging.

- Once you're actually there, the hours are hard (late nights, long hours, lots of coming home late by yourself), dealing with the technology can be challenging (working in shitty venues with shitty gear) and there's quite a bit of pressure - you're responsible for entertaining a bunch of dancers, you have to be assertive enough to not get screwed over by event coordinators and also confident enough to put your hand up for challenging gigs.

All of these are the usual, familiar issues facing women in employment. I think that many of these issues face women in bands as well. While no one in the swinguverse has ever said (or even implied) to me that women shouldn't be DJs (like to see them try), the work and role are heavily gendered in the sort of sneaky, invisible way that we see in many other industries.

And girls in bands, of course, have to deal with record companies, with PR machinery, with radio networks, with the importance of visual presentation (ie what they look like), video clips, etc etc etc.

Add all this to the fact that a large proportion of teenage blokes have been trained to think of women only as boobs with legs, should we be at all surprised that JJJ's Hottest 100 didn't sport a higher proportion any women?

Fuck, I'm surprised. And it'll be a sad day when we stop commenting.

Blogging commentary:
The Hoydens have had at it already.

Stubborn mule has given us some figures re the list's favouring the 90s.

John brings it (after a long stream of interesting tweetage, btw).

Something to remind you:

 What is male privilege? (I have to add: even writing that makes me cringe in anticipation of a kick from some bloke. I've spent far too long in the swing world, which is so scarily patriarchal even I've absorbed it. egads.)

Book references:
Dahl, Linda. Stormy Weather: the Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women. Limelight: NY, 1992.

Placksin, Sally. Jazzwomen: 1900 to the Present. Pluto Press: London and Sydney, 1982.

"jjj's hottest 100: where was Lil Armstrong?!" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

July 7, 2009

violence and film and blues

Posted by dogpossum on July 7, 2009 1:21 PM | Comments (1)

Reading Gussow's book about racial violence in southern America, I wonder why I keep coming back to violence. My honours thesis discussed female violence in film, and this book really is about violence in blues music. Both are about violence from the perspective of the disempowered; one discussing women, one black men and women in America.
I'm not comfortable with this stuff - I don't like stories about violence, I don't like watching it in film. But both seem linked to hopelessness. Violence for the women in the films I discussed was a last resort or an act of desperation. In the blues songs I'm reading about now, violence is either to be borne or to be perpetrated in revenge or rage or desperation. Both are domestic or carried out in ordinary, everyday spaces.
In my honours thesis I was interested in what happened to female characters when their acts of violence were institutionalised or sanctioned by institutions in the role of assassin. In these blues songs, we are continually reminded that white men were perpetrators of violence which was ignored by the state or unofficially condoned - or at least ignored. These acts of violence contrast clearly with the violence of waged war. I'm interested in the way some types of violence are sanctioned by the community and some not. And who gets to enact this 'sanctioned' violence. You know, of course, that class and gender and race are at work here.

One of the other elements of these representations of violence is the role of fantasy, or imagined violence. In the blues song, it might be an imagined retribution for a lover's deceit, or for a lynching. Music allows the playing out of ideas or fantasies, and the public performance of this music encourages an attentive, participatory audience. It is not enough simply to imagine; it is necessary that the imagined violence be laid out and commented upon by the broader community.

"violence and film and blues" was posted in the category fillums and ideas and music and research

July 6, 2009

duke ellington's 'difficult' 1949/1950 period

Posted by dogpossum on July 6, 2009 6:01 PM | Comments (0)

I'm trying to get a better grip on my ever-increasing collection of music. I'm finding that my DJing is suffering from both my time off the dance floor and my spending on emusic. Emusic in particular challenges me, because it means I'm buying one or two songs rather than whole albums and as a result not getting to know an artist or particular period in depth.
So here's something about one CD I've just been listening to this afternoon.

I like it that Ellington stuff from the very late 40s and early 50s can be so challenging. Almost good for lindy hop. But then, also often experimenting with dissonance in a way that dancers can't quite handle. This Ellington collection from 1949-50 is an excellent example. Track listing? Here:
You Of All People
Creole Love Call
The Greatest There Is
The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
Joog, Joog
Good Woman Blues
On The Sunny Side Of The Street
B-Sharp Boston

Hello Little Boy
The Greatest There Is!
Take The "A" Train
Untitled Blues
Blues For Blanton
Mean Ol'Choo Choo
Me And My Wig
How Blue Can You Get
Juke Bop Boogie
Set 'Em Up
New Piano Roll Blues
The Man I Love

I picked this one up on Chron Classics a few years ago, and really like the combination of songs. Chron Classics are just that - a chronological (and complete) collection of songs by an artist (or featuring them) during a specific period. But the development of Ellington's style is quite marked in just these two years, on one album of 'singles'. When I first bought it I was spending a lot of time on public transports and reading Gunther Schuller's Swing book. I'd combine listening to music with reading Schuller on PT via The Squeeze's ipod. Ellington had such a long career, and was so musically interesting, it's no wonder Schuller devoted such a long chapter to him. Or that I kept coming back to him on the ipod.

I play 'Joog Joog' a lot for dancers. And 'B Sharp Boston'. 'Joog Joog' has an unusual beginning, and dancers are never quite sure about it. But the beat is insistent - you _will_ dance to this medium-tempo song. But there are a few here that are really quite... unusual. Ellington was interested in dissonance quite early on - earlier on that a lot of other doods. But when it's mixed in with his more conventional, danceable fare, it comes as a bit of a surprise. I like listening to the transition in his approach over just this short two year period. The second version of 'The Greatest There Is' has an earthier, more vernacular vocal, but it's a bit less comfortable harmonically in parts. Even 'Take the A Train', a standard in the lindy hopper's collection, is challenging. The piano intro is dissonant, the bass solo is long and complicated. It's all fabulous music, but it's not stuff I'd automatically play for a general lindy hopping crowd.

"duke ellington's 'difficult' 1949/1950 period" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

what again?! I'm still crapping on about dance, power, etc

Posted by dogpossum on July 6, 2009 3:59 PM

I'm refining and developing these ideas. So I'm just going to keep writing and posting these same points. Over and over again.

One of the more interesting discussions I've read about derision dance (from Jacqui Malone's book I think) discussed derision dance in African American dance as a way of responding to white power/black disempowerment 'under the radar'. In other words, the cake walk (or whichever example you're using) allowed dancers to deride or mock whites surrepticiously or indirectly. To 'get the joke' you had to recognise who was being mocked, and how the mocking was intended.
This sort of idea comes up in a number of different cultural practices across cultures. I've read a bit about satire and humour and derision-through-impersonating-for-humour's-sake.

I'm reading this book at the moment:

(Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the blues Tradition by Adam Gussow.

Gussow is a a blues musician who's interested in violence and the blues. One of his central arguments is that the blues (as in blues music - both sung and instrumental) gave black musicians access to a 'blues subject'

who then found ways, more or less covert, of singing back to that ever-hovering threat. Although blues scholars have long claimed that blues singers remained self-protectively mute on the issue of white mob violence, lynching makes its presence felt in various ways throughout the blues tradition: not just as veiled references in blues lyrics and as jokes recounted by blues musicians...

Gussow discusses the fact that black responses to white violence (in southern America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) were limited by necessity. In the simplest terms, if you fought back, if you responded to white violence, then white retaliation would come ten-fold. Without this 'right of response' (legal or otherwise), music offered a way of dealing, publicly with violence. Albert Murray talks about singing the blues as a way of 'stomping' the blues - of sharing woe and therefore easing its burdensome weight. The idea with singing a song that implies lynching or violence (ie you might simply sing 'I have the blues, my body is broken') is that you share your pain and frustration without directly inviting white censure. Singing and music allow you to sneakily respond, but without risking violent retribution.

Gussow begins his book with a comment from the book What is Life? Reclaiming the Black Blues Self by Kalamu ya Salaam:

[W]e laugh loud and heartily when every rational expectation suggests that we should be crying in despair. [T]he combination of exaggeration and conscious recognition of the brutal facts of life is the basis for the humour of blues people (Gussow x)

So in these cases making jokes when it seems impossible to laugh is an important part of subverting white power and violence. Simply being able to laugh is a way of saying "I am not beaten down". The joke part is an extension of the sneakiness of singing about violence indirectly, of responding indirectly when direct responses could get you killed. Humour is of course utterly subversive and powerful in this sort of setting.

The sort of violence Gussow talks about in Seems Like Murder Here is a fairly extreme example (though I highly recommend the book - it's disturbing but also fascinating), but it makes the point that humour through music can work as humour in dance does. By hiding your true meaning or intention under a layer of melody or rhythm, you can say subversive things, do subversive things and reclaim some control over your life and public discourse. You mightn't be able to speak out, but you can sing out.

I'm particularly keen on the idea of multiple layers of meaning. The cake walk can function just as silly clowning. But (as every clown knows), the surface humour hides something deeper and more subversive. While at first glance the black clown appears as the butt of the joke to white audiences (of the day), to white dancers and observers, the butt of the joke lies elsewhere. Tommy deFrantz writes in Dancing Many Drums that, when faced with white forbidding of black religious dance,

serious dancing went underground, and dances which carried significant aesthetic information became disguised or hidden from public view. For white audiences, the black man’s dancing body came to carry only the information on its surface (DeFrantz, discussing black masculinity in dance 107).

I've also heard similar discussions from aboriginal Australian elders discussing religious dance. While some dances are strictly for women or men or older women or older men or not to be seen at all, under any circumstances by the uninitiated, the meaning of a sacred dance can be hidden in plain sight. The uninitiated, watching a sacred dance (or looking at a sacred image in a painting) doesn't have access the important, sacred meaning, simply because they haven't been initiated, and therefore don't understand what they're looking at. They look, but cannot see.
I think it's important to say here, though, that having control over who looks at your body (dancing or otherwise) is a matter of power. I've been thinking about it in reference to film and how we give permission to have our own image photographed or filmed (and I repeatedly return to an article on the Warlpiri Media Collective's siteabout managing access to sacred or even just private space in indigenous Australian communities). But discussions about, for example, women's rights to control who looks at their bodies has just as long a history as white occupation of Australia. It is, after all, a similar discussion about occupation, colonialism and the power of the gaze.

I've read some interesting discussions about this in music in other places as well. There's quite a bit of discussion about Louis Armstrong and his 'mugging' or 'uncle tomming' for white audiences. Krin Gabbard discusses Armstrong's work with Duke Ellington, including the filming of Paris Blues (in which Armstrong starred, and for which Ellington contributed the score) and the recording of the 'Summit' sessions:

…at those moments in the film when he [Armstrong] seems most eager to please with his vocal performances, his mugging is sufficiently exaggerated to suggest an ulterior motive. Lester Bowie has suggested that Armstrong is essentially “slipping a little poison into the coffee” of those who think they are watching a harmless darkie….Throughout his career in films, Armstrong continued to subvert received notions of African American identity, signifying on the camera while creating a style of trumpet performance that was virile, erotic, dramatic, and playful. No other black entertainer of Armstrong’s generation â€" with the possible exception of Ellington â€" brought so much intensity and charisma to his performances. But because Armstrong did not change his masculine presentation after the 1920s, many of his gestures became obsolete and lost their revolutionary edge. For many black and white Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, he was an embarrassment. In the early days of the twenty-first century, when Armstrong is regularly cast as a heroicized figure in the increasingly heroicising narrative of jazz history, we should remember that he was regularly asked to play the buffoon when he appeared on films and television (Gabbard 298).

Gabbard continues the point here:

...Armstrong plays the trickster. Armstrong’s tricksterisms were an essential part of his performance persona. On one level, Armstrong’s grinning, mugging, and exaggerated body language made him a much more congenial presence, especially to racist audiences who might otherwise have found so confident a performer to be disturbing, to say the least. When Armstrong put his trumpet to his lips, however, he was all business. The servile gestures disappeared as he held his trumpet erect and flaunted his virtuosity, power, and imagination (Gabbard 298).

Again, there's this idea of layers of meaning. On the one hand, Armstrong appears as the smiling, 'safe' black man, entertaining white audiences with clowning. But on the other, his sheer musical talent empowers him and defies his reduction to 'harmless' clown.

There's quite a bit written about black masculinity and layers of meaning in musical and dance performances, but I'm especially interested in women in all this. Gussow has a fascinating paper about Mamie Smith's song 'Crazy Blues' (which is in that book). And Angela Yuval Davis talks about lyrics and women's blues performances and power.

Ultimately, though, the idea of layers of meaning is important to a discussion of African American dance. Any one dance can yield a whole host of meanings or interpretations. And at times it's important to hide the most subversive or dangerous meanings way down inside, where you need a lived experience with violence and disempowerment to really understand or to 'get' the joke.

Here's my current absolute favourite example of layers of meaning in dance. This is a scene from a musical stage play version of the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Most of us are more familiar with the film version (with its wondeful music) and with Oprah's interest in the story/film.


On one level it's very much 'classical' musical stage play fare - 'singing', dancing, 'period' costumes (late 19th, early 20th century), young black men with phenomenal dancing ability performing a 'light hearted' song about 'love'. That's the straight reading (well, almost straight). It looks quite a bit like some of the clips we watch for lindy hop or jazz dance dance from the 30s and 40s. Almost.

But it takes on a different meaning when you've seen this.

Immediately, another layer of meaning can be found in that first clip. Men dancing a 'woman's' song. Add the fact that this is a contemporary stage play, not a piece from the 30s or 40s. The lyrics, the movements of the dancers all gain new levels of meaning. The reading is 'queered up', not only in terms of sexuality (gay? straight? tranny? wuh?), but in terms of power and gaze. The Color Purple is a story about gender and power and race and ethnicity and class. It's themes and story are heartbreaking in parts. And yet here are three gorgeous young blokes performing a dance which invites a smile or a laugh. It's 'queer' in that it's played 'straight'. The dancers are dancing 'seriously', but the entire performance seems unusual, something is happening here, below the surface. Actually, not below the surface. It's right there, in your face. Making you want to dance. This sort of performance is often talked about in critical literature as provoking a sense of unease in the audience - should I laugh? Or is that wrong, considering the story of The Color Purple? This unease or anxiety centres on issues of sexuality, gender, class, ethnicity, etc etc etc. In some ways, this is what makes the performance so powerful. You can enjoy it simply as badass dancing. But you can also left wondering what it means. And context is everything. Watching from an expensive seat in a huge concert theatre is a little different from watching from the audience with different vested interests:


I like the second version because it's not a quiet audience, sitting and listening quietly and politely. It's a loud, rowdy audience interacting with the dancers. It's ok to laugh, to cheer, to want to dance with them, to enjoy the show. The audience are part of the performance. The 'mistake' where one dancer drops his hat becomes a chance to demonstrate their ability to improvise, to work it for a crowd. Three men dancing the overtly sexualised, feminised steps from Beyonce's clip changes the meaning of the movements. It changes the way their bodies are sexualised or regarded as sexualised bodies. It's 'feminine' movement, but this is definitely a performance of masculinity and masculine sexuality. Just not a terribly straight or mainstream one. And when the women appear on stage, all this gets tipped over again.

Is it derision, though? I think it's more complicated. But it makes a point that we can apply to cake walk. On one hand, it can be read as 'straight', fabulous dancing. But it can also be read as clowning or buffooning. Or it can be read as queer-as-fuck politics. Or sexed-up awesomeness. Or race politics. Or mocking Beyonce. Or celebrating Beyonce. It's imitation and flattery and derision and commentary. It's complicatedness invites us to engage and to look for layers of meaning. Which of course is the point: one dance becomes a discourse, a discussion, rather than a monologue.

Davis, Angela Y. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. Toronto: Random House, 1998.

DeFrantz, Thomas. "The Black Male Body in Concert Dance." Moving Words: Re-Writing Dance. Ed. Gay Morris. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. 107 -

Gabbard, Krin. “Paris Blues: Ellington, Armstrong, and Saying It with Music”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 297-311.

Malone, Jacqui. Steppin' on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996.

Murray, Albert. Stomping the Blues. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.

Hinkson, Melinda. "The Circus comes to Yuendumu, Again," reproduced from Arena Magazine no. 25, October-November, 1996, pps 36-39.

"what again?! I'm still crapping on about dance, power, etc" was posted in the category ideas and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

June 21, 2009

thinking about djing tactics and set structures

Posted by dogpossum on June 21, 2009 6:21 PM | Comments (1)

Thinking about DJing. Again.

Things I've noticed:

The less I dance, the poorer my DJing. I lose touch with what music 'works' for dancing. You can watch dancers and you can listen to music, but to really, truly know whether a song will work for dancing, you have to dance to it. I am at an obvious disadvantage here.

The less I dance, the more out of touch with tempos I become. This has manifested itself primarily in a) my determination to 'lift' tempos (which is getting a bit evangelical, I must admit), and b) my failure to properly work 'the wave', tempo-wise. I have instead been tending to sit between 150 and 170bpm, with sporadic trips up to 180 and 200 and >200 bpm. I need to remind myself that changing the average tempo a scene dances to cannot be achieved overnight or even over a few months; it can be achieved slowly, over a year and a large number of sets. It often requires parallel increases in tempos by teachers in classes. To assume that you will, single handedly 'change' a scene is also insufferably arrogant. Get over yourself.

Sitting/standing there DJing, watching the crowd, I forget that though they might actually be capable of 160bpm and higher, a room of dancers is a) mixed in experience, fitness, musical and dancing interests and energy, and b) only human. Working the wave - moving up and down tempos - is important for a number of reasons. It allows dancers to dance through or choose from a range of tempos. The fitter, younger types can dance every single song and relish the faster ones. The newer and less fit dancers can pick and choose, dropping in every second song yet still moving up and down the tempos (or even staying on the same tempos). Most importantly, this moving between tempos allows the DJ to really work the energy in the room. Though you can play an entire set on 155bpm, it will eventually feel a bit flat. The dancers mightn't pick the fact that every song's the same tempo (unless they're a DJ!), but their bodies and the general energy in the room will be affected.

The next set I do, then, I resolve to work the wave properly. I will begin at my 'floor' tempo (about 140bpm) and then move up and down - 140, 150, 160, 180, 200, 160, 140 etc. I will make the occasional abrupt change in order to work the energy in the room (eg 140, a high energy 150, 190, 160, 140, etc). I will also trust the dancers to get back up to 160; I won't be afraid to drop the tempos down, to get a low trough and then, more importantly, work our way way back up to higher tempos.

I think I also need to be careful of overplaying my new music. Just because you gots the new stuffs, don't mean you should play it all in one set. Right now I'm working on some stuff for a blooz set tonight. It's a very short set (45 minutes rather than 1.5 hours - reduced), so I have to be tactical. I can't really take a long, slow run up. I'll need to work the crowd properly from the get-go. I'm second DJ, so I do have a degree of leeway there: I'll be starting with a warm crowd. But I will have to work from where the previous DJ ends. Which I don't mind - I like having a starting place. I also like getting from something completely un-me to something typically me.
What I think I'll do (which I used to do), is get a few 'goal' songs - new or particularly interesting, or a specific style - and then put my set together (as I go of course - no pre-planned setlists here!) so as to reach these individual 'goal' songs, with each song moving smoothly between styles (or within a style) and moods. As opposed to trying to pack a set with 100% new and exciting songs. I have a feeling I'm becoming a bit of a stunt DJ, packing a set with 'riskier' songs, and not paying enough attention to my older faves or to crowd faves. This is actually a great departure from my earlier DJing, where I tended to overplay stuff to death. I am still overplaying things, but I tend to mix overplayed with brand-new-stunt songs, and, frankly, that smacks of the amateur.

I'll see how it goes and whether it's worth reporting back about.

"thinking about djing tactics and set structures" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

June 20, 2009

i love una mae carlisle

Posted by dogpossum on June 20, 2009 8:04 PM

umc.jpg and I always have. One of my very first 'jazz' albums was a crappy compilation of 'blues singers' and it featured a version of Blitzkrieg Baby by Una Mae Carlisle. I like her attitude. I like her voice. I like it that in her duet with Fats on 'I can't Give You Anything But Love' she gives as good as she gets from him. Checking out my emusic Chron Classics purchases in the discographies, I realised that she was playing with some seriously badass musicians, and that's no doubt why her recording seriously rock.

For those of you who've also bought stuff from emusic and don't have details (liner notes! want!), I've added what I have below. Musicians to look out for: Fats (of course), Zutty Singleton, John Kirby, Lester Young, Buster Bailey, Charlie Shavers, Ray Nance... and more! No wonder these recordings rock the kasbah!

Don't Try Your Jive On Me (05-20-38) Una Mae Carlisle with Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, Alan Ferguson, Len Harrison, Hymie Schneider 1938 2:52 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
I Would Do Anything For You (05-20-38) Una Mae Carlisle with Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, Alan Ferguson, Len Harrison, Hymie Schneider 1938 2:57 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Hangover Blues (05-20-38) Una Mae Carlisle with Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, Alan Ferguson, Len Harrison, Hymie Schneider 1938 2:52 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Love Walked In (05-20-38) Una Mae Carlisle with Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, Alan Ferguson, Len Harrison, Hymie Schneider 1938 2:38 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Mean To Me (05-20-38) Una Mae Carlisle with Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, Alan Ferguson, Len Harrison, Hymie Schneider 1938 2:40 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby (05-20-38) Una Mae Carlisle with Dave Wilkins, Bertie King, Alan Ferguson, Len Harrison, Hymie Schneider 1938 2:41 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby (11-03-39) Fats Waller and his Rhythm with Una Mae Carlisle 1939 2:57 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Now I Lay Me Down To Dream (08-02-40) Una Mae Carlisle with John Hamilton, Albert Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones 1940 3:05 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Papa's In Bed With His Britches On (08-02-40) Una Mae Carlisle with John Hamilton, Albert Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones 1940 2:42 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
If I Had You (08-02-40) Una Mae Carlisle with John Hamilton, Albert Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones 1940 3:27 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
You Made Me Love You (08-02-40) Una Mae Carlisle with John Hamilton, Albert Casey, Cedric Wallace, Slick Jones 1940 2:55 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Walkin' By The River (11-03-40) Una Mae Carlisle with Benny Carter, Everett Barksdale, Slam Stewart, Zutty Singleton 1940 3:05 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
I Met You Then, I Know You Now (11-03-40) Una Mae Carlisle with Benny Carter, Everett Barksdale, Slam Stewart, Zutty Singleton 1940 2:53 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Blitzkrieg Baby (03-10-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Shad Collins, Lester Young, Clyde Hart, John Collins, Nick Fenton, Hal West 1941 3:22 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Beautiful Eyes (03-10-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Shad Collins, Lester Young, Clyde Hart, John Collins, Nick Fenton, Hal West 1941 3:04 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
They'll Be Some Changes Made (03-10-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Shad Collins, Lester Young, Clyde Hart, John Collins, Nick Fenton, Hal West 1941 2:45 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
It's Sad But True (03-10-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Shad Collins, Lester Young, Clyde Hart, John Collins, Nick Fenton, Hal West 1941 3:31 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
I See A Million People (05-01-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O'Neil Spencer 1941 3:04 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Oh I'm Evil (05-01-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O'Neil Spencer 1941 2:25 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
You Mean So Much To Me (05-01-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O'Neil Spencer 1941 2:51 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
The Booglie Wooglie Piggy (05-01-41) Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O'Neil Spencer 1941 2:42 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941
Don't Tetch It! (02-13-42) Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O'Neil Spencer 1942 2:21 Complete Jazz Series 1941 - 1944
So Long, Shorty (02-13-42) Una Mae Carlisle with Charlie Shavers, Buster Bailey, Russell Procope, Billy Kyle, John Kirby, O'Neil Spencer 1942 2:30 Complete Jazz Series 1941 - 1944
Tain't Yours (05-23-44) Una Mae Carlisle with Ray Nance, Budd Johnson, Snags Allen, Bass Robinson, Shadow Wilson 1944 2:53 Complete Jazz Series 1941 - 1944
I'm A Good, Good, Woman (05-23-44) Una Mae Carlisle with Ray Nance, Budd Johnson, Snags Allen, Bass Robinson, Shadow Wilson 1944 2:50 Complete Jazz Series 1941 - 1944
I Like It, 'Cause I Love You (05-23-44) Una Mae Carlisle with Ray Nance, Budd Johnson, Snags Allen, Bass Robinson, Shadow Wilson 1944 3:06 Complete Jazz Series 1941 - 1944

"i love una mae carlisle" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

even more recent emusic adventures

Posted by dogpossum on June 20, 2009 6:35 PM | Comments (1)

Here, Trev - this is what I've been downloading from emusic lately.
Btw everyone else, if you're at all interested, then you can find me on emusic as dogpossum and check out exactly what I've been downloading.

Someone recommended Duke Heitger's Krazy Kapers on HeyMrJesse recently, and while I'll definitely pick that up at some point (you really should try JBM if you haven't - fabulous (really fabulous) range of music, delivered old-school, by snailmail), I went straight to emusic to see if I could get some instant satisfaction.

I found Rhythm Is Our Business by Duke Heitger And His Swing Band . Isn't that a scary here-comes-some-second-rate-neo! cover? But the album is actually quite good. I downloaded just one song - 'Murder he says' - because it's a strangely addictive version. I plan on DJing that tonight.

Here's the Betty Hutton version:

There is a Tori Amos version (from that crappy film 'Mona Lisa Smiles') but I wouldn't recommend it. In fact, it's the sort of shit you hear the odd DJ play at swing events. For which they will go to DJing hell.

At any rate, I'm into Duke Heitger, and will chase up more of his stuff. Basically, he's a badass trumpeter who's doing recreationist swing. That album is really quite good. As good (if not better) than people like the Campus Five.

He also has another album on emusic, The Rosehill Concerts. I prefer this one - the energy's a little hotter, and it's a live recording, which always lends itself to funner, higher energy... well, nearly always. I've downloaded a few good songs for blues dancing and a really nice version of 'Christopher Columbus', but I'm going to see how the 12-song deal on emusic goes. This album does rock, but many of the songs are quite long, which can be a bit of a challenge for DJing, especially when the tempos are higher.

So, Duke Heitger = good find. Thanks that guy on HeyMrJesse (I think it was Marcello, but I'm not sure).

I've also downloaded about a million versions of 'On Revival Day', because it's a truly fabulous song. Searching for these, I came across a bloke called Bob Howard. I picked a few songs from his 1937-1947 Chronological Classic. He sounds a bit like Fats Waller, but a little straighter and not quite as good.

The best version is the Bessie Smith one. She is the freakin' shizzle.

But I have a Jimmie Noone version I quite like from The Complete Recordings vol2 disc 3. This isn't the most amazing music in the world, but I really like Noone - I love his playing style. This one is 279bpm and a little too rough for DJing too often. The Bob Howard is a bit slower and a bit better.

Another version I picked up is by Carrie Smith from When You're Down and Out (a Definitive Black and Blue). This is a little closer to the overplayed Lavern Baker version (from the Bessie Smith tribute album), but it's a bit faster. I like Carrie Smith - she has a big, shouting voice. This version has the irresistible handclaps that make you want to dance like a fool. I also downloaded 'Nobody wants you when you're down and out' from that album for blues dancing. It's nice. Smith has a lovely voice and a really nice style. Reminds me a bit of Alberta Hunter, but her voice isn't as damaged and she doesn't mug quite as much (which is a bit of a relief - Hunter can get a bit much sometimes).

What was with my interest in 'Revival Day'? Well, I've taken to playing it after 'Lavender Coffin' sometimes when I'm DJing. It's not the best stylistic transition, but I like the whole 'jeeeeezus!' vibe. I usually play the Lavern Baker one, but it's a bit annoying and overplayed. I will move to the Carrie Smith one. Or the Bessie Smith, depending on the crowd and the vibe. Bessie Smith's is really the very best - she has the biggest, baddest badass voice.

And, finally, I got a bunch of stuffs from The Sidney Bechet Society Jam Session Concert album. Mostly things for blues dancing, though. This was another one I found via HeyMrJesse.

The wonderful thing about the latest HeyMrJesse show (June 2009) was that it featured bands from the recent Frankie95 weekend. Are we drooling, much? YES! Jesse is (as per usual) a bit heavy on the groovier, shufflier sound, but then, that's his cup of tea. There is some really lovely action in there, though, so have a peek. A trumpet solo on the version of 'Basin Street Blues' on the Bechet Society album just moved The Squeeze to a sort of frenzied loungeroom thrash-dance, so it has to be good.

EDIT: I have to add this one other album I discovered. I'd heard early Louis Prima was quite hot and good, but this was the first I'd actually sampled:

Louis Prima volume 1. I only grabbed a couple of songs, but I did get a sweet, uptempo vocal version of 'Chasing Shadows'. I also grabbed 'Swing Me With a Rhythm', but I might go back for more, because it's nice. Not the best music in the world, but fun.

"even more recent emusic adventures" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

June 16, 2009

swine flu and jazz

Posted by dogpossum on June 16, 2009 6:09 PM | Comments (3)

The weather is fairly shit (it's cold and rainy) and I've been ill with a craptastic cold since Friday, so spirits are low here at chateau de snot.

Today I finally felt a bit more normal and had managed to get a better night's sleep last night. This cold did impede my research, but it didn't stop me sewing yesterday. Not sewing terribly well I discovered today, but yesterday I took a lot of care and time to make a skirt that's kind of mutant and a collared shirt that's... well, let's just say interesting. I am trying to get better at making collared shirts with set-in sleeves. I haven't sewn anything in about six months, so it's all a bit challenging. But sewing's not really all that complicated, and it's difficult to forget how to do it. I have made one white collared shirt so far, and it's a bit bung. The problem really is the colour. I look really, really bad in white, and this style really doesn't suit me - too much white fabric and too much shoulder-structure-action. Ah, well. I'll have another bash tomorrow.

Being ill in our noisy house has finally convinced me that we probably should move somewhere quieter and on a quieter street. The Squeeze is agreed: quieter house would be good. But our house is large and has a garden and is renovated. So it'll be a smaller (and probably crapper) quieter flat. The thought of moving is anxiety-inducing, of course, but it'll be worth it for the chance at better nights' sleep, uninterrupted by loud trucks. So I'll start looking into that this week. Sigh.

We're off to Tasmania for Devil City Swing on Monday, going a bit earlier so we can have a bit of a non-dance related holiday. I'm looking forward to just being away. There's some dancing involved, but no major sets (one band breaks night - blurgh - and one late night - the first of the night, so not a terribly great spot). I'm sucking it up, though, as it means I'll be able to go home earlier on the early night and the band breaks set is the DJ version of community service, I've decided. I'm still packing injury, having overdone it a bit with the cranky poo last week, so no - or very, very little - dancing for me over the weekend. Good thing the DCS exchange is not a hard-dancing event - there'll be lots of people to talk to. And, if I play my cards right, plenty of little bubbies to squeeze (Hobart dancers tend to bring their bubs to dances - can I get an amen?!).

On other, DJ related fronts, I have a lindy set on Saturday night at the Roxbury, which I'm hoping will be as fun as the previous weekend, which was a big night. It was the Friday of a long weekend, though, so I can't really expect the same size crowd. And I did have a bit of a crappy technical experience (wtf's new about that? I have decided I suck with technical stuff - must get my learn on IMMEDIATELY to rectify this). But I am looking forward to it. I'm also down for a blues night on Sunday, which'll be good as there're blues workshops on that weekend. This week is also balboa week at the Bald Face Stag (urkiest venue ever), but I haven't heard back about that. I'm up for the challenge though: one day I will be a badass balboa DJ.

I am, as a consequence, trying to get on top of my music so I can play some decent sets in the coming week. There'll be at least four of them, possibly five, in all the major dance styles, I'm going to need to have mad skillz and a clue about my entire collection. I do have some lovely new things from emusic, though, which is always exciting. I've also sorted out my technical problems (knock on wood), so things should be a bit smoother. A visit to Hobart does mean, however, a trip to the best music shop in the country:

Music Without Frontiers
147 Collins St, Hobart, TAS 7000
p: (03) 6231 5411

It does not have a website. It's also very tiny. And it has the best range of jazz I've ever seen in a real, live shop. And its divided into 'nostalgia', 'classic' and 'bop', then with a separate section for blues (subdivided into jump blues and trad blues). Then that side of the shop moves into soul and funk. It's an absolutely fabulous collection. I've been there a million times, but I've never quite gotten to the other 3 racks of CDs. It carries _everything_: opera, country, alt., pop, etc. EVERYTHING. And the guy knows everything about each CD. He's also a bit loopy, but then, you'd have to be. And he's just had to deal with the opening of a JB HiFi, which sucks arses. He needs a website. He always cuts me a deal on my CDs, and is very occasionally patient when I want to preview stuff. I spend a few hundred bucks there each visit, and I see him about two times a year. And every CD I've bought from him has been really amazingly great. More expensive than the internets, but then I'm buying from a real person, the only person in a small city who bothers to bring quality music to the people, regardless of label or fad.

On a slightly related front, emusic has decided to fucking FAIL me just as I was getting seriously addicted. Those of you who have accounts will know that they've decided to carry Sony products. This means that they're increasing prices (by a really big amount) and also limiting access only to people who are in the US or Europe. Unless you already have an account with them. This means that my 50 songs per month account, which cost me about $14.99 will now only get me 35 songs per month for the same price. There will also be - apparently - '<12 song album deals', where you can download an entire album for the price of 12 songs. But only on select albums. This is actually a super bargain for me, as most jazz albums (especially the older ones) are around 20 songs. But let's just wait and see which albums will be marked for the deal. I wish I'd downloaded all the Chron Classics I'd had my eye on; now they'll be far more expensive and less awesome a find. It's all a big shit, really. I've been expanding my musical purchases with emusic, particularly in terms of shopping outside jazz and blues, and in buying music from indy labels. I'll wait and see how the 12song deal goes, but I think I might ditch my emusic subscription for buying CDs from amazon or downloads and CDs from places like CDbaby.

There are far more interesting and coherent posts about the emusic changes over at flopearedmule here and here.

And I'm finally going to get my arse over to a Sydney Jazz Club gig to see some live music. Watching George Washingmachine at the recent Darling Harbour Jazz Fest (which wasn't terribly great - stage FAIL) I was reminded of the awesome musicians in this town. None of whom we see at lindy hop gigs. But I'm going to get it together and go check out some of the hot shit in this town:

The Bechet Night: Bridge City Jazz Band - David Ridyard, Frank Watts & Nesta Davies
Friday 19th June 7:30pm
Club Ashfield - 9798 6344

Note the glorious venue: Club Ashfield. The worst freakin' part of Sydney is the RSL/club/gambling culture. Pubs here SUCK ARSE, in part because they are so dependent on pokies and gambling for revenue. Liquour licenses are expensive, and it's not really possible for little pubs to get by without pokies. There's not the same community pub culture in Sydney as in Melbourne. This is a very great shame.

But I'm interested in the music. So I'll go check it out. Anyone in the neighbourhood is welcome to join The Squeeze and I. We will not be dining in, but instead getting our noodle on in the main drag of Ashfield, which is a gastronomic universe away from the Ashfield Club. Possibly not a universe we should be occupying. Or even visiting ( offers a disturbing amount of evidence).

I'm also planning on going to see the Ozcats (legends of Australian jazz) on July 31 at the Drummoyne RSL.

I have to pause at this point and say:


And, please, not one with comic sans. Man, jazznicks are crap at internet. I feel like hiring myself out to them, if only to save myself the pain of reading their websites or having to try and find a paper jazz newsletter so I can learn about them. These guys are _so_ into social media, but the sort of social media that involve paper and nannas talking hardcore at the bar.

I am also considering a trip to the Newcastle Jazz Festival (28th-30th August). The names on the program are pretty good, but mostly, I'm thinking about a fabulous hostel I stayed at in Newcastle years ago. It's an old, converted mansion on the beach and was just about the most fabulous hostel I've ever stayed in (this one, I think).

I am a big fat jazz nerd. But at least my shirts are interesting.

"swine flu and jazz" was posted in the category djing and domesticity and lindy hop and other dances and music

June 4, 2009

more Esquire talk

Posted by dogpossum on June 4, 2009 1:04 PM | Comments (0)

Billie Holiday at the Met in 1944 as part of the Esquire All Stars concert (by GJon Mili from the Life series).

Other Esquire posts (mostly for my own remembering):
magazines, jazz, masculinity, mess
jam session photography
pop culture, jazz and ethnicity
it is a dj!

"more Esquire talk" was posted in the category music and research

queens jazz trail map

Posted by dogpossum on June 4, 2009 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

The Queens Jazz Trail Map is one that pops up almost every time google 'jazz map history'. Particular to one part of New York, this map is hand-drawn.


It is, however, only one of a number of jazz-related maps from Ephemera press (and I like the name - what are historical maps, if not an attempt to pin down the past?). I think I prefer the Harlem Renaissance one:

"queens jazz trail map" was posted in the category maps and music and research

more jazz maps

Posted by dogpossum on June 4, 2009 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

This site has a series of maps of Chicago listing jazz clubs. I haven't had a chance to look through it carefully, yet, but I think I'm going to go back and read it in tandem with the Kenney article (Kenney, William Howland. “Historical Context and the Definition of Jazz: Putting More of the History in ‘Jazz History’”. Jazz Among the Discourses. Duke U Press, Durham and London 1995. 100-116.) where he talks about black and white owned clubs.

One of the things I've noticed in all this talk of jazz history is the importance of walking and listening to the world around you. There're plenty of stories of journeymen musicians standing outside clubs listening to their heroes play, or of 'music in the streets'. Can't hear any of that action if you're driving a car, right? This has made me think about urban planning and community and how important a walkable city was to the development of jazz as community practice... not to mention dance in everyday life.

"more jazz maps" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and maps and music and research

May 25, 2009

it's not a dj!

Posted by dogpossum on May 25, 2009 6:37 PM | Comments (2)

Continuing with talk about jam sessions, magazines and jazz in the 40s... Dust4Eyes asked me if I'd seen the pic of the 'DJ' in the GJon Mili Life series. I hadn't. I've just been looking at them again, and came across this one:

This isn't actually a DJ, but someone recording the session. For a V-disc, I assume.
Neat, huh?

(NB Esquire also recorded their broadcast 'all stars' performances for V-discs)

More of my posts about this stuff:

pop culture, jazz and ethnicity.
jam session photography
magazines, jazz, masculinity, mess

"it's not a dj!" was posted in the category music and research

carol ralph

Posted by dogpossum on May 25, 2009 3:36 PM | Comments (1)


As soon as I posted that last post, I thought of Carol Ralph, an Australian singer (who totally PWNS - I thoroughly recommend her CD). I don't know Carol's background, and I feel uncomfortable writing about it. But she doesn't read 'black' or 'white'. I think I need to read a whole lot more about issues of ethnicity in Australia. I know I need to read more about whiteness-as-ethnicity.

That's a photo by my friend Scott, who's photography has improved so dramatically since November I was just stunned as I flipped through his pics looking for this one just now. In fact, his photos are just gorgeous - I like the way his photos of friends and of people he knows reveal the way he feels about them. They're very affectionate and often quite lovely photos.
Here's another of two lovely Melbourne leads:


It's funny, but I feel very strange writing about ethnicity in relation to this photo. These are my friends, and people I do not want to reduce to example of multiculturalism in swing dance. I want to tell you what it's like to dance with them, about how one of them makes films, and how the other is a lovey and one of my favourite stunt buddies. Ethnicity is important and part of who they and I are, but I don't think I have the language tools to talk about it in a way that does what I want. This, of course, was the difficult part of my dissertation. How to write about my own community, my own friends, myself, in a way that's respectful and yet also thoughtful and cognisant of these sorts of issues.

So I think I'll just end this post with another huzzah for Scott's photos (and the fact that he can make me feel all fuzzy inside looking at this lovely photo of my friends), and the recommendation that if you ever get the chance, you must dance with these boys. Or at least buy them a beer.

"carol ralph" was posted in the category clicky and lindy hop and other dances and music

pop culture, jazz and ethnicity.

Posted by dogpossum on May 25, 2009 2:43 PM | Comments (2)

NB: I've done some edits on this post for the shocking grammar/mistypes. Apologies.

In the 1930s and 40s - most particularly the 40s - jazz was mainstream music. It was popular. Though it had been discussed in a range of specialist magazines and periodicals (including Down Beat and Metronome) for years, the mid-40s saw mainstream publications like Life, Look and the men's magazine Esquire publishing stories and photos about jazz and hiring writers to produce jazz reviews. I think it's worth noting the point that Esquire was a men's magazine, that almost all the jazz promoters and managers were men, and that almost all jazz instrumentalists were male.


(Norman Granz from the Verve site)
This mainstreaming of jazz is interesting. It was also a challenge for jazz afficianados who were committed to raising the profile and status of jazz musicians as artists. Reading about Norman Granz, I've come across this discussion:

Beginning with the first jam sessions he organized and extending through two decades of JATP concerts, tours, and records, Granz applied three rules. The musicians he hired would be paid well; there would be no dancing at his events; and there could be no segregation on either the bandstand or in the audiences. The first of these rules responded to exploitative club owners and promoters. The second institutionalized a trend that was already familiar from other attempts to establish jazz as an art, a concert music. The third rule was most important, because it recognized the limitations of previous efforts to mix the look of jazz- efforts that had relied on an optimistic trickle-down theory of cultural-social change. Granz’s third rule attempted to ensure consumption as an act of resistance to racist conventions; it tried to direct attention both to the relation of individual consumers to the producers of the music they consumed and to the relations between individual, and perhaps different consumers of the same musical product (26).

It's interesting to see how Granz's efforts to raise the status of jazz as art coincided with his anti-segregation and anti-racism efforts. The popular served as 'low' culture, and low culture is where black musicians were situated. It's this equating of segregation with popular culture which I find really interesting. I'm also paying attention to the way jazz is 'artified' by various discourses.

Today jazz in Australia has been thoroughly canonised, stuffed into the 'elite' or 'art' category. It is not popular music. 'Modern' jazz is 'difficult art', 'classic jazz' is daggy and something for old white people. The issue of race works in a different way: there are no black artists in the jazz bands I see at Australian dances, besides the occasional female singer. This is in part because Australian multiculturalism works in a different way to American. But I also think that these efforts to 'artify' jazz has effectively distanced it from anyone other than white musicians and white jazznick fans.

This is just a first thought, so please don't take it as any final argument or position. But it's making me wonder about ethnicity and class in Australian jazz. We were, after all, segregated as well. And we did have a White Australia immigration policy. I haven't begun any work on Australian jazz, but I'm wondering how the contemporary jazz landscape looks, in terms of race and gender?

It's also important to note that there's a general undercurrent in much of the critical work on jazz that I'm reading (critical in the 'theorised' sense rather than 'reviewing records' sense) that bebop was far more challenging and engaged with race politics in America than swing. There's also some provocative stuff about masculinity and black masculinity in the literature on bebop).

(another Gjon Mili photo from his Life magazine series)
Additionally, I'm noticing that the 'jam session' is acquiring mythic status throughout all the jazz literature. This is where jazz musicians (regardless of colour or class) could come together and just play, for hours or days, in 'safe' clubs or back rooms. The implication is of course that in jam sessions musicians were 'free' and in staged performances they were 'caged' by social convention.
My spidey sense is tingling. If these jam sessions were so free and liberal, where are the sisters? Who's home looking after the kids or grandmothers so these uncaged tigers can jam the blues all night? You know, of course, that this brings us back to the role of gender in jazz, and in jazz journalism. And to my central research interest: the relationship between different media within a community... or in constructing community.

Knight, Arthur, “Jammin’ the Blues: or the Sight of Jazz, 1944”. Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard. Duke U Press: Durham and London, 1995. 11-53.

An earlier post on magazines and jazz
An even earlier post on magazines, jazz and masculinity

"pop culture, jazz and ethnicity." was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music and research

May 22, 2009

djing for balboa... again, and not terribly well

Posted by dogpossum on May 22, 2009 1:52 PM

Last night I DJed for balboa dancers again. That makes three times, ever. I'm not sure I'm much good at it. I can't quite figure out what they like and whether they're really into the stuff I'm playing. They're very kind and thank me for my DJing, but I'm not quite sure I'm cutting it. There are a few challenges: I don't dance balboa very often and I've never attended a hardcore all-bal weekend or event. I don't lead bal very often at all, and I don't really understand the way balboa dancers use space or the music, so I'm not so good at reading the floor - it all looks small and tight and lowenergy to me. Because I don't go to balboa dancers, I have no idea which songs are 'popular' or favourites, so I have no careful 'safety song' list.
So far I've noticed they like: 'Jive at Five' - Basie (1939). Ellington's 'Rockin' In Rhythm' (1931) went down well last night, as did some Katharine Whalen (Just You Just Me). Mora's Modern Rhythmists' 'Tar Paper Stomp' has gone down well in the past, so I tested them with Wingy Manone's 'Jumpy Nerves' (1939). I've talked about all the songs that use the 'In The Mood' riff before, and 'Jumpy Nerves' is just one of them. It's a nice little song - it doesn't feel rough and fast or aggressive. It's about 177bpm, but it feels mellow. The familiar riff often makes people feel a bit more comfortable as well.

I also did a little shark jumping, playing some Bob Wills. I love 'Stay A Little Longer', but I'm fairly sure it won't work for lindy hop. It's solid western swing, and the the rhythms don't quite work for 8 count lindy. I was wondering if balboa dancers could do something with it. Well, people really liked the song (once they got over mocking me for the hardcore western-ness of it), but they did find it tricky to dance to. I don't know if I'll play it again.

I think part of my problem with DJing for bal dancers is that I've not seen lots of very experienced bal dancers social dancing. I'm thinking of the international doods who dance bal hardcore. I've not sat and watched a crowd of them dancing all weekend. Nor have I listened to a weekend's worth of music. So I have no clue about the 'elite' bal scene (ie, I have no idea of what to aim for). I don't know much about the history of the dance, either.
Look, here's a clip of two very famous olden days balboa dancers, Hal and Betty Takier. The 'balboa' bits are usually recognised as the stuff in closed. But bal isn't necessarily all in closed position unless it's (to use the nomenclature but not to imply any 'rules') 'pure bal':

I have done a bit of research and asked a lot of questions, but all I really 'know' is that bal developed during the 30s and continued. As with lindy hoppers, there was a preference for big bands (which I suspect was a consequence of local culture - big ballrooms (where most people danced) hired big bands to fill big spaces, and because big bands were mega popular). Swing was super popular in the 30s and early to mid 40s, and the 'dixie' sound of 20s New Orleans was considered a bit naff - sort of 'old news' - though it was popular withe NO revivalists. By the 40s bebop was developing and live music culture was changing a bit. All this means is that there were lots of things going on in the 30s and 40s, musically. And we can infer that this meant some of it was popular with some people. I suspect then, as now, there were different patterns of taste and influence, depending on the age, interests, location, class and so on of individual dancers and small pockets of dancers.

What do balboa camps or events in the US look like?

Asking people overseas, watching clips of famous bal dancers and hassling visiting dancers or well-traveled dancers isn't all that helpful either, really. While such and such might be very popular in LA at the moment, each local scene has different musical tastes. These are shaped by a range of factors a) the music teachers play in class, b) what teachers say about music in class, c) what local DJs are playing, d) dancers' exposure to different tempos and styles - what they hear in all these spaces - and whether they've danced to these different songs. The usual ideas apply to tempos - more experienced dancers are better equipped for dealing with (and enjoying) a wider range of tempos and musical complexity. New dancers are often happy to dance to anything, but they can feel too intimidated to try something fast if they're not dancing with someone they feel comfortable with.

So while I might be thinking 'I'll play X, because my friends overseas love it, I've seen it in dance clips from comps, so I'm assuming locals have also watched these clips and are into it too,' it's more likely that a small class group will only have heard music from their classes. The strongest influences on local music tastes are still teachers, particularly for dancers who spend most of their dancing time during the week at classes. This is particularly true of students with the local McDonalds dance school - I've noticed it in Melbourne, and here in Sydney, that their musical tastes are largely homogenous, mostly because their teachers tend also to look within their school for musical tastes and dancing influences. Which isn't really surprising - we do tend to keep to our peer groups and to the opinions and examples of people we admire and have contact with. Thing is, my knowledge of balboa and music for dancing to balboa is so limited that I don't even know what's 'cool' with this small group of local dancers.

I don't want to slag off the local bal teachers, mind you. I've always found bal dancers and teachers to be particularly welcoming people, and to be very supportive of my DJing (far more than lindy hoppers) and also to be most prepared to experiment with new music and new dancing ideas. Part of me, though, suspects that the small, specialist/fanatics pond which encourages such a nice, friendly and supportive culture also inhibits a broader overview of music and dancing styles. But I also suspect that idea is bullshit: often the most hardcore fans have the most hardcore knowledge of the object of their fanaticism. And balboa - as with blues to some degree - is pretty specialist in Sydney and Australia. These dancers are also disproportionately well-traveled; many of them travel overseas to balboa festivals.

Of course, the easiest solution to my balboa DJing quandary is to get out there and dance some freakin' balboa. But there are a couple of impediments here: my injured foot is in no way ready for hardcore balboa learning and dancing, and I'm just not that into dancing bal. If I had to choose between bal and lindy, I'd choose lindy every time. And because my dancing is so limited (as in non-existent) these days, I can't imagine 'wasting' a dancing opportunity on bal. In fact, if I had to choose between lindy, bal or jazz these days, I'd be 100% jazz; I just find it most interesting and challenging.

All this just goes to show that to be an excellent DJ for dancers you have to:
a) dance the dance they're into, and dance it frequently;
b) travel a lot - as a dancer and DJ - and pay attention to the music and dancing you see going on around you;
c) learn a lot - watch video clips, read about music and dance, eavesdrop on discussion boards and take classes;
d) keep your finger on the local community pulse; just cause it's cool in the US, doesn't mean it'll fly in Sydney;
e) make changes slowly and gradually, don't assume you can just drop in and change dancers' worlds;
f) be prepared to be wrong most of the time. Keep your eyes and ears open, and be prepared to change your opinions and ideas about DJing as you DJ;
g) accept that though there's some underlying logic and some consistencies in how people respond to music and how you can manipulate the responses of a crowd, at the end of the day, you have to stop thinking and just go with your instincts and feel what's going down. Just like dancing.

I'm enjoying learning how to DJ for balboa dancers because it is so challenging. It's making me rethink everything I've assumed about musical tastes and dancer/DJ responses.

Right now I'm working with these assumptions:
a) Bal dancers in Sydney are more comfortable with a range of tempos than local lindy hoppers are: bal doods are happy in the 160-250bpm range, and will happily have a bash at anything faster. Lindy hoppers in Sydney are most comfortable in the 120-160bpm range, though they will stretch if you're sneaky and take care to not overwork their energy/fitness (hopefully we'll see an increase in tempos, but only if teachers in class get the tempos above 115!!).
b) Bal dancers can work with lowenergy/high tempo combinations, but lindy hoppers have more trouble (I find experienced dancers are ok, but newer dancers need to be fired up with higher energy to work with higher tempos... but that could just be how I work as a DJ; the theory needs wider testing).
c) Bal dancers are more interested in the type of music I currently love - early 30s stuff. They like a variety (as most rooms full of diverse people do), but they're interested in exploring this earlier stuff. Most of this earlier stuff is a bit faster, so they're happy with the stuff play.
d) Some stuff just screams 'lindy hop!' But I'm not quite sure where the line is - when something stops being bal and screams lindy hop. I suspect it's entirely subjective. But I'm also fairly sure it has something to do with the rhythms and the horizontal feel of the music. I can't really explain that further beyond a feeling that bal feels more like early swing and hot jazz than like later swing that's super swingy. I could be wrong there, but I just don't have the experience to judge that yet.

Anyways, here's the set I played last night. It was a small crowd, with only about six leads to about twelve follows. It was a small, after class gig (and people've been dancing and learning intensely for a couple of hours already), so the emphasis was on 'practicing', low-stress dancing, socialising and touching base with people. After-class gigs also have a stronger focus on the teachers and a group of people who know each other quite well, so the social dynamic is a bit different to a general en masse social dance. It's a pub venue, so people are also buying drinks and drinking. The sound system is decent, the floor is small.

(title artist bpm album length)

I've Got To Think It Over Willie 'The Lion' Smith and his Cubs 164 Willie 'The Lion' Smith And His Cubs 2:37
Call Me A Taxi Four Of The Bob Cats 175 1938 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 3:13
The Wedding Samba Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 187 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 2:30
Flying Home Benny Goodman Sextet with Charlie Christian 167 1940 Charlie Christian: The Genius of The Electric Guitar (disc 1) 3:16
You'll Wind Up On Top Bus Moten and his Men 182 1949 Kansas City - Jumping The Blues From 6 To 6 2:47
We're Muggin' Lightly Leo Mathisen's Orkester 227 1942 Leo Mathiesen 1942-43 Terrific Rhythm 3:03
Jive At Five Count Basie and his Orchestra 174 1939 The Complete Decca Recordings (disc 03) 2:51
Jumpy Nerves Wingy Manone and his Orchestra with Chu Berry 177 1939 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions (Disc 5) 2:53
The Mayor Of Alabam' Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra with Jack Teagarden 206 1936 King Of The Blues Trombone - 2 3:14
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, Part 1 Benny Goodman Quartet with Martha Tilton 176 1937 RCA Victor Small Group Recordings (Disc 2) 3:27
Just You, Just Me Katharine Whalen 181 1999 Jazz Squad 3:22
Stay A Little Longer Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys 232 The Tiffany Transcriptions (vol 2) 3:07
Let's Misbehave Boilermaker Jazz Band 196 2006 You Do Something To Me 2:52
Zonky New Orleans Jazz Vipers 203 2006 Hope You're Comin' Back 5:06
Minor Swing Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five 202 2003 Jammin' the Blues 3:24
My Blue Heaven Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 170 1935 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 3:16
Rockin' In Rhythm - Take 2 The Jungle Band with Duke Ellington 190 1931 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 05) 2:53
Twenty Four Robbers Fats Waller and his Rhythm 196 1941 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 2:43
Charlie the Chulo - Take 2 Duke Ellington 225 1940 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 10) 3:10
Stomp It Off Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 190 1934 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 3:09
Honeysuckle Rose Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys 180 The Tiffany Transcriptions (vol 7) 2:12

As you can see, I have - once again - some music without dates. Back to the discographies. I find I'm having to go in there regularly to update my collection. I could just pay for a subscription, but I quite like visiting the library - free student shows in the cafeteria or in the concert hall, books, vinyl collections to raid, human beings to meet, and it's right near the FREAKIN' OPERA HOUSE in circular quay. Win!

I am currently obsessed with Willie the Lion Smith. He didn't head up too many bands, but he was an important pianist in lots of other people's bands. I'm also coming out of a Bob Crosby fad. More NO revival stuff, but it's sweet. I need to see the Australian Bob Crosby 'tribute band' the Ozcats real soon, so I can compare. Those two Crosby songs are quite different in sound and style, so they don't sound too 'samey'.

That Benny Goodman small group stuff is very popular with balboa dancers, I've noticed. The teachers played some in class, and I've heard other Australian bal DJs/teachers talking about it. I'm suspecting it's perhaps a fad; I love it and think it's marvelously complex, but it can be a bit lower energy. I prefer Willie The Lion Smith for that sort of feel, partly because he's higher energy. At any rate, that particular song is a V-Disc recording. Or so Benny Goodman says in the intro. But the wikipedia entry says that VDiscs weren't started until 1941, so either the date on that recording is wrong (which is from a large, fancy Charlie Christian boxset who's accuracy I hesitate to question) or the wikipedia entry is wrong. Whatever. I like the live intro. This song was played in class and drew people onto the floor immediately.

I love Bus Moten. I play a few of his slower songs for lindy hoppers a lot. This song has a lovely, cheery feel and feels nice and bouncy. Bus' vocal style is mellow and laid back, and he has quite a nice, light voice. The lyrics are way dirty, but you can just pretend he's singing about ... well, something else. People liked the song. I haven't played this for dancers before.

I love that Mathisen song. I haven't played it for dancers before. Mathisen is a Danish pianist who sounds like Fats Waller. This song starts out sounding a bit like Goodman - kind of tinkly and 'chamber jazz', but it has a bit of an edge and is a little hotter. A minute in the vocals begin, and the tone changes completely - it feels hot and more like Fats Waller with lots of silly chuntering vocals that actually feel wonderfully rhythmic rather than obscuring or impeding the beat. Some of the lower sax parts remind me of MBRB and that brand of New York early 30s hotness. Though Mathisen is a pianist, the song doesn't focus on his playing the way Fats' recordings tend to.
I don't know if this worked for balboa dancers. I think I'll test it on lindy hoppers. I know I'd love to lindy hop to it.

'Jive At Five' is a safety song, and filled the floor again after that last, faster song. It also feels laid back. It's an old favourite with most lindy hoppers who've been around a while. It makes me think of Frankie Manning.

'Jumpy Nerves' I've discussed above. It was a nice transition from the mellow JaF, and kept the mellower vibe that's quite important for smaller after-class gigs I've noticed.

I freakin' LOVE 'Mayor Of Alabam''. It's the combo of Teagarden vocals (he's my MAN), the bouncy, sprightly rhythm and melody. Another example of vocals working with the rhythms rather than drowning out or obscuring the beat.

'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen' is an old bal fave from Melbourne. I love this version for Martha Tilton's vocals and the laid back, slightly minor treatment by the rest of the band. It builds and builds energy but doesn't quite explode. It's a good builder to follow with a high energy song. Also, it's a good version of a song which is overplayed in a poorer, horrible version.

The Katharine Whalen song was a strange choice for me. I'd listened to it in the afternoon and thought it might work for bal, whereas it's not so great for lindy. This is, essentially, the Squirrel Nut Zippers (some of whom are in the Asylum Street Spankers and the Firecracker Jazz Band). I chose it for the good, hi-fi quality, the chunky beat and Whalen's vocals to follow on from Tilton's (Whalen's a bit like Madeline Peryoux, but BETTER). I wanted to pump up the energy, and hi-fi is a good way to go. I was priming the room for the Bob Wills song, which is high energy, but perhaps too tricky for bal.

Then the Boilermakers as a 'recovery' song - they're popular in Sydney and the sort of music people've been dancing to bal to in Melbourne... not sure it works for this crowd, though.
'Zonky' was perhaps a mistake. I was flogging a dead horse - too much of the same, hi-fi, hot stuff. It's too long a song, too. But I love it and didn't think people could hack the McKinney's Cotton Pickers' version. Also, I was talking and not 100% focussed.

'Minor Swing' is a bal fave and was a calculated floor filler.

'My Blue Heaven' because people were getting tired, but still wanted to dance. This is a good song, but the vocals aren't properly mixed - the rest of the band goes really quiet, which sucks. Otherwise, it's quite mellow and nice, and people know the melody.

'Rockin' in Rhythm' is the fushiz. I love this sort of Ellington stuff. It went down ok, but people were kind of over hardcore dancing by then, and the leads were buggered.

The Fats song is quite well known, and someone requested some Waller. Which wasn't hard to accommodate.

'Charlie The Chulo' is my passion. I keep coming back to it. I don't think it's so great for lindy hop (though I've seen some great dancing to it). I thought I'd test it on the bal dancers. But perhaps it was too full on for too late in the night. Some people liked it.

The last two were really just fillers til we ended the night. An early night at 10.20pm, but an hour's worth of DJing was really all I was up for. I love 'Stomp It Off' and it always goes down well with dancers. People liked that version of 'Honeysuckle Rose' as well. It's a dancers' fave, but I never play it, ever, mostly because I HATE that late Ella version with all the scatting. This Wills one is nicer. Though I did get more ribbing for the western guitar.

Then I rode home. I love riding to and from DJing in Leichardt - it's a quick, 15minute ride on a safe route, and it gets me warmed up for DJing and then lets me work out my post-DJing excitement on the way home. I managed to dodge the rain last night and had a lovely ride home in the cool, quiet evening. Sydney rainy season rocks: it's not bitterly cold and windy as it would be in Melbourne on these sorts of days.

Generally, it's a set of music I really like, but I think there's a bit too much experimentation in there. I really DJ bal like a complete bub DJ who's a new dancer - I just don't know what's 'familiar' and 'safe', I try too many 'new' songs that I love and which don't necessarily work for dancing. But they ask me back for DJing, so I mustn't suck that much.

If you're interested, here are a couple of bal clips I quite like:
AnneHelene and Bernard 2006 Bal Rendezvous. I like this couple's dancing. They're French, and very nice people. I really like his relaxed, fluid upper body. A lot of bal leads (who happen to be men) tend to carry way too much tension in their upper body, so they look stiff and uncomfortable to dance with. I don't know how to just the quality of this couple's dancing, but I like his relaxed, flowing style. It makes me want to dance balboa.

Marcus and Barbl in 2003. An oldie but a goody. They stuff up a few times, but I don't mind. No one can strut like a camp German man with a moustache.

"djing for balboa... again, and not terribly well" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

May 21, 2009

jam session photography

Posted by dogpossum on May 21, 2009 2:41 PM | Comments (0)

Remember I was all interested in magazines and their interest in 'all-star' shows and bands? Well, I've been reading* about Gjon Mili, who directed 'Jammin' the Blues':

(I think this version is edited down... but I'm not sure)

Seen that one? Maybe you haven't seen this one:

Here's the blurb from the youtube site:

Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili joined with jazz producer and Verve-label owner Norman Granz to produce the short film "Jammin' the Blues" in 1944 with Lester Young, Red Callendar, Harry Edison, "Big" Sid Catlett, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones and Marie Bryant. The film was nominated for Best Short Subject at the 1945 Academy Awards, but didn't win.

The pair came together again in 1950 to shoot footage of leading jazz artists of the day, but when funding dried up, the film ceased production and sat on shelves for 50 years (except for a few snippets which found their way onto bootlegs).

Blues For Greasy is one of those pieces shot by Gjon Mili and Norman Granz, using musicians from his Jazz at the Philharmonic tour.

Harry 'Sweets' Edison: trumpet
Lester Young: Tenor Sax
Flip Phillips: Tenor Sax
Bill Harris: Trombone
Hank Jones: Piano
Ray Brown: Bass
Buddy Rich: Drums
Ella Fitzgerald: Vocals

Isn't Youtube wonderful?
But then, Google is pretty good too:

Gjon Mili was actually a photographer, who did lots of work with magazines like Life. He also did some work for Esquire, including a 'Jam Session' shoot at his studio. And because the internets is truly freakin' awesome, I had a little look at the Life photos on Google and found this freakin amazing collection of photos.

What's so great about this series? Lots of things. The sheer calibre of stars, all together in one room, playing jazz. Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Billie Holiday, Eddie Condon... there are just so many amazing musicians in there together. One of the other important things to note about this session is the fact that this is a group of mixed race musicians, playing and photographed together. That was still pretty amazing in 1943.

This is my favourite one:

I like it because it's Billie Holiday singing 'Fine and Mellow' with Cozy Cole on drums. I'm sure someone with a better eye could identify the others. This isn't the famous 1957 television performance I've posted before, though.

I also quite like this one:

It's a group of people from vogue magazine at the same photo shoot.
You know what I'm thinking.

*Knight, Arthur, “Jammin’ the Blues: or the Sight of Jazz, 1944”. Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard. Duke U Press: Durham and London, 1995. 11-53.

"jam session photography" was posted in the category fillums and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

May 14, 2009

omg: jazz oral histories!

Posted by dogpossum on May 14, 2009 11:15 AM | Comments (1)

Reading yet another article (Peretti's “Oral Histories of Jazz Musicians: the NEA transcripts as texts in context”), I found a reference to the Jazz Oral History Project, which is a collection of interviews with jazz musicians. The collection includes both oral and transcript records. The paper is centrally concerned with the challenges of working with oral histories (which of course is related to the idea of the 'history' and telling the history of jazz).

The JOHP was begun in 1968 by the National Endowment for the Arts, run by the Smithsonian, and after 1979 by the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University-Newark. Many of the musicians were not applying for or receiving financial support from the NEA, so it developed the interview project as a way of ensuring older jazz performers received money. Each subject was paid $2000 for a minimum of five hours speaking. The project's funding was cut by two thirds by the Reagan government in 1983. Musicians were chosen from a range of groups, and were both big names and smaller sidemen(and women). Elderly or unwell musicians were targeted in particular. Almost fifty of the 123 subjects had died by the end of 1991.

The JOHP's main goal was to capture the reminiscences of older jazz musicians in substantial and serious interviews (Peretti 120)

I'm particularly interested in this process of interviewing older musicians because of the importance of older dancers in the swing dance community. Dancers such as Frankie Manning (who passed away a couple of weeks ago, and who is deeply mourned by thousands of dancers) have been an essential part of contemporary swing dance culture. Not only as a source of story and recollection, but as a dance teacher and as a cross-generational mentor and role model for younger dancers.

But back to the JOHP. As soon as I read that there were audio records, I thought 'Oh baby, this has to be on the internet! How fully sick would that be?!' So I gave it a good google, and found the Institute of Jazz Studies' JOHP site. If you follow the links, you can listen to some sample audio files or read some transcripts. My initial reaction is: where are the rest of them?! There are heaps, according to the Peretti article. The site says:

The condition of the original reel-to-reel and cassette tapes and some of the service copies had deteriorated to the point where the Institute could no longer offer access to large parts of the collection. With recent funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, all 120 interviews have now been preserved in digital format. The digital versions of the interviews are currently stored in various media forms, including multiple sets of CD's for archival purposes as well as for client access at the Institute. The digital versions of the interviews are also being ingested into a new digital library repository (RUCORE) under development as part of the Rutgers University Libraries new digital library initiative, which will provide another form of archiving as well as enhanced means for access by users.
I'll investigate and see what I can find.

*This institute was founded in 1950 by Marshall Stearns, John Hammond George Avakian. Stearns was the author of Jazz Dance (which he cowrote with his wife Jean), and he also conducted some very famous interviews with Al and Leon. John Hammond was, of course, the famous jazz promoter (who was also involved with the Newport Jazz Festival) and George Avakian was a promoter and music producer. His son is a lindy hopper and DJ.

Peretti, Burton W. “Oral Histories of Jazz Musicians: the NEA transcripts as texts in context” Jazz Among the Discourses. Duke U Press, Durham and London 1995. 117-133.

Related projects:

"omg: jazz oral histories!" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music and research

May 10, 2009

every day is blog amnesty day for me

Posted by dogpossum on May 10, 2009 2:09 PM | Comments (0)

...because I feel no shame, and publish every entry I begin. For which I apologise.

I was just thinking: why do I alway recognise an Ellington song? Is it the arrangements or the soloists? Ellington's band carefully showcased each soloist with personally tailored and arranged solos/parts for specific people. So I guess it's a combination: parts and whole.

Then I was thinking about my obsession with various jazz pianists. I thought I might do a post with little bios and pics of each one. Then I got distracted. But here are some I love:

Willie 'the Lion' Smith. Wasn't a big band leader, but did a zillion songs with a zillion bands. One of my favourites is a song called '4,5, and 9' with Leadbelly in 1946 from a CD my mum bought me at the Smithsonian in Washington. It's (the song, not the Smithsonian) fairly sparse - piano, guitar, harmonica, male vocals. It has a rolling, rollicking rhythm that makes me want to roll and rolllick around the house. You can't lindy hop to it. You can only roll or rollick.

Fats Waller Duh. Was a band leader. Died younger than we'd like, but not surprising considering his lifestyle. His band was famously loyal and stayed with him for a very long time. He began his career with bands like the McKinney Cotton Pickers in New York. I love his light, tinkly playing, his chunky left hand rhythms and his lovely lyrics. I love the combination of light-hearted humour and melancholy.

Mary Lou Williams You tend to find women in jazz bands at the piano or behind the microphone, mostly because they were considered 'ladylike' musical pursuits. No tubas here. Williams was in Andy Kirk's band, and was important not only because she could play like a demon, but also because she was a badass arranger. She didn't sing (that I know).

There are plenty more, but these are the ones I'm currently interested in.

I was going to write something else about something else, but I've forgotten what it was.

Oh, that's right. I've been playing Flight Control on The Squeeze's ipod touch. I've been getting quite high scores. I don't like any of the other games. I don't play computer games at all, usually.

I was hardcore into sourdough recently, but my interest has waned. I am now interested in ... well, nothing much else, food-wise.

On other fronts, I've been doing an awful lot of reading about jazz, jazz history and jazz studies. Soon my brain will blow up. I think I'm procrastinating about another book I have to read and review for a journal. I'd better get onto that one quick-smart. But I just can't be arsed - I know how it'll end, it's not hugely well written, and while the content is very interesting, I just can't stick with it.

My foot has been much, much better. But yesterday and today it was a bit sore. Podiatrist in about a week for an update, and a verdict on whether or not there'll be dancing again in my future, ever. Let's cross our fingers, shall we?

There is a cafe on the main drag of Newtown called Funky which made me a freaking wonderful prawn raviolli the other night. It was home made pasta, in large sheets, folded around some perfectly prepared prawns, in a light, fresh tomato, tiny-bit-of-cream and smidge-of-butter sauce. It was simple and perfect. I was amazed. The manager is a lovey and always seats me carefully when I come in on my own every other Friday evening for a quick before-DJing dinner. It is a delight to eat there. Especially as the cafes on that strip can suck bums. But it's really too nice to be called a cafe. And on the last few Fridays they've had a small, very excellent latin combo playing in their tiny restaurant. They had a double bass, guitar, bongos, vocals and ... something else last Friday. They were so good I wished I could dance salsa. I didn't even feel I needed to read my book, they were so nice to watch and listen to. And I do like a quiet sit-and-read on my own over a nice meal in a restaurant. I know it's not cool, but it's one of my greatest pleasures - eating alone in a restaurant.

That's all I've got for now, I'm afraid.

"every day is blog amnesty day for me" was posted in the category djing and dogpossum and fewd and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

May 6, 2009

ina ray hutton and her melodears

Posted by dogpossum on May 6, 2009 6:24 PM | Comments (0)

I'm currently in love with this song, 'Truckin'' (though I prefer the Henry Red Allen version I have), and Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears has been on my mind... what with their's being an all-girl swing band.

Teh orsum:

"ina ray hutton and her melodears" was posted in the category music

May 5, 2009

wingy manone

Posted by dogpossum on May 5, 2009 3:59 PM | Comments (1)


I've been downloading a bunch of Wingy Manone from emusic's Chron Classics/Complete Jazz collection. I thought I could keep away from him, but I can't. He played the trumpet in bands with all sorts of people in New Orleans, Chicago and New York.

This entry states:

Wingy Manone was a New Orleans trumpet player and vocalist who lost his right arm in a streetcar accident when he was ten years old. He wore a prosthetic arm while on stage performing and used it so well that many never noticed his disability.

Makes me wonder if they realise that it's not a disability if it's not impairing his abilities...

"wingy manone" was posted in the category digging and music

May 4, 2009

map of new orleans jazz neighbourhoods

Posted by dogpossum on May 4, 2009 8:50 PM | Comments (0)


This will make a lot more sense if you read more about it over here at the National Parks Service site. Yes, jazz + parks. It's a strange American thing. Remind me to post about the Century Ballroom and its interesting relationship with the NPS.

If you're digging on these maps, make sure you also check out the Louisiana maps, especially the historic ones.
I have been trying to 'tour' New Orleans via googleearth, but can't quite figure it out. Will report back.

Can I add: MAPS! SKWEEE!

"map of new orleans jazz neighbourhoods" was posted in the category academia and maps and music and research

the trouble with linear jazz narratives + more

Posted by dogpossum on May 4, 2009 6:33 PM | Comments (2)

In the earliest parts of my researching into jazz history, I tried to set up a sort of 'time line' or map* of musicians and cities and bands. Who played with which band in what city at what time? Then where did they go? This approach was partly based on the idea that particularly influential musicians (like Armstrong) would spread influence, from New Orleans to New York and beyond.

But drawing these time lines out on pieces of paper, I found it wasn't possible to draw a nice, clear line from New Orleans to New York, passing through particular bands. Musicians left New Orleans, went to New York, then back to New Orleans, then off to France, then back again to New York. The discographies revealed the fact that a band recorded in different cities during the year - they were in constant motion, all over America. Furthermore, musicians didn't stick with one band, they moved between bands, they regularly used pseudonyms and even the term 'band' is problematic. The Mills Blue Rhythm Band, with its dozens and dozens of names, was in fact a shifting, changing association of musicians, and did not even have a fixed 'core' set of players. Perhaps this is why the MBRB is so important: many people played with them, and they were a band(s) which moved and changed shape, a loose network of musicians who really only existed as 'a band' when they were caught, in one moment, on a recording. Or perhaps on a stage (though that's far more problematic). I wonder if that's why it's so hard to find a photo of them? Perhaps the 'Mills Blue Rhythm Band', as a discrete entity didn't really exist?

The more I read about jazz and 'jazz' history, the more convinced I am by the idea of 'jazz' as a shifting series of relationships. I think about cities not as fixed locations, but as points on a sort of 'trade route' or even as a complicated web or network of relationships between individual musicians (which is, incidentally, how I think about international swing dance culture - the physical place is important, but it's not binding).

Right now I've followed some references backwards to an article by Scott DeVeaux called Constructing the Jazz Tradition, which is really interesting. It not only outlines some of the political effects of a coherent 'narrative' history of jazz, but also the economic and social effects of positioning jazz as a 'black music', with interesting references to consequences of the 'jazz musician as artist' for black musicians. Read in concert with David Ake's discussion of creole identity and ethnicity in New Orleans as far more complicated than 'black' and 'white', this makes for some pretty powerful thinking.

I'm very interested in the idea of a 'jazz canon' and of the role of people like Wynton Marsalis, the Ken Burns Jazz discography, jazz clubs and magazines developing during the 30s and 40s devoted to New Orleans recreationism and the whole 'moldy figs' discussion. The tensions surrounding the Newport jazz festival also feed into this: the Gennari article (which I discuss in reference to its descriptions of white, middle class men rioting at Newport here) pointed out the significance of a festival program loaded with 'trad' jazz - for black musicians and for the popularising of jazz generally. I've also been reading about the effects of this emphasis on trad jazz for superstar musicians like Louis Armstrong.

O'Meally and Gabbard have written about the way Armstrong's public, visual persona is marked by ethnicity.
Armstrong was known for his visual 'mugging', or playing the 'Uncle Tom' for white audiences, particularly on stage. Eschen writes the struggle for equality accelerated, Armstrong was widely criticized as an Uncle Tom and, for many, compared unfavourably with a younger, more militant group of jazz musicians (193)
This, as Eschen continues, despite the fact that Armstrong was actually an active campaigner for civil rights in America, and overseas.
The trad jazz movement - or 'moldy figs' pushing for the preservation of an 'authentic' jazz from New Orleans - effectively pushes Armstrong to continue as Uncle Tom - unthreatening black man clowning for white audiences. A narrative history of jazz which emphasises a beginning in New Orleans and a consistent, clearly defined lineage of musicians and styles also, more subtly, relies on an idea of the black musician as powerless or unthreatening. DeVeaux makes the point that positioning jazz (and jazz musicians) as artistic loners who do not 'sell out' with commercial success:
Issues of ethnicity and economics define jazz as an oppositional discourse: the music of an oppressed minority culture, tainted by its association with commercial entertainment in a society that reserves its greatest respect for art that is carefully removed from daily life (530)
In this world, the 'true' jazz musician is 'black' (in a truly singular, homogenous sense of the world), he is poor and he is mugging for white audiences.
Billie Holiday becomes a particularly attractive representation for this idea of the 'jazz musician': poor, black, addled by drugs and alcohol, a history of prostitution, yet nonetheless, a creative genius pouring out, untainted in recording sessions (and I'm reminded of the 'one take' stories) and tragically cut short.

All of this is quite disturbing for someone who really, really likes jazz from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Am I buying into this disturbing jazz mythology? It's even more disturbing for someone who found similar themes in contemporary swing dancers' development of 'narratives' and geneologies of jazz dance history. As DeVeaux writes (about jazz, not dance), though, this is

The struggle is over possession of that history, and the legitimacy that it confers. More precisely, the struggle is over the act of definition that is presumed to lie at the history’s core (528)
I wonder if I should suspect my own critique of capitalist impulses in contemporary swing dance discourse?

I don't think it's that simple. Gabbard discusses Armstrong's work with Duke Ellington, including the filming of Paris Blues (in which Armstrong starred, and for which Ellington contributed the score) and the recording of the 'Summit' sessions:

…at those moments in the film when he seems most eager to please with his vocal performances, his mugging is sufficiently exaggerated to suggest and ulterior motive. Lester Bowie has suggested that Armstrong is essentially “slipping a little poison into the coffee” of those who think they are watching a harmless darkie….Throughout his career in films, Armstrong continued to subvert received notions of African American identity, signifying on the camera while creating a style of trumpet performance that was virile, erotic, dramatic, and playful. No other black entertainer of Armstrong’s generation – with the possible exception of Ellington – brought so much intensity and charisma to his performances. But because Armstrong did not change his masculine presentation after the 1920s, many of his gestures became obsolete and lost their revolutionary edge. For many black and white Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, he was an embarrassment. In the early days of the twenty-first century, when Armstrong is regularly cast as a heroicized figure in the increasingly heroicising narrative of jazz history, we should remember that he was regularly asked to play the buffoon when he appeared on films and television (Gabbard 298)

You can see a clip from Paris Blues here.

Armstrong's performance gains meaning from its context, from the point of view of the observer, from his own actions as a 'real' person (Armstrong was in fact openly, assertively critical of Jim Crowism and quite politically active) and from its position within a broader 'body' of Armstrong's work as a public performer. Pinning it down is difficult - it's slippery.

The idea of layers of meaning is not only interesting, it's essential. This physical performance of identity, tied to the physicality of playing an instrument reminds me of the layers of meaning in black dance. And of course, of hot and cool in dance, and the layers of meaning in blues dance and music. Put simply, what you see at first glance, is not all that you are getting. Layers of meaning are available to the experienced, inquiring eye. Hiding 'true' meanings (or more subversive subtexts) is important when the body under inspection is singing or dancing from the margins. Tommy DeFrantz discusses meaning and masculinity in black dance during slavery:

serious dancing went underground, and dances which carried significant aesthetic information became disguised or hidden from public view. For white audiences, the black man’s dancing body came to carry only the information on its surface (DeFrantz 107).

Armstrong's performance is more than simply its surface. As with any clown, the meanings are more complex than a little light entertainment. Gabbard continues his point:
In short, Ellington plays the dignified leader and Armstrong plays the trickster. Armstrong’s tricksterisms were an essential part of his performance persona. On one level, Armstrong’s grinning, mugging, and exaggerated body language made him a much more congenial presence, especially to racist audiences who might otherwise have found so confident a performer to be disturbing, to say the least. When Armstrong put his trumpet to his lips, however, he was all business. The servile gestures disappeared as he held his trumpet erect and flaunted his virtuosity, power, and imagination (Gabbard 298).

This, of course, reminds me of that solo in High Society that I mentioned in a previous post. There's some literature discussing the physicality of jazz musician's performances, but I haven't gotten to that yet (though you know I'm busting for it). I have read some bits and pieces about gender and performance on stage (especially in reference to Lester Young), and there're some interesting bits and pieces about trumpets and their semiotic weight, but I haven't gotten to that yet, either.

Sorry to end this so abruptly: these are really just ideas in process. :D

To sum all that up:
- The idea of a jazz musician as 'isolated artist' is problematic, especially in the context of ethnicity and class. Basically, the 'true jazz musician who doesn't sell out by making money' is bad news for black musicians: it perpetuates marginalisation, not only economically, but also discursively, by devaluing the contributions of black musicians who are interested in making a living from their music. Jazz musicians are also members of communities.

- Linear histories of jazz are problematic: they deny the diversity of jazz today, and its past. Linear histories with their roots in New Orleans, insisting that this is 'black music' overlook the ethnic diversity of New Orleans in that moment: two categories of 'black' and 'white' do not recognise the diversity of Creole musicality, of the wide range of migrant musicians, of the diversity within a 'white' culture (which is also Italian and English and American and French and....), of economic and class relations in the city, and so on.

- 'linear histories' + 'musician as artist' neglect the complexities of everyday life within communities, and the role that music plays therein. These myths also overlook the fact that music is not divorced from everyday life; it is part of a continuum of creative production (to paraphrase LeeEllen Friedland and to refer to discussions about Ralph Ellison - which I will talk about later on).

- Music and dance have a lot in common. They carry layers of meaning, and aren't simply discrete canvases revealing one, singular meaning to each reader. They are weighted down by, buoyed up by a plethora of ideas and themes and creative industrial practices and sparks.

DeFrantz, Thomas. "The Black Male Body in Concert Dance." Moving Words: Re- Writing Dance. Ed. Gay Morris. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. 107 - 20.
DeVeaux, Scott, “Constructing the Jazz Tradition: Jazz Historiography” Black American Literature Forum 25.3 (1991): 525-560.
Eschen, Penny M. “the real ambassadors”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 189-203.
Friedland, LeeEllen. "Social Commentary in African-American Movement Performance."
Human Action Signs in Cultural Context: The Visible and the Invisible in
Movement and Dance
. Ed. Brenda Farnell. London: Scarecrow Press, 1995. 136 -
Gabbard, Krin. “Paris Blues: Ellington, Armstrong, and Saying It with Music”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 297-311.
Gennari, John. “Hipsters, Bluebloods, Rebels, and Hooligans: the Cultural Politics of the Newport Jazz Festival.” Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 126-149.
Lipsitz, George. “Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz,” Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004: 9-26.
O’Meally, Robert G. “Checking our Balances: Louis Armstrong, Ralph Ellison and Betty Boop”. Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 276-296. (You can see the animated Betty Boop/Armstrong film O'Meally references here.

*The jazz map was found via, but they don't list the url for the map in context.
There's something seriously addictive about historic 'jazz maps'. I think it's because they're imaginary places. My latest find: New Orleans 'jazz neighbourhoods'.

"the trouble with linear jazz narratives + more" was posted in the category academia and djing and lindy hop and other dances and maps and music and research and thesis

Marty Grosz and his Honoris Causa Jazz Band, Hooray for Bix!

Posted by dogpossum on May 4, 2009 1:09 PM | Comments (2)

Marty Grosz and his Honoris Causa Jazz Band, Hooray for Bix! Despite the scary album cover (this was released in 1957), there's some nice stuff on this album. I'm getting a bit tired of New Orleans revival bands (especially the ones from the 50s and later), but Marty Grosz is a guitarist, and this is reflected in the music - there's a little less emphasis on the brass. Well, comparatively speaking. I'm still not liking the shuffle rhythm from the drummer on some tracks (it's just NOT RIGHT for NO stuff), but there are a couple of songs I really quite like and will play for dancers. In an ideal world I'd stick to the originals, but some of those originals are really scratchy.

In an interesting turn of events, emusic is now releasing the Chronological Classics albums as well as the 'Complete Jazz Series' albums, though they seem to be the same albums. I'm not sure whether there's a sound quality difference, but even CC wasn't perfect sound quality - it's more for people who're looking to collect everything from an artist during a particular year. Which you can do with these series.

"Marty Grosz and his Honoris Causa Jazz Band, Hooray for Bix!" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

May 3, 2009

recent emusic adventures

Posted by dogpossum on May 3, 2009 8:41 PM | Comments (2)

My emusic account ticks over on the 19th, and I've managed to hang onto some of my downloads til today... and there are still some left! It's too easy to use them up, though, especially when you're an ob-con tempted with the option of 'going complete' with an achievable artist... such as Jimmie Noone or the McKinney's Cotton Pickers. But I find I really can't absorb much more than my download limit per month. Well, not if I also want to keep listening to my existing collection and knowing it well enough to DJ with any sort of competence.

But this is what I've downloaded recently:

Lavern Baker Sings Bessie Smith. Just a few songs. I had a couple of tracks from this already from compilations, but I noticed it'd been added to emusic lately (that 'music you might like' thingy is very convincing) and figured I'd download a few things. Namely 'Gimme a Pigfoot'. I've just come across a really slinky Billie Holiday version and thought I'd like the Baker one. And I do. She's no Bessie Smith, but she don't suck. There are moments, though, when I wish Baker'd follow through on her big, arse-kicking intros; she tends to back off a bit a few bars in. Bessie wouldn't.

Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra 1941: The Complete Standard Transcriptions. Just a couple from here, but versions I didn't have. I've really enjoyed a few tracks from the Bob Crosby album in this series, and thought I'd give these a punt. Nice. No surprises, but slightly better quality than some versions of these I already have, and 'John Hardy' is a bit quicker (and snappier) than the one I had. Transcripts are interesting because they were recorded for the radio, some of them live. Digging through the discographies has made me realise just how important broadcast radio was to jazz and to music in the early days. Live broadcasts were de rigeur, and important to musicians' careers.

Jimmie Noone, Wingy Manone, Doc Cook and His 14 Doctors Of Syncopation, Andy Kirk and other scratchies. Mostly obsessing over these doods.

But I can never go past a little hifi or good quality saucy blues.

Big Mama Thornton's 'Ball n Chain'. Just the song 'Gimme a Penny'. Because that's all you need, really. Well, that and 'Hound Dog', because some skinny-arse white boy ain't got nothin' on this sister.

The Bluesville Years Volume 11: Blues Is A Heart's Sorrow (you don't need a photo for this one). I've downloaded various bits and pieces in this series. The quality is fab. The artists are amazing. The songs are super, excellently saucy. Not at all G-rated.

There are lots more, but this is the sort of thing I'm enjoying at the moment. Gotta go eat pizza now. :D

"recent emusic adventures" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

some things about djing that other DJs've taught me

Posted by dogpossum on May 3, 2009 3:12 PM | Comments (0)

Here are the most useful things I've learnt about DJing, from other DJs:

1. Begin as you mean to go on. Russell from Canberra used that line, and it's useful. If I don't want the tempos to be too low during the set, I try to make my first song the slowest I'll go during that set. No lower. From there, the only way is up.

2. Come in loud and proud - get that party started. Andy from Melbourne taught me the most useful tip for DJing blues I've ever learnt. He plays a loud, spankin' blues set - no quiet kissing and cuddling. I once heard him start a set in the back room at a late night at MLX by yelling "let's get this party started!" and playing some loud, chunky hippity hop. Only Andy could get away with that shit - his energy and enthusiasm is infectious.

3. Be really into the music you're playing.
Trev from Perth is a big, fat music nerd. He loves the music he plays. Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated with DJing for dancers because I'm not happy with the music I'm playing. I feel like I'm playing stuff I don't really like as a way of compromising between what I do like and what I think they like. But Trev doesn't seem to compromise - he plays what he likes. What he loves. I find that I do a better set and have a much better time DJing when I play music I love, and when I (consequently) really get into the feel of dancing. I figure, if it's good music, people will dance despite themselves. And as DJs, we're really doing this as a community service (as well as as a chance to show off), so why not buy and play music we like?

"some things about djing that other DJs've taught me" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

May 2, 2009

djing report

Posted by dogpossum on May 2, 2009 1:31 PM | Comments (0)

Last night I did one of the funnest sets ever. It was the first night of the balboa weekend (there are a couple of big name bal couples in town) and I was given a 'lindy/bal' brief. I figured I'd play hot jazz that makes for spankin' lindy hop, with some more 'complicated' ones in there for bal. I have only ever DJed for bal dancers once before, but I've been asking people and looking up the sorts of things that bal people like to dance to. From what I can gather, they like hot jazz that makes for spankin' lindy hop. There used to be an emphasis on New Orleans revival stuff, but I think that's shifted a bit.

2nd set, 9-10pm Fri 1 May, Roxbury, Sydney Balboa Festival 2009
(title artist bpm year album last played)

Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 164 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 1/05/09 9:10 PM
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 160 1946 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46 1/05/09 9:13 PM
Whoa Babe Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra with Lionel Hampton, vocal 201 1937 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 1) 1/05/09 9:16 PM
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 153 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 1/05/09 9:20 PM
Truckin' Henry 'Red' Allen and His Orchestra 171 1935 Henry Red Allen ‘Swing Out' 1/05/09 9:23 PM
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and his 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 1/05/09 9:25 PM
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 1950 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 1/05/09 9:28 PM
Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra 135 1945 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 1/05/09 9:32 PM
St. Louis Blues Ella Fitzgerald 183 Ella Fitzgerald In The Groove 1/05/09 9:37 PM
Call Me A Taxi Four Of The Bob Cats 175 1938 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 1/05/09 9:40 PM
Bearcat Shuffle Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy with Mary Lou Williams 160 1936 The Lady Who Swings the Band - Mary Lou Williams with Any Kirk and his Clouds of Joy 1/05/09 9:43 PM
Jive At Five Count Basie and his Orchestra 174 1939 The Complete Decca Recordings (disc 03) 1/05/09 9:46 PM
Shortnin' Bread Fats Waller and his Rhythm 195 1941 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 1/05/09 9:48 PM
Algiers Stomp Mills Blue Rhythm Band with Henry 'Red' Allen, J.C. Higgenbotham, George Washington, Edgar Hayes, Lucky Millinder 219 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 1/05/09 9:51 PM
Mr. Ghost Goes To Town Mills Blue Rhythm Band 192 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: 1933-1936 1/05/09 9:55 PM
Seven Come Eleven Benny Goodman Sextet 234 1939 Charlie Christian: The Genius of The Electric Guitar (disc 1) 1/05/09 9:58 PM
Stomp It Off Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 190 1934 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 1/05/09 10:01 PM
Peckin' (-3) Duke Ellington and his Orchestra with Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams 164 1937 Duke Ellington: The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion and Okeh Small Group Sessions (Disc 2) 1/05/09 6:09 PM

(that's the Mills Blue Rhythm Band there (well, part of), stolen from the internet)

I started with some NO revival stuff to follow up from Sharon's set (she'd just played some Boilermakers and something else in the same vein). I'm also a bit nuts about that Bob Crosby album atm, especially that great 'Rag Mop' song. I've never played that version of Jericho so early in a set before - it was interesting to see how it went down. I've found that this NO revival stuff doesn't work at the Roxbury, ever. But Sharon had warmed the room and the bal nuts (including a lot of out of towners) were up for it. Yay.
Then I played 'Whoa Babe', which I freakin' love: it makes me feel like dancing like a crazy, manic fool. Kind of dodgy transition from Bechet, but I wanted to ditch the NO stuff and get back to the Savoy. Then 'Viper's Moan' to drop the tempos a little, but get us towards the sort of sound I'm really into atm (that song isn't as overplayed here as elsewhere). Plus, Willie Bryant = A1. I love 'Truckin'' and Henry Red Allen. I love the lyrics. This was sort of my homage to all that truckin' business that's been getting about in the US at gigs like ULHS, etc. Plus, I was half planning to play 'Peckin' next, for the comedic value. 'Truckin' is actually a bit mellower, and feels more laid back, which I think the crowd needed as they were getting a bit frenetic and the non-hardcore-bal doods were looking a bit forlorn. That mellower feel tricks people into thinking the song is slower than it is, and I didn't want to let the tempos get below 160 if I could help it.
But then I played 'Back Room Romp'. It sounds and feels higher energy, even though it's slower. Again, I wanted to get the people on the sidelines up with something a bit slower. I'd also noticed the people dancing every song were looking a bit shagged. 'Solid As A Rock' and 'Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop' were crowd-pleasing favourites. I wanted a 'newer' sound (funny how 1950 and 1945 are 'new' in this context) with the 'smoother', hardcore swinging sound of that later classic swing period. Lower tempos to revive people, higher energy to get them up and dancing.
'St Louis Blues' is still my fave from that Ella album. I'm not sure what's happened to the date on that one - gotta chase it up now I'm home. It's mid-30s, though, or perhaps '38, '39, after Webb had died and Ella was leading his band. It's a fucking great song: high energy, live at the Savoy, absolutely A1. I keep meaning to play other stuff from that album, but I'm not sick of this one yet. And I rarely get to play faster stuff. It got people pumped.
'Call Me A Taxi': my 2nd Crosby song of the night, and perhaps a mijudgment. People were still dancing, but I'm not sure it did what I wanted. I should have stayed mega highenergy. But this is a great song for bal as well as lindy and it has lots of rinkytink piano, which I love, and which I wanted to use to get to Mary L Williams and Fats. 'Bearcat Shuffle' is lighter and feels kind of friendly - it's not a big wall of sound. It has a lovely piano line that makes me want to shorty george. It also screams 'swing out, bitch!' This was a resting tempo song.
'Jive at Five' because I was thinking of Frankie. This is a nice song - lighter and friendly, and while it's a bit quicker than 'Bearcat Shuffle', it actually feels a bit slower. It went down with bal doods really well last time I played it, so I gave it another whirl. Also, I love it. And: more piano-centred stuff.

Fats and my overplayed version of 'Shortnin' Bread'. Which I still freakin' love. It starts mellower and tinklier (like the last few songs), but it ends with a nice, fat, full shouting chorus that makes people crazy.

'Algier's Stomp' is so great. I'm not sick of it yet. Lighter, but chunkier than the previous songs. Less with the piano, more with the chunky rhythm section (yeah! great dancing!) and the brass, incl best baritone sax solo ever (well, after Zonky). Why, hello there Mr Henry Red Allen, it's good to see you again. This is something I know bal doods have liked in the past, plus it screams 'lindy HOP MOTHERFUCKERS!' to me.

Then 'Mr Ghost Goes To Town' by the MBRB again. Russ was hanging shit on me for thinking about playing a 2nd song by Fats earlier, so I was all 'HA! I mock your DJing rules!' The hi-fi Mora's Modern Rhythmist version of this song gets played a lot (esp up here), so I played this original, chunkier, aweseomer, faster version. It was familiar for the crowd (so they got up to dance if they hadn't been), it feels a bit slower, but it's actually chunky and driving. I have some reservations about the bunch of solos in the middle, but the sax solo redeems it.

Energy was way up in the room by then, so I went hardcore with the Benny Goodman sextet and 'Seven Come Eleven'. I love this song more than anything. It's a bit too complicated for lindy hop, and doesn't really have that badass, driving energy that makes you swingout. But I figured it's just right for balboa. It went down well. At this point Dave said to me "Hammy! In their face!" because it was so quick. It's not _that_ quick, for baldoods, but it's complicated so it feels like hard work.
Then I played 'Stomp It Off' because I wanted some Lunceford. This is another lighter sounding song, but it's still quite quick, so it doesn't drag. This is one I've played a lot, and tend to play after something very fast because it sounds slower and allows me to keep the tempos up but also keep people dancing. Bal doods like it.
Then I closed with 'Peckin' because it's GREAT and in honour of Ellington's birthday this week. I didn't get to play it directly after 'Truckin', but still, it rocks ("well you talk about the truckin' when the peckin' is (ill?)!" At this point Russ and I were heckling the crowd and demanding pecking. They failed, so we obliged ourselves.
Ah, DJ humour. How sophisticated it is.

This was a really, really fun set to play. I love the bal doods: they eat up the tempos. I get to play the more complicated stuff I tend to leave off for lindy hoppers. They're also interested in the early 30s stuff I really love. This is where my musical passions lie atm. It was a crowded room with lots of crazy dancing. I had an absolute ball.

I did worry that I was playing too much fast stuff, but people told me I wasn't. And reviewing the set, I did vary the tempos more than I thought I did. I think it was lots of fun to DJ because I was actually in the set properly. I worked the tempos in the wave, but I also worked the energy levels in the songs, and this is something I haven't had the brain to do lately. I felt like I did a much better job last night than I have in ages. It was a bit tricky to see the crowd, though (the lights were on over our heads in the DJ booth, but the floor was dark) and sometimes I felt I couldn't quite work the people who were sitting down.

Seeing as how it was MayDay, I was thinking 'fight the power' and 'for the workers!' but I'm not sure how well that came through. But I figure 2 tracks by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band - the hardest working gigging band of the 30s - were a pretty good flag-flyer for that.

And while I didn't get to play 'Shiny Stockings' for Frankie (Russ handled that - phew), I figured he'd have dug a hardcore Savoy set like that. Also, I saw some knickers when the follows were twirling, and I _know_ he'd have liked that.

Then Russ played a fun set that worked a different vibe, which was really nice - I think he did a lot of stuff I didn't in my set, so between us we managed to cover a wide range of styles. Also, I danced TWO SONGS and then danced some solo stuff a bit. I'm paying for it today, but man - those endorphines!

BTW, this is a useful site for info about early jazz. Thing is, it's about the worst, most terribly un-userfriendly site in the universe. This is the problem with a lot of jazznick sites: crappy layout. But if you do manage to navigate it, you'll find some fab pics, info and even sound.

"djing report" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

April 29, 2009

magazines, jazz, masculinity, mess

Posted by dogpossum on April 29, 2009 1:51 PM | Comments (3)

This is another in-progress bit of writing in response to things I've been reading lately. I've found some nicely critical engagments with jazz and jazz study, and am suddenly wishing I was in the US. This isn't the most coherent of posts, partly because I lost part of it with an inadvertent page refresh. Shit.

I've been thinking or wondering about the relationship between Esquire magazine and jazz, partly as a result of my work with the jazz discography (and following Billie Holiday). There were a few concerts in 1944 and 1945 featuring the 'Esquire All Stars' - a group of truly big names: Roy Eldridge, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Coleman Hawkins, Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey and others.

There are some albums released from these concerts, including one interesting one called At the Met, the cover of which is particularly provocative when you consider the issues I raise below.

I've just found this in a paper about Miles Davis:

By the 1950s, American had become aware of subtle shifts in social and gender roles. Sociologists and psychiatrists were talking about men trapped in gray flannel suits, the age of conformity, the weakening of the superego, the other-directed person. The concern was that a new postwar economy was creating a society in which people were externally motivated, too well adjusted, too sociable. Scarcely concealed behind the jargon of social science was the fear that it was not women who were changing, but men, who were becoming soft, emotional, and expressive - that is, more like women rather than like the rational and task-oriented patriarchs who had built and protected America. More often than not, such ideas were dressed up as if they were the received wisdom of the ages, but their sources were transparently pop.
Elsewhere, Playboy magazine was wrestling with the same anxieties and assuaging them with a particular kind of male hedonism, promoting the good life for the single man: money, imported cars, circular beds, top-of-the-line stereos, chicks. And like Esquire before it, Playboy championed jazz, as a male music, to be sure, but the music of a certain kind of male, as the couture, decorations, and genderized illustrations of the jazz life in its pages made clear. Then there were the Beats, detested by Playboy, but sharing some of its fantasies by celebrating freedom, male bonding, drugs, art, and the hip lifestyle, one of their inspirations being the nightlife of the black musician (Szwed 183).

This article "The Man" discusses Miles Davis' masculinity, positioning him in the 1950s as both 'a man' and as a jazz musician. There's lots of talk about 'masculinity'. We can also draw some conclusions about white, middle class men and their interest in black masculinity as some sort of 'free', 'sensual' and 'vibrant' ideal. Particularly in reference to the Beats.
It's been interesting reading this article after one about the Newport Jazz Festival, “Hipsters, Bluebloods, Rebels, and Hooligans: the Cultural Politics of the Newport Jazz Festival" by John Gennari. Particularly in reference to this section:

At the Newport Jazz Festival on the fourth of July weekend in 1960, thousands of white youths described by Life magazine as "more interested in cold beer than in hot jazz” spilled from the jazz concerts into Newport’s downtown, attacking policemen, kicking in store windows, and manhandling the town’s residents and visitors. Press reports noted that many of the drunken rioters screamed racial epithets while rampaging through the town. State police used billy clubs and tear gas to stem the riot, then called on the marines for help in restoring order. When the air cleared, over two hundred of the marauders found themselves in local jails, while more than fifty of their victims required medical attention. One witness told the Providence Journal: “I’ve experienced fear twice in my life. Once was in combat during World War II; the other was Saturday night in Newport.” Scheduled to end on Sunday night, the festival was ordered shut down on Sunday afternoon by the Newport city council. The last act was a program of blues narrated by Langston Hughes. Anticipating the city council’s action, Hughes penned a set of lyrics on a Western Union sheet. He handed them to Otis Spann, who sang them slowly as the crowd quietly departed.

Among a rash of press reports on the riot, one commentator blamed the allure of Newport, a “resort area which hold[s] a fascination for the square collegian who wants to ball without running the risk of mom and dad stumbling across his prostrate from on somebody’s lawn.” Mordantly noting the contrast between the Newport gentry “in the front row with their Martini shakers” and the youngsters “squatting in the back, their heads between their knees, upchucking their beer,” journalist Murray Kempton wondered, “Was there anything in America at once so fashionable and so squalid?” To many who had embraced Newport as jazz’s City on a Hill, a sterling model of New England Brahmin philanthropy, more disconcerting than the spectacle of loutish yahoos profaning the festival was the rioter’s identity. These were not switchblade-wielding rebels without a cause, nor pothead beatnicks in overalls. These ‘young hooligan herrenvolk of the Eastern seaboard,” as Village Voice jazz critic Robert Reisner dubbed the rioters, were students from the elite colleges, fraternity brothers on a fast track to the corporate boardroom. “You could tell the students from Harvard and Yale,” wagged one man on the street: “They were throwing only imported beer bottles.” (Gennari 127)

I'd previously thought about the Newport Jazz Festival in reference to the film High Society and the documentary film Jazz on a Summer's Day, both of which suggest class tensions, but in the politest way. Neither references these sorts of middle class men rioting (!). In fact, JOASD is, as Gennari discusses, a more than a little arty, genteel and restrained. Here's a gratuitous clip to illustrate:

For many dancers Newport is significant for the albums recorded there by Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Gannari discusses the racial tensions at work in the Newport Jazz Festival, particularly in its later years and in reference to Louis Armstrong's performance in JOASD which is a little too uncle Tom to be precisely comfortable (and Gannari complicates this with references to Armstrong's own ability to subvert this stereotype). Unlike the idealised descriptions in Beat literature (including some sections in On the Road, which have always bothered me, especially when read in conjunction with Anne Petry's novel The Street), in JOASD black masculinity is carefully contained.

I guess what I'm trying to do here is make some distinctions about representations of race and class in mens' magazines, in music magazines and in films like JOASD. Mens' magazines and Beat writers presented an idealised black masculinity with was free, undomesticated, independent - an artist unbound. Films like JOASD and High Society present black masculinity as safely contained as an item of novelty by the bandstand or (as in JOASD) safely receptive by chairs in the audience. Both of these disconnect them from the broader community of which they were a part... the communities, I should say.
I always think about stories about Nat King Cole in these sorts of discussions. About an anecdote I heard on a TV doco. Cole, financially and artistically successful, bought a large house in a wealthy white suburb. His lawn was set on fire/painted with racial epithets. Though he sought the trappings of middle class security, he was still tagged as 'other'.

Let's talk a bit more about High Society.

This is my favourite part of the film. Armstrong is, effectively, the narrator of HS. It is his voice which anchors the film. I like the way he introduces us to Newport, and his presenting jazz as the most important part of this narrative. I like the casual setting of their playing - playing for fun, for their own enjoyment rather than for an audience. Armstrong's story is for the guys in the band. I kind of like the idea of the band on the road because it echoes the idea of bands and jazz as music in transit. Travel and jazz are also buzzing about in my head at the moment (and I've talked about it before). Their place on a bus is interesting, too, as it clearly marks their class later on, when we see characters like Samantha zipping about in their flash, private cars. Again, buses are a space I think of as 'public', and I'm really interested in the way musicians and dancers make public places 'space' - they occupy it aurally and physically and socially, cutting down invisible lines between individual people with a song or a dance step.

But this contrasts with the following clip (one described in Gennari's article).

This is such a great song. And a fascinating scene. Armstrong and the band are actually introduced to the very white, very upper middle class Newport gentry by Crosby (I can't remember why, exactly). The point is that they're introducing this crowd to jazz. And, we can assume, to black musicians as more than servants. It's pretty radical to have a white singer on stage with a black band, but not that crazy. The band are, of course, matching in their suits. The part I like most is where Crosby's perfectly articulated, wonderfully modulated voice is upstaged by Armstrong's badass trumpet solo. Crosby is perfect; Armstrong is perfectly badass.
This song is popular with dancers, but this version isn't so great for dancing. It's a little too mannered. There's another version where Armstrong sings all the lyrics and the song, generally, has a little more kick. It makes you want to dance. I wish I could find it on the internet, but I can't. Having Armstrong sing as well as play trumpet anchors the song in quite a different way. Armstrong is more comfortable with improvising, and the subtext feels a little saucier. There's a greater element of call and response. And improvisation, of course, is the best way of escaping and adding creatively to a song without it collapsing into random noise.

This clip is significant for its role in introducing the Newport Jazz Festival to a white, straight crowd. And Newport was largely, as one of the promoters George Wein insisted, about popularising jazz. Or about introducing jazz to mainstream America. Debates about the types of jazz on display at Newport, about work practices, pay and the general culture of the festival during a period of Jim Crow legislation make it particularly interesting. Because, remember, the fact that Louis Armstrong and his band are sitting at the back of the bus is very important. Segregation meant that where they traveled and how they traveled and how they played music was managed by law. In this context, what does it mean for Armstrong's solo to bust right out of the carefully mannered, modulated frame set up by Crosby and his 'introductions'?
Of course, in the film HS the white crowd return immediately to 'not-jazz' music and dancing after the performance; this was a moment's entertainment.

I'm not really sure where I'm ultimately going with all this, but there's something niggling me about the connection between men's magazines, masculinity in the postwar (1940s-60s) period, jazz and jazz performances - big jazz concerts in particular.I've also come across an interesting discussion of gender and masculinity in jazz by David Ake in the article "Regendering Jazz: Ornette Coleman and the New York Scene in the Late 1950s". I'm also thinking about jazz clubs in the 40s and 50s, their (predominantly male) membership and their effects on the jazz scene. There's something about big jazz concerts in there too, I think, that I have to follow up. Especially since I noticed just how many live recordings Billie Holiday did in the last decade of her career. The 50s saw her do a whole lot of television shows as well as large concerts, and recordings made from these. I want to follow up these ideas about the 'popularising' of jazz in regards to the status of jazz as 'art' music today. There's a tension between 'classic jazz' as 'art' and later jazz (from bebop to avant garde) in the jazz literature that I want to explore, especially in regards to the Ken Burns' documentary film Jazz. In fact, I always have something to say about that film, especially in regards to its positioning of the jazz musician as isolated 'artist', and jazz history as one of artists prompting cultural change. I am, of course, far more of the opinion that jazz was and is very much a product and process of community and local cultural context.

I know that there's something to be said about individualism and masculinity and the freedom from consequences that comes from the idea that 'jazz' is about isolated artists without community responsibility and ties. How connected was that rioting by young, white middle class college men with a 'freedom from responsibility' associated with the black jazz musician by mens' magazines and writers?

George Lipsitz presents the book Songs of the Unsung as an alternate history of jazz, one firmly embedded in local community, with jazz musicians as necessarily participating in everyday community life, rather than isolated with their 'art' in some rarified space:

Songs of the Unsung presents jazz as the conscious product of collective activity in decidedly local community spaces. The modernist city and the nation pale in significance in Tapscott’s account in comparison to the home, the neighborhood, and the community. Physical spaces far more specific than the ‘city’ shaped his encounter with music, and these spaces had meaning because they were connected to a supportive community network (Lipsitz 17)

I think I like this approach because I want to talk about jazz in the context of contemporary swing dance culture, where dancers read a history of jazz not as a history of art, but as a history of music for dancing. And this history of music for dancing as a collaborative, community history, perhaps too complicated to be told with a simple temporally linear narrative.

I was absolutely delighted to find this section in Lipsitz's book:

Instead of modernist time, this would be a history of dance time, starting with ragtime, not as a showcase for the personal ‘genius’ of Scott Joplin but as a site where African attitudes toward rhythm (and polyrhythm) became prominent in U.S. popular culture. The difference between the rhythmic concepts in ragtime’s right-hand melodies and left-hand bass accompaniment and the genre’s additive rhythms (eight semiquavers divided into 2/3s and 1/2s) evidenced a tasted for multiple patterns at the same time that it opened the door for future rhythmic innovations. Rather than the era that gave to Dixieland and swing, the 1920s and 1930s could be see as a movement from the fox-trot to the jitterbug and the lindy hop. More than a away to distribute music more effectively to a broader audience, the development of electrical recording techniques would be seen as a shift that enabled bass and drums to replace tuba and banjo as the key sources of rhythm. Such a story would feature the tap dancing of John “Bubbles” Sublette, who was dancing “four heavy beats to the bar and no cheating” fourteen years before the Count Basie band came east and popularized swing. This narrative would honor the moment in 1932 when Bennie Moten began to generate a different kind of rhythm and momentum for dancers by replacing the banjo with the guitar and substituting the string bass for the tuba. The transition from swing to bop in this story would not focus on the emergence of the saxophone over the trumpet or the small ensemble over the big band as much as it would highlight how string bass players and frontline instrumentalists began to assume responsibility for keeping time so that drummers could be free to experiment with polyrhythms and provide rhythmic accents for soloists.
The distinctive creators of ‘dance time’ would not be the virtuoso instrumentalists of modernist time but rather virtuoso ‘conversationalists’ like drummer Max Roach and dancers Earl Basie (better known by his stage name, Groundhog) and Baby Laurence. (Lipsitz 22)

I'll see how we go after a bit more reading...

Ake, David. Jazz Cultures. U of California Press: Berkely, 2002.

Gennari, John. “Hipsters, Bluebloods, Rebels, and Hooligans: the Cultural Politics of the Newport Jazz Festival, 1954-1960.” O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 126-149.

Lipsitz, George. "Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz" O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 9-26.

O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004.

Szwed, John. "The Man" O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 166-186.

Many of these books are produced by members of the Jazz Study Group at Columbia. You can find some of their articles in full-text form online here at It's a fab resource.

"magazines, jazz, masculinity, mess" was posted in the category academia and fillums and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

April 27, 2009

waiting to understand what the other is doing

Posted by dogpossum on April 27, 2009 4:55 PM

In the comments to my last entry, Jac writes that she likes the Billie/Louis duet:

It's like listening in on a conversation... :)

And I replied
Yeah - that's what I like about it. I think that's what people like about the Ella and Louis duets as well - a conversation between really gifted musicians.

This is something I like about really good small group instrumentals as well - it sounds like a conversation between friends. The better the musicians, the better it sounds; they can echo and build on the contributions of others, keeping or building on the feel and topic. The Oscar Peterson trio do some really good stuff like this.

Reading through Ake's book Jazz Cultures I've found this quote from Sidney Bechet about rag time:

Bechet made it clear that his joy and creativity were piqued when playing among musicians like those mentioned above who were his peers in improvisational-interplay abilities. And it was the continual challenge of creating sounds that complimented and inspired bandmates that he found to be most satisfying.
That's the thing about ragtime... It ain't a writing down where you just play what it says on the paper in front of you, and so long as you do that he arranger, he's taken care of everything else. When you're really playing ragtime, you're feeling it out, you're playing to the other parts, you're waiting to understand what the other man's doing, and then you're going with his feeling, adding what you have of your feeling.
(Ake 33)

This is exactly the way I feel about lindy hop. When you're working in a partnership, it's not a matter of performing or completing choreographed moves. It's about responding to your partner, 'waiting to understand what the other is doing'. That's what makes social dancing to live music so freaking damn good. You don't know what's happening next. You don't know what the musicians'll do next. You just have to listen and move and make it up and respond. It's wonderful. Just wonderful.

"waiting to understand what the other is doing" was posted in the category dulwich hill massive and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

April 25, 2009

All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong

Posted by dogpossum on April 25, 2009 7:46 PM | Comments (0)

The Louis Armstrong bit of the jazz discography is really, really big. And that's not counting all the entries with bands other than his own.
They have this neat discography in the library: All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong and I want it. It's a beautifully produced book and something I know I'll keep and use forever. It's just a bit expensive (even in paperback).

"All of Me: The Complete Discography of Louis Armstrong" was posted in the category books and music and objects of desire and research

billie and louis again

Posted by dogpossum on April 25, 2009 7:08 PM | Comments (2)


In the spirit of my last post, have a listen to this lovely version of 'My Sweet Hunk O'Trash'. It's Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong singing together a couple of years after that film New Orleans was released.

Recording details:
Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday with Sy Oliver's Orchestra: Bernie Privin (trumpet) Louis Armstrong (vcl) Sid Cooper, Johnny Mince (alto sax) Art Drellinger (tenor sax) Pa Nizza (tenor sax, Baritone sax) Billy Kyle (piano) Everett Barksdale (guitar) Joe Benjamin (bass) James Crawford (drums) Billie Holiday (vocal) Sy Oliver (arranger, conductor)
New York, September 30 1949
7543 My sweet hunk o'trash De 24785, DL8701, Br (E)05074, De (F)MU60363, AoH AH64, Br (G)10159LPBM

It's a lovely example of two musicians playing with timing and phrasing. It's a nice song, but it's their delivery, their to-and-fro that makes it nice. The rest of the band isn't terribly interesting; this is a song showcasing the vocals.
I probably wouldn't play this song for dancers. The emphasis on the vocals means that you really have to listen properly to what they're saying and how they're saying it, and that's not really something you can do when you're dancing. It's also really slow, not juicy enough for blues dancing, far too slow for lindy hop. The vocal showcasing means that the rest of the instrumentation is understated. There's not much going on behind Louis and Billie. This can make for fairly dull dancing; when you're dancing, you look for a range of rhythmic and melodic layers. The more aural interest, the more interesting the dancing. Sometimes it's nice to dance simply, but when the tempos are this slow, you're really looking for something more.

Having said that, there are worse songs you could play for dancers.

Btw, if you're as concerned about the racial subtexts at work in New Orleans as I am, check out this article, which goes a little way towards addressing those issues (let's not talk about my desire for 'owning' jazz just yet. This white girl knows she's got some work to do).
I am currently reading my way (very, very slowly) through David Ake's book Jazz Cultures. There's a refreshingly sophisticated approach to race and ethnicity in this book, and though I'm only in the first chapter (I keep stopping to chase and note references), he's already upsetting black/white dichotomies with a discussion of Creole music and culture in New Orleans and complicating issues of whiteness and blackness which are going a long way to reassuring me about jazz studies literature. I don't have much to write about that yet, but I will eventually.

"billie and louis again" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

April 24, 2009

billie holiday and louis armstrong

Posted by dogpossum on April 24, 2009 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

This is a nice clip of Louis Armstrong (and amazing band) playing 'Dixie Music Man' from the 1947 film New Orleans.
The woman with the flowers in her hair is Billie Holiday. The band features Kid Ory, Bunny Berigan and Zutty Singleton (with others) - musicians I've been following through a range of bands lately.

Louis Armstrong - Dixie Music Man
Uploaded by zappata008

This clip was posted by Rayned on faceplant, and it's timely because I'm obsessed by Armstrong and Holiday at the moment. Yesterday I photocopied all the bits of the Discography referring to Holiday. I'm not going to even try that with Armstrong - there's an entire, huge book devoted to his recordings alone.

bh.jpeg It's fascinating to follow these guys through different bands. Both were really amazing musicians with a sense of swing that's really incomparable. You can pick Armstrong's trumpet in any recording, no matter how crappy and crackly. and Billie... her later stuff is really tricky to dance to because she's so clever with phrasing and timing. Sometimes she's so way, way back there behind the beat you're sure she's just about to be out of time completely. I like listening to the way she shapes a band when she's singing with them - with live recordings. She can work around a straight, uptight band and make them sound like they're actually hot. Same goes for Louis - these guys have a sense of timing that's impeccable. Like really good comedians.

('Fireworks', Louis Armstrong & His Hot 5 with Earl Hines, Zutty Singleton 1928)

For my money, Armstrong was really rocking with this small groups in the late 20s. This was a collection of great New Orleans jazz musicians, many of whom began with King Oliver, and most of whom moved on to Chicago and then New York (and further afield). I'm a massive fan of Kid Ory, but I'm also digging Zutty Singleton. I'm a bit of a nut for rhythm sections generally (I think it's because I listen to this stuff as a dancer), and Singleton just keeps popping up in the bands I like.

(That pic of the Armstrong Hot Five is from the Louisiana State Museum site, which is just fascinating.)

I was a little sceptical of the claims made about Armstrong's Hot fives and sevens until I actually sat down and listened to them in chronological order - after the stuff he did supporting singers like Bessie Smith (! powerhouse combo, much? An example: St Louis Blues 1925)), after his work with King Oliver. But before his Orchestra stuff of the 1930s (some of which is a bit dodgy, I've found). I'm not really interested in his stuff after the 50s (though I bet I'll change my mind on that too), and I really don't like 'Hello Dolly' and all that vocal rot. I quite like him doing nice, silky groovy duets with Ella Fitzgerald (many of which included Oscar Peterson), but my real interest in his music is in his late 20s and early 30s stuff when you really hear his approach to timing and nuance signaling musical change: the swing era's coming. But nobody else is really there yet.

(That pic of the Hot five to the right is from this interesting blog)
These Hot Five and Seven bands were really one of the the first real opportunities for Armstrong to experiment with music and musicians on his own terms in his own bands. I think the smaller group allows the sort of group or ensemble improvisation that you just can't keep under control with a big band. The best example of this sort of improvisation usually comes in the final chorus when it sounds as though everyone's doing their own thing (because they are), but are still working together, playing within a particular framework. That's the sort of thing I LOVE as a dancer and DJ because it reminds me of lindy hop - improvisation within structure. I love playing this sort of stuff for dancers because the energy suddenly leaps in that final chorus, and you can end a song (or a set) on a high energy point. I especially love Fats Waller for this. He might begin with a quieter song whose clever lyrics make you listen up carefully, but he ends with a loud, raucous shouting chorus that makes you bust out like a fool on the dance floor.

In a smaller group, Armstrong lets the musicians play in their own ways, but still works as the lynchpin in a fairly complicated musical machine. The ensemble improvisation allows each musician to shine with improvisation, but still maintains a sense of group or collaborative wholeness; it's not just random noise. The musicians were all amazing, including Louis Armstrong on trumpet, Lil Hardin (who became Lil Hardin Armstrong) on piano, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Kid Ory on trombone and Johnny St. Cyr on banjo. The band's membership changed a little, and the group also recorded as the Hot Seven (there are a range of other names for similar groupings, including a special Savoy small band). Additional musicians included Kid Ory (cornet), Lonnie johnson (guitar), Earl Hines (piano), Zutty Singleton (drums) and a few different vocalists (May Alix is one who catches my eye because she also did work with Jimmie Noone, who I love). The Hot Fives and Sevens recorded between 1925 and 1928 (you can read more about the Hot 5 here on

Just in case you're wondering where the Billie Holiday talk is...

I really like this recording of 'Fine and Mellow'. The musicians are, of course, amazing. It's from 1957, when Billie was already more than a little trashed by drugs and alcohol. But she really was a phenomenal singer. Even as her voice became more and more ragged, her technique and sense of music were indefatigable. The Decca collection liner notes mention that she was the sort of musician (or artist is the term I think they use) who used one or two takes to record songs. She could simply get it right the first time. As the liner notes say, she had an idea of how she was going to do the song, and then she did it. Holiday didn't have the length of career that Armstrong did (he was recording from 1923 (at least) til 1971), she had only a couple of decades), but her music spread from that hot, swinging jazz moment in the 30s and the pop/ballad/jazz feel of the 50s and 60s.

And of course, I've just written a post which presents the history of 'jazz' in terms of two 'artists'. But I think it's important to note that Armstrong's Hot Five were just that - five (or seven, or six) musicians working together. The collective improvisation is really important, this isn't the showcasing of solos of the swing era. This is a group of people working and listening together to make something together. Holiday's work as a vocalist was primarily as a response to the bands and musicians she was working with. Her close friendship with Lester Young is perhaps the best example. There's plenty of anecdotal (and evidence based) discussion of their musical collaboration as a process of listening to and learning from each other. Young is often quoted as being most inspired by vocalist's technique. Holiday is often referred to as emulating Young's saxophone technique. Their musical relationship was indubitably one of collaboration and mutual inspiration. After all, it's very difficult to be a jazz musician all on your own.

"billie holiday and louis armstrong" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

April 23, 2009


Posted by dogpossum on April 23, 2009 11:09 AM | Comments (2)

This is a song called 'Savoy' by Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra, recorded in 1942. Millinder was with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band before he led this band.


The Savoy ballroom is the most famous ballroom in contemporary swing dance culture. Opened in 1926, the ballroom was leveled late in 1956. A plaque now commemorates the ballroom on the spot. Many dancers visiting New York pose for a photo on the grounds of the old Savoy. The Savoy had 10 000 square feet of dance floor and was the length of a city block. It was not segregated.

Two bands would play in the Ballroom, one at each end, swapping sets. Chick Webb's band played there for years, and it was with Webb's band that Ella Fitzgerald developed her reputation. Webb died in 1939 and Fitzgerald took over as band leader. Fitzgerald's earlier work (in the late 30s) is often dismissed as too heavy on the novelty songs, but it was in the period immediately after Webb's death that the band (with Fitzgerald) produced a series of fabulous radio broadcasts from the Savoy.

Live at the Savoy 1939-40 is promoted as an Ella Fitzgerald album, but she sings very little. We can hear her cheering and calling solos, but this is not an album showcasing her voice. It's all live, and it's all from the Savoy. It's also really, truly fabulous.
It's an interesting example of the sorts of tempos played at the Savoy during this period. There's nothing under 180bpm, and most are over 200. It's also great, high energy, and it makes you want to dance. When I play this for dancers, I find people can't help but dance, even if they think it's too fast for them. It's just great music.

The Savoy often hosted dance competitions between rival dance troupes. Frankie Manning (who's having birthday next month) is popularly credited with inventing the first air step in one of these competitions. A step he developed with his partner Freida Washington (you can see a clip of Frankie and Willa Mae Ricker dancing this over-the-back step here). While lindy hop isn't all about aerials, it's best known for these sorts of acrobatics.

Here's a clip of the Silver Shadows (one of the best lindy hopping teams in the world today) dancing as part of the Savoy Ballroom 80th Anniversary celebrations. This is hard core lindy hop at the sort of tempos on the Ella Fitzgerald album.

(If you're interested, I wrote a bit about this routine in an earlier post).

"savoy" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

April 22, 2009

mills blue rhythm band madness

Posted by dogpossum on April 22, 2009 1:33 PM | Comments (0)

Here is an experiment with embedding media players. The trouble is, very few of these have the music I'm after. But here's a Mills Blue Rhythm Band song, in honour of 'going complete' and posters on SwingDJs' obsession with the band.

E-36992-A Savage Rhythm (Br 6229, 10303, CJM 23, TOM 57, GAPS (Du) 130, Decca GRD2-69 [CD]
Recorded by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band in New York on the 31st July 1931. Musicians included: Buster Bailey (clarinet), Wardell Jones, Shelton Hemphill, Henry Red Allen (trumpet), George Washington (trombone, arranger), JC Higginbotham (trombone), Gene Mikell (sop, as, bar, clarinet), Joe Garland (ts, bar, clarinet), Edgar Hayes (piano), Lawrence Lucie (guitar), Elmer James (bass), O'Neil Spencer (drums), George Morton (vocal), Benny Carter (arranger), Lucky Millinder (dir).

Note: Date used here as given in Storyville #108 (Rust listed date as July 30, 1931).
Brunswick 6119, 6229 as 'Mills Blue Rhythm Boys'.
Decca GRD2-629 [CD] titled 'An Anthology of big band swing, 1930-1955'; rest of this 2 CD set by others.
Title also on Hep (E)1015, CD1008 [CD].
Title also on Classics 676 [CD] titled 'Mills Blue Rhythm Band 1931-1932'.

NB: below are some very preliminary thoughts I've had after very little research.

I've been spending an awful lot of time in the library lately. It began with the Con's copy of the Tom Lord Jazz Discography. That's twenty-odd volumes of dry and boring nerdery. According to The Squeeze. For a jazz nerd, that's twenty-odd volumes of orsum. I have spent hours in there already. Days. Doing what? Going through my music, adding in dates, full band names, band personnel, recording locations. Extra, extra nerdy. But also quite interesting.

(that's the Wolverines in the Gennett Records studio from this interesting site)

I've gotten much better at identifying when a song was recorded, and I'm getting to know how a band changed or an artist changed over time. And I'm recognising not-so-big-name band members now, which is fascinating. I'm also beginning to be curious about things like travel. A band might have recorded a song on one day in one city, but another song in another city on the next day. This information alone gives you and idea of just how hard these guys worked - travel, travel, record, record, live show, live show. But when you consider the fact that they usually didn't use planes (in the early days especially) and that segregation meant that these musicians were traveling in pretty shitty conditions...

I'm also interested in the way songs were often recorded only once in a session (or ever) in the early days. No time (or money) for second takes. This makes me think about the mad skills these guys had. Or the cost or difficulty of recording. And all one track as well - everyone just playing along all at once, just recording then and there as the technician heard it.

I've just come across a quite from Mary Lou Williams (from a book called The Jazz Scene: an Informal History From New Orleans to 1990 by W. Royal Stokes, 1991) where she talks about just how poor Andy Kirk's band was in Kansas during the depression. The band simply wasn't getting paid for gigs, so the musicians went days without eating. All that, and they're still producing truly amazing, inspired music. Or perhaps because of that?

Though the discography is just awesome (and I will continue to make return trips as my need for detail increases - at first dates were enough. Now I need everything), I have moved on. I want to know who was where in what years. Why did people leave a city at a certain time? What was the relationship between the northern migration, Jim Crow laws and the development of jazz in Chicago, New York and Kansas? What was New Orleans like, exactly?
(that image above is of Canal St, New Orleans in the 1920s from wikipedia. If you're a big map nerd like me, you'll love this collection of historic maps)

So I've been up the university library looking at books. Now, though, I'm thinking more critical questions. How come all the jazz book are written by men? Even the later ones? And what's the significance of jazz scholarship having its roots in jazz criticism? What role did jazz music clubs (clubs for listeners not musicians) play in the New Orleans 'revival' (I'm wary of that term - my thesis has made me suspect a 'revival' is really another word for white middle class folk appropriating black culture)? What are the effects of researching a music using only recordings? Where ARE all the women in these stories?

I'm also wondering about jazz scholarship itself, in bigger ways. Where is the critical reflection? What are the effects of research so focussed on autobiography? The emphasis on auto- and biography is interesting; it suggests that some musicians were simply so great, so awesome, so influential, they created in a cultural and social vacuum, simply churning out greatness for the rest of the world to admire. But that simply isn't the case, of any art; art is created in cultural and social context. So to divorce a musician from the rest of his life (and it is 'his' - there are no women here) suggests that the rest of this life was unimportant. As I've read recently (and I can't find the ref, sorry), this lack invites an immediate investigation.

One of the things that comes up time and again in the oral histories of the period is that, for musicians, listening to other musicians is as important as playing. Young musicians (no matter how 'gifted') would seek out experienced teachers to learn from. Musicians would spend as much time listening to other bands as playing themselves. There's this great bit in one book (the one I ref'd above) where the musician describes listening to a band at the Savoy: there were as many musicians as dancers there, drooling over the amazing band (Savoy Sultans? I can't remember).
And of course, every great musician needed a band. These early jazz recordings are about the relationships between musicians in the band. They don't - cannot - work alone. In fact, no matter how great one musician, they cannot lift an ordinary arrangement or recording to greatness if the rest of the band isn't there, or if they aren't working with the band. At the end of the day, the goal is to produce a great song, a great bit of music. That is the point of a lot of this stuff: it's about collective improvisation in earlier jazz (where everyone mustwork together - order out of chaos) and about collectivism in the more tightly orchestrated big band swing of the 30s and 40s (where musicians must play together, perfectly, must step in at just the right moment for their solo).

This is of course, all besides the point that being a musician was about earning money to buy food or pay rent. This point makes me think about gender and travel. Linda Dahl (in Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen) makes the point that travel, while so central to the live of post-emancipation black men (who's right to travel had been so viciously curtailed under slavery) was impossible for many black women. Women, as the carers of children and the aged could not uproot and travel with a band or to become a musician:

It was in the years of elation, confusion and turmoil following the Civil War that jazz began to take shape. The war brought an end to slavery and to the isolation it imposed, which had prevented among blacks the free exchange of ideas that fertilizes art. With abolition came mobility, if not equality. Many black men wandered, looking for work or luck or new vistas, and music traveled with them. But black women, history tells us, were more likely to stay put and hunker down for new roots. These were women who, as slaves, had carried double, even triple burdens. Not only did they work in the 'big house' or in the fields - as cottonpickers, eve as logrollers and lumberjacks, - but they of course did their own housework, bore their children and cared for their men. After abolition they were hungry for stable family environments, and it was easier for them to find work as cooks, laundresses or maids than for black men to find employment. Although circumstances dictated that they were often the breadwinners, they deferred to their men, especially in matters political. Above all else they devoted themselves to the hope of better lives for their children. Great were the physical and emotional demands upon them, and most found few opportunities and little time or energy for goals beyond survival (Dahl 1992:4).

For women, cultural and social context was absolutely clear and absolutely present in everything they did. While jazz historians can imagine a Sidney Bechet leaving New Orleans and gadding off to Chicago, New York, Paris, a free agent following his art, it is a little more difficult for them to write the stories of women who played and sang music from the home or the family or their (less romantic) place of work. There are many stories of the 'whore house pianists' but far fewer stories of the whores, who were occasionally musicians in their own rights.

Dahl also makes an interesting point about 'anonymous' music:

And black women certainly contriuted their share to the development of this music [jazz]. During slavery they made up songs that both drew upon and became part of everyday experience. 'Anonymous' was often a slave woman who crooned lullabies to the babies she birthed and the babies she reared, who made up ditties at quilting and husking bees or while she planted in the fields and tended her garden, who created music in her capacity as midwife and healer, at funerals and dances and in church, who developed distinctive vendor calls as she sold her wares. 'Anonymous' invented music to meet the occcasion out of a communal pool of musical-religious traditions. Women and men stripped of their names passed on standards and tribel memory to those who came after (Dahl 1992:4).

That point, of course, leads us to a discussion of black women blues singers in the 20s. But I don't have the time now, and I haven't read the books I have here. But I was very interested in this link between 'jazz history' and race and class and gender. I need more information, though.

This anonymity was the product of domesticity and 'everydayness'; simply made invisible through its very ordinariness and ubiquity. It was not framed or positioned as 'art', and so it was invisible. This reminds me of discussions about vernacular dance. It's only when it takes to the stage (and away from its mutability and use-value in everyday life) that it becomes visible to mainstream or elite audiences. This is perhaps the greatest problem with reading white histories of black music: these observers could only 'see' jazz or black music when it was on a stage, or in a recording, stripped of its everydayness. And these spaces were not accessible for many black women.

Reading jazz as a history made up of one great 'artist' after another is, then, highly problematic. I'm also wondering about the other, dominant approach: reading jazz as a history of a series of cities (New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas, New York). What about the 'territories' of the midwest, a series of smaller towns and cities strung together on the route of itinerant bands which played only to these towns and rarely (if ever) recorded? Perhaps, as the territories suggest, it's more useful to think about these cities as sites in a network of 'jazz place/space'. I want to follow up the idea of travel in early jazz - from the northern migration to individual bands and musicians migrating between cities and countries.
(There are some nice pics in this neat little article about territory bands).

Note: I've just found this interesting interview with Tim Brooks, author of Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890 - 1919. This book is on my list of 'things to find'. And of course, if you're interested in the early days of the American recording industry, the David Suisman article 'Co-workers in the kingdom of culture: Black Swan Records and the political economy of African American music' is a great resource.

"mills blue rhythm band madness" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and research

April 20, 2009

kids' SF films and badass women in jazz

Posted by dogpossum on April 20, 2009 3:58 PM | Comments (2)

1. ' Journey to the Centre of the Earth' with Brendan Fraser is crap. Despite Fraser trying and trying with a truly crap script.
2. 'City of Ember' was awesome. Really good kids' SF. Avoids the more disturbing subtexts of postapocalyptic stories. Mum gave me the book so I'll read it and see how it compares.
3. It's far too long til 'Night at the Smithsonian' comes out. I was really surprised that I liked the first one, but I think it really snagged my museum curiousity.
4. 'Monsters v Aliens' actually isn't too bad. Not only does it pass the Bechdel Test (JTTCOTE and NATM failed), but it also [SPOILER] presents a woman who decides she doesn't want to be a boring trophy wife. She wants to be a MONSTER! The best bit is where she kicks alien arse without superpowers or size. The next best bit is where Dr Cockroach beats an alien using his PHD IN DANCE. I knew there was a good reason for doing a PhD in dance, and preventing alien invasions is obviously it. [/]
5. Two badass female jazz pianists from the Olden Days: Mary Lou Williams and Lovey Austin.
6. Another reason to despise the Ken Burns 'Jazz' doco (or at least the PBS site:

Williams was long regarded as the only significant female musician in jazz, both as an instrumentalist and as a composer, but her achievement is remarkable by any standards.
I'm hoping that's a mistype, as, while Williams rocks the kasbah, she certainly WAS NOT the 'only significant female musician in jazz'. In terms of vocalists alone, Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald were really, majorly important as musicians (as well as other things)... heck, I could go on and on and on. And that's even considering the fact that there weren't anywhere near as many women as men in big name bands.
The text is borrowed from the 'New Grove Dictionary of Jazz', so perhaps they're to blame.

7. Why are all the jazz historians blokes? I want to read New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History might have some tips. I'm interested in the New Orleans 'revival' - the interest in New Orleans jazz (from the 1920s) in (predominantly white) audiences (c 1940s). While the blurb for that book suggests there were male and female writers, I've yet to come across them. I'd be surprised - absolutely stunned - if the authors' gender break down was 50/50 male/female. This of course makes me think about reading the little jazz publications that were flying about in the 20s, 30s and 40s. I'm also thinking about the white appropriation of black music, here. Or at the least, the effects of mainstream media/white culture's interest in African American music in this period. I'm afraid to start on the Australian stuff.
8. Record fairs are interesting. Mostly blokes. And the blokes into the stuff I'm into (if you can find any of that stuff) are freaky. There aren't as many female as male swing DJs (duh - what's new), and I'm guessing the sisters aren't getting into hardcore vinyl either. But I'd love to be wrong.
9. Let's just revisit ae fully sick female pianist: Mary Lou Williams. She was, fully, awesomely sick. Pianist, arranger, badass.


"kids' SF films and badass women in jazz" was posted in the category djing and fillums and music

April 9, 2009

walking bass lines are reassuring

Posted by dogpossum on April 9, 2009 1:55 PM | Comments (0)

Listening to HCCT the other night I was struck by a particular song. Or, rather, part of one song. It had people clapping.

It's the walking bass line. People like it. Dancers like it. I've heard hardcore DJs refer to the walking bass line as something for beginner dancers. But I think we all like a walking bass line. Sometimes we just like the simple, bomp-bomp-bomp of a walking bass line telling us exactly where the beat is. Sometimes it's just reassuring to have the rhythm pointed out to us. And sometimes it's a clever point of reference for a more complicated melody. And if you're feeling a bit tired, you can ignore the fancy stuff going on around it, and just step with that walking bass. Walk with it.

The most-used example of a walking bass line is from Nina Simone's version of My Baby Just Cares For Me:

"walking bass lines are reassuring" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

another round-up post

Posted by dogpossum on April 9, 2009 12:27 PM | Comments (1)

Today I have a heavy cold and feel a bit rough. The Squeeze blames a trip on the train. I blame post-allergy secondary infection. Means I spend some time on the couch with Dr Who, so it's not all bad.

The other night we went to see Hot Club of Cowtown.

It was great. I'm not sure I'm struck on the venue, though. The Basement is kind of a sit-down supper club type situation. The sort of venue that I associate with jazz - a jazz club. Which means it's full of people with money who like to sit down and Be Entertained. Which is, of course, inimical to good, hot jazz. Hot jazz should be played to a crowded room full of partyers looking for a good time. Not straights sitting and eating overpriced, uninspired food.
But Cowtown did a fairly good job overcoming the venue. They're friendly sorts, who like a little audience participation. And it was a little tricky at first; they needed the crowd relaxed and engaged. Guess this is when a support act comes in handy. But eventually they had the audience engaged. Took about five songs, but then they had them. They were, musically, as amazing as I remember. And there's something really pleasing about western swing, the western swing they play. It's friendly and cheery and makes you want to dance about like a fool. And sing along.
Before the "likkermission" they invited us to come up and chat and give song requests. Then they wandered down into the main room and mingled. I was excited and also too afraid to go up and gibber like a fan. Though I really, really wanted to. They seemed really nice and friendly, and talked with all sorts of crazy fans. They were happy to sign CDs as well. I made three trips to the souvenir table, trying to work up the guts to say hello. But I'm shy (sometimes). After the show, one of them (the one I love) stood near the door saying goodbye to people. And I managed to squeeze out a little smile and a 'thank you'.
I'm such an idiot. I'd have loved to request Pray for the Lights to go out, but I couldn't get it out.

I did find myself cheering and clapping along mid-set, just as I would for a dance performance. And people looked at me. But it slipped out accidentally. They were giving the 'engage now!' vibe, and jazz has taught me nothing if not how to respond when someone calls.

Overall, it was ace. I bought myself a tshirt (which I'm going to cut up to be my size and just my style) and a sticker (which I think I'll put on my laptop). I had a great time.

On other, slightly related fronts, I have a pair of orthotics in my shoes now, care of the podiatrist. The podiatrist is a friendly, chatty bloke, who takes up most of our sessions yapping. He loves to talk. Which is ok, because I do too. If I didn't know that he sat in there interacting with people all day, I'd suspect he too spent his time making up crap to fill his unemployed days. But I'm happy to chat.
The orthotics, though. They freaking ROCK! We had to walk a bit to get to the HCCT gig the other night, and I didn't get any pain! Well, I got a bit of abrasion from the new shape of my shoe sole - blisters a-coming. But there was no pain inside my foot. And none later that night after we'd gotten home. It was wonderful.

Basically, they change the way I walk. The bit under my arch, just in front of my heel is a bit raised, and this means I put the weight on the outside of my foot more. And this means that I don't put so much pressure on my big toe - I don't put so much weight on my toe, I don't stretch the plantar fascia so much (yay! - less pain!) and I don't then have to roll the weight over to the outside of my foot when my bung ankle can't bend any more. This means I'm just putting the weight down straight onto the main part of my foot, and I don't roll my foot. This will be great when I get dancing - it'll make my weight transfers clearer and easier to follow/lead. It also means that I'm not in pain.
It's all a bit exciting. I haven't been able to walk without pain in four months. And now I can. Of course, part of me wants to run out and go dancing NOW. But the podiatrist headed me off at the pass on that one: no dancing. No experimenting with movement. No! I have to give it six weeks to test it out. Then we talk.

Part of me wonders what effect this new way of walking will have on the rest of my body. I hope it eases the bit of ache I get in my right knee (which is largely a result of the rolling-foot problem). And I hope it eases my right hip a bit (which is similarly affected by my foot). But I hope it doesn't do other things to me which cause problems. But that's what the check up is for. I have noticed that the orthotic changes the way I pedal when I'm riding my bike. All of a sudden, I'm much more efficient.

Because my ankle doesn't bend as much as it should, I have to roll my foot to get enough bend in my leg to pedal properly. But the orthotic starts me off in the right position, so I don't have to roll my foot (or my knee). This means that instead of all the energy I put into pedaling sort of flying off or being wasted in my knee/foot rolling, it goes straight down into the pedaling, moving the wheels around. So riding my bike is suddenly a heap easier and more efficient. It's wonderful.

I'm not sure whether I'll have to use orthotics forever or not. I think it's more that these will teach my muscles how they should be working, and in combination with my exercises, I'll eventually be able to do away with the orthotics. My legs will eventually be working properly and I'll be able to use my muscles and tendons and bones and joints more effectively.

I think one of the most important lessons from all this plantar fascia stuff, is that it's important to pay attention to the aches and pains in your feet and body. If I'd realised I was in pain from the plantar fascia earlier, I could have done something about it. But you get so used to aches and pains when you dance, it's difficult to tell when something important is going on. I guess that's why it's also a good idea to keep in contact with a decent physiotherapist when you do a lot of sport. Even if you're not an elite athlete. :D

"another round-up post" was posted in the category bikes and lindy hop and other dances and music and old sew and sew

March 26, 2009

i like pie

Posted by dogpossum on March 26, 2009 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

Here's a little round up:

Western Swing is ME.
I am currently in love with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. This is in preparation for the Hot Club of Cowtown tour next month. I saw them in the UK (at the Marlborough Jazz Fest) in 2004, and they were freakin' GREAT. The next week I saw Casey McGill's band at a dance camp and they told me that their bass player had absconded for the HCCT. I'm not sure whether that's a tragedy or an awesomey.

Bad foot is still ME.
My foot is still bung. I have been to see a podiatrist to strapped me up. That helped the first time, but not the second time. I am also doing exercises to strengthen the muscles in my calves/shin to help out my plantar fascia (ie so it's not overloaded). I am down to get orthotics next week, but they mightn't work. Basically, these fibroids in my foot are never going to go away and they can't be cut out. So I'm looking at pain management and impact reduction. I danced two half dances on the last weekend and it HURT. The problem is not so much the impact (which hurts and hurts normally), but the fact that there's pivoting and my foot actually twists when we do lots of turns and things. That's where the pain is at. It sucked to find out how much it still hurt, but at least I know where I'm at. Though I think I'd have preferred to continue in blissful (and hopeful) ignorance. If I can't dance again, I'm really not sure what I'm going to do. If it's not lindy hop, it could have been something else - I come from a long line of dancing, lumbering folk, and I can't fight my DNA. Perhaps I'll learn an instrument. Any suggestions? Maybe the drums? Bass? I did a lot of singing at school, but that was a long time ago.

Allergies are GO.
I am having trouble breathing and my ear is all glued up. Again. Still, I've had much less trouble with my health since I moved to Sydney, so I'm certainly not complaining. It is melaluca flowering season, and there goddamn paper barks all over every street in every inner city suburb in Australia, so I need to deal. Won't be long now, though, and I can come off the antihistamines.

Library is MINE.
I have been back to the Con's library this week. It is a joyful place. Though it is full of students, now, and that sucks. They're almost uniformly middle or upper class, supernerds and 70% male. Guess that's what a career in hardcore arty music requires. The jazz section was all dusty when I first got in there. Now it has at least some use. The refec near the library is SHITHOUSE. The actual room is quite nice - it has a lovely little stage (with nice piano), and would be perfect for a dance gig. The acoustics are magical. But the food is inedible. I was reduced to pre-made sandwiches. Most of the students in this (actually quite nice) mini-refec were eating packed lunches. There you go.

emusic is not all mine. Yet.
I am blowing through my emusic downloads ridiculously quickly. Even when I ration them. There're simply not enough.

Quickflix is suspended.
Since we moved to Sydney the DVDs have been slower to arrive, have almost always been terribly scratched, and we never get anything in the top 50 of our list. I have suspended our account until we've decided what to do. We're still on one of their unlimited DVD accounts, but I'm not sure it's worth it, as we only get about 3 a week, which isn't much better than getting 12 a month max, is it? The video shop here is pretty good, so we might just go old school. Though using a video shop means I have no natural limit on my DVD viewing.

Dr Who and Farscape rule my world.

Screw BSG with its upsetting gender politics and ridiculously FAILED science. I am all about rebooted Dr Who and Farscape. I didn't dig either the first time I saw them, and never really got past the first couple of episodes. Now I love them. Farscape passes the Bechdel Test. Dr Who does not. Rose + her mum. Talking about the Doctor. Though every now and then Rose gets to discuss a drama with another female character, there's not much woman-to-woman action. I think it's partly to do with the newer format - story arcs only last an episode, rather than a week's worth of episodes. There's not as much character development. And a bit too much kissing. I like Eccleston, but I'm not struck on Tennant. His bottom jaw sticks out too far. I liked Eccleston's big nose and ears a whole lot. And was the Doctor always this manic? I'll have to rewatch some old ones (I liked brown, curly haired, long-scarf, jelly baby Doctor best).

I am a crocheting demon.
I should post some pictures to prove it. But I love complicated afghan patterns, and have been compulsively crocheting as I watch my way through the Commonwealth's greatest contributions to popular culture. We went to Spotlight in Bondi Junction the other weekend so I could stock up on yarn. That joint was totally trashed on Saturday afternoon. I need another supplier; perhaps I could order online in bulk? The poor Squeeze is buried in gorgeously three dimensional flowers, in various combinations, so perhaps it's time to stop.

I am bike YAY!
Yesterday we rode down the Cook's River after work for a quick ride. It was overcast, humid and coming up a storm. It was great. The sun set over the river, we saw wildlife, we dodged nonnas out walking and talking and planned a longer down-stream walk for a future date. This river goes to Botany Bay, you know.

I am still dealing with the fact that we live in Sydney.
I'm surprised by the historical weight I'm carrying in Sydney. It's like all these suburbs and places are full of all the post-Invasion history of this country. Every bit of history I remember has something to do with Sydney. And most of it is narrated by songs from the Peter Coomb's song book which delighted so many good little Australians in the 1980s.

Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-attidy,
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-ay,
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-attidy,
And we're bound for Botany Bay.

I'm sure that that song has celtic roots as well. One of the strangest moments of my post-MA European travel was being shut in at a Cornish pub where a heap of drunken ... Corns? Cornishpeople? sang one of those sorts of 'traditional Australian songs'. But with celtic names. My Irish grandfather used to sing The Wild Colonial Boy. So even though I'm caught up in all this Australian music, it's just as Irish as the American folk music I dig.

I did arrive in Australia in 1982, straight into rural Wagga Wagga, so moving to New South Wales is far more familiar than moving to Melbourne did in 2001. The humidity is lovely. It's not as heinous as Brisbane's, but it's nicer and wetter than Melbourne. And my skin loves it. The Squeeze declared last night, as we rode up the hill towards the lightning and iron-grey sky: "Moving here was the best thing we've done!" He's delighted by the tropical storms. So am I - I've missed them. There's something wonderful about a good, heavy-like-a-hot-shower rainstorm, complete with lighting and crashing thunder. Far, far better than drizzly, wingey bastard Melbourne weather. Even if it didn't rain, it'd be cloudy and overcast forever. I don't miss that shit. Though I'm thinking the Victorians are.

Dollhouse sucks arse, Pushing Daisies is delightful.
That's it in a nutshell, really. I'm not impressed by DH.
1. The FBI/BSG guy is a crap actor. He's so crap I can hardly watch him on screen. That scene in the last episode where he and the 'dead wife' DH client chatted in the kitchen? It was so, so, so bad. I groaned. I gnashed my teeth.

2. The opening credits are incredibly, crappily bullshit.

3. I'm still not entirely sure about the gender stuff. There's an awful lot of talk about the women 'dolls' as sexualised bodies. And though there're references to their missions which don't involve sex, we spend a lot of time looking at them having sex or wearing very high heels or tight, booby shirts, or generally packing a whole lot of very conventional, bullshit femininity. It's a bit too Alias for me, but with less self-determination on their part. I had hoped there'd be a clever twist to undo some of this, but I'm beginning to lose hope. Joss Whedon is hyped, but, really, Buffy was his pinacle. I didn't mind Serenity (look, I'm losing the italics, ok?), but it wasn't great. The film wasn't great cinema. The series wasn't that good - a little too heavy on the patriarchal family structure for my liking. Yes, I get the whole male captain/father parallel, and that Mal might perhaps have been overcompensating for his wartime mistakes with other people's lives, but still... Actually, it takes Buffy an awful long time to lose her patriarch. I've rewatched a bit of season 5 lately, and she's STILL got Giles there, Watchering. So perhaps Buffy isn't so great either... God, if this is the best we can do, this string of compromises.
Anyways, I'm not impressed by DH

4. Did I mention the terrible acting by FBI guy?

Pushing Daisies, though, is wonderful.
It's charming. It's clever. It's lovely to look at. Its visual style has a lot in common with Tim Burton's brighter, more colourful stuff. It's a bit surreal and hyper-colour, but not dark like Burton. Well, except for the premise of the series: the pie maker protagonist can bring dead things back to life. For a minute. If he touches them within that minute, they go back to being dead. If he doesn't, they stay alive and something has to replace them in the deadness. The point of the series: Emerson Cod (finally, a show with a not-white central character!), a private detective, works with the Pie Maker to solve murders. For profit. Pie Maker brings his childhood sweetheart, Chuck, back to life in one of the earliest eps, so they can't touch. They love each other. The other main character is Olive, who, by the end of season two, is the very best character.

Why do I like this program?
1. The hyper-colour, phantastical mise en scene.

2. Passes Bechdel Test.
3. Olive. With her pet pig Pigby.

4. The male protagonist is a pie maker. There's a lot of talk about food and baking pies and comfort food. It's very lush. Here, have a look.
5. The singing scenes. Olive sings a couple of songs. One of which is 'Eternal Flame'. Yes, a Bangles singing scene. The other is 'Hopelessly Devoted to You'. It's wonderful.
Also, there's singing.
6. Chuck's spinster aunts (who raised her) are cheese fans and also used to be synchronised swimming super stars: Darling Mermaid Darlings. One has an eye patch.
7. Most of all, I love the dialogue. It's very, very wordy. Lots of fast talking. But it's all puns and onomatapeia (sp?) and all those other lovely wordnerd things. It looks good, it sounds good, and it's funny. It makes me giggle.
8. It's not horrid. There are some pretty gross deaths, but it's not upsetting. Most of the programs I like these days are horribly dark. But Pushing Daisies is not. It's lovely. The Pie Maker and Chuck love each other. Olive is tiny and super tough and awesome. She can bake pies or solve crimes. She's great.
9. I watch it before bed, when I'm tired, and it helps me get to sleep. It's nice.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it was cancelled before the end of its second season. Apparently they're screening the finale in the US in their summer, so at least we'll get that degree of closure. But still. It's really great telly. Here's the first bit to prove it:

"i like pie" was posted in the category bikes and crafty bastard and digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and sydney and television

March 21, 2009

djing bal for the first time

Posted by dogpossum on March 21, 2009 2:54 PM

So I DJed for balboa dancers for the first time on Thursday night. It was really interesting. I really liked the crowd, and I really enjoyed figuring out what might work with bal dancers. I don't dance bal (well, if I'm led, but not by preferences), so it was kind of challenging.
I'm a bit tired now, so I can't say much, but here's the set I played.
Some songs worked (Jive at Five, plus the other bal faves), some didn't. I misjudged a couple of times and played songs that made people want to lindy. Which can't be too bad a thing, huh? ;D

One of the nice things about this set (and preparing for it), was being able to use a wider section of my music collection. The tempos are quite high - 160bpm is the base. I've been playing for lindy hoppers at an average of about 140bpm these days, and I'd like to take that higher. Sydney lindy hoppers seem less interested in higher tempos. Or I could simply be reading them wrong (which is entirely likely). With lindy hop, I often feel that I need to build the energy in the room before I raise the tempos. Most of the events I've been DJing have been smaller or less intense social events, so the energy level doesn't quite get up there to critical mass.

Balboa, though, is a different animal. What does it look like? Well, it looks like this:

(Kelly and Mickey, ABW 1st place 2008)
This clip is interesting for the fact that it really emphasises the style and 'feel' of many balboa dancers, in contrast to lindy. It's a 'tighty whitey' dance (as I've heard it described by bal dancers): white kids dancin' white. The couple spend more time in closed position. It's really amazing stuff - intricate footwork, a real 'dancer's dance'. I like this couple - it's pretty good stuff. I just find them a little... cloying. And straight. Watch them dancing lindy hop here for some contrast. Bal gives you some sweet-as weight commitment, which really helps your lindy.

I like to watch bal, I quite like dancing it, but it doesn't set me on fire the way lindy does. Lindy makes me feel crazy. Bal makes me feel a little... constrained. I also have some trouble with the fact that the follow really has to _follow_, and the trend seems to be for follows to dance a little more passively than in lindy hop. This, of course, is not always the case. But this is what I see most frequently. Probably because I simply don't get to too many bal gigs. Can you see why it's not really my type of dance?
While I'm talkin' gender, I think it's worth checking out Kate Hedin. Notice anything different about her body shape?

I think it's worth pausing here for a little Sylvia Sykes time:

Sylvia was one of the earliest revivalist lindy hoppers. She's also one badass follow. She's older than the other flibberyjibbets getting around, she's phenomenal, technically, and she has the sort of confidence and presence that makes you think 'why aren't there more of the sisters getting this sort of recognition?' She is one of the few female teachers who's billed 'with partner' (though, btw, Nick is top shelf (young man) bal lead action).

From watching just those clips, you can see how bal is quite a different dance to lindy hop. It's amazing to watch - like really fast, really sophisticated knitting. I'm just not... all that into it. I definitely prefer to lead it rather than follow it - boooring. Leading is technically challenge, intellectually exciting and physically a lot less demanding than lindy.

This is one last example, for the sake of illustrating the range of styles and approaches to balboa:


That's Mia and Todd. Todd is better known for his lindy hop. Mia is badass bal Sistah, who usually dances and teaches with Peter Loggins.
I quite like this clip for the way we see Todd's phenomenal musicality demonstrated. But it's less pleasing as an example of this couple's communication. Todd is very much an 'in control lead' - Mia is _following_. Sometimes he doesn't quite give her time to finish what she's doing - we feel as though he's cutting her off before she finishes her sentence. There are some points, where they're out at maximum extension (holding just one hand in open) that I think 'eeek' - it goes beyond rubber band and out to too-far, too-extended. It takes a badass follow to make that sort of waaay out there extension work. Which is what Mia is. But Todd's bal has an energy that I really like. I like the bounce, I like the flamboyance. But it's probably a little further from hardcore balboa and a little closer to lindy hop.

FYI 'pure bal' is danced all in closed position. Not so much of a spectator sport, unless you're into really hardcore technically precise, close dancing. Which I am. At times.

So you can see what bal's about, a bit, from those clips. The music is high energy, but it feels as though balboa dancers (with their small, precise steps and footwork) have a greater capacity or - or at least interest in and emphasis on - music which is technically precise and 'smaller', more intricate. With bal dancers, I feel as though I don't need to get the energy really high before I get the tempos high. Bal dancers are generally comfortable at at range of tempos, though most bal dancers dance to higher tempos (this is a local trend rather than an historical 'accuracy'). Technically, they do the things lindy hoppers should: small steps, clear weight transfers, traveling less at higher tempos. But they can also add in lots of intricate, time-consuming stuff that most lindy hoppers just don't have the time or skill to do at higher tempos. Also, because the follow isn't traveling as much on her own (as in lindy), there's less pressure on her at higher tempos.

DJing for this crowd last week, a friend made this interesting comment: music for bal is 'less in the pocket' (or 'not as deeply in the pocket' - I can't remember the exact line). This means, basically, that the music doesn't 'swing' as much - it doesn't feel as though the musicians are as far behind the beat. This gives it a great 'uppy downy' feel (now I need Trev to chime in with the bit about forward/horizontal propulsion and vertical propulsion in swing being closer to equal). To me, this screams 'lindy hop!'. But to a crowd brought up dancing to super groove (which tends to be super in the pocket), this isn't the case. Peter mentioned a while back that 'if it feels good to lindy to, it'll feel even better to bal to'. But it's not as simple as just playing stuff that 'makes me feel like lindy hopping.' At least not for this crowd.

There were a couple of songs which didn't work for this crowd (who were relatively flexible) - 'Main Stem' and 'Who Stole the Lock' were two of them (both of which are, coincidentally, songs Todd and Naomi have danced to in quite well-circulated clips). They felt 'too lindy'. 'Jive at Five' went down a treat, but this is a song I think of as _quintessentially_ lindy hop. Same goes for 'Stomp it Off' (though I have played this for both lindy hoppers and balboans and had good responses from both). Fats Waller also went down a treat, and he's my go-to man for lindy hop. That song 'Twenty Four Robbers' is drilled into my brain as 'that Frida and Skye song', so I associate it with skankin'ly badass lindy. In summary, the songs that I think of as 'tinkly' or 'light' or 'cheery' work well for balboa dancers in this town. Goodman and Ellington small group stuff goes down a treat. Olden days early 30s/late 20s works well for them as well, but not all the time.

I'm looking forward to more experimenting on those poor balboa doods. :D

Also, this was the first time I've ridden to a dance gig since moving to Sydney. I have MISSED it!

Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 164 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 2:15
Call Me A Taxi Four Of The Bob Cats 175 1938 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 3:13
Mr. Ghost Goes To Town Mills Blue Rhythm Band 192 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: 1933-1936 3:24
Jive At Five Count Basie and his Orchestra 174 1939 The Complete Decca Recordings (disc 03) 2:51
C-Jam Blues Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 180 1942 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 13) 2:39
Tar Paper Stomp Mora's Modern Rhythmists 174 2000 Call Of The Freaks 3:32
Whoa Babe Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra with Lionel Hampton, vocal 201 1937 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 1) 2:53
Stomp It Off Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 190 1934 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 3:09
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, Part 1 Benny Goodman Quartet with Martha Tilton 176 1937 RCA Victor Small Group Recordings (Disc 2) 3:27
Chris And His Gang The Cairo Club Orchestra 180 2004 Sunday 2:40
Minor Swing Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five 202 2003 Jammin' the Blues 3:24
Jungle Nights In Harlem Charlestown Chasers 213 1995 Pleasure Mad 2:49
Swingin' On That Famous Door Delta Four 190 1935 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 3:00
Stompin' At The Savoy [take 1] Benny Goodman Quartet 166 1936 RCA Victor Small Group Recordings (Disc 2) 3:19
Twenty Four Robbers Fats Waller and his Rhythm 196 1941 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 2:43
Who Stole The Lock (On The Henhouse Door) Jack Bland and his Rhythmakers with Henry 'Red' Allen 243 1932 I Was Born To Swing 2:40
All The Cats Join In Benny Goodman 176 All the Cats Join In 4:23
Main Stem Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 207 1942 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 13) 2:50
Hittin' The Bottle Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra 211 1935 Rhythm Is Our Business 2:57

"djing bal for the first time" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

March 9, 2009

an awesome jazz doco from 1961

Posted by dogpossum on March 9, 2009 9:57 PM | Comments (3) six parts, on youtube (can't find number 2, sorry).











"an awesome jazz doco from 1961" was posted in the category clicky and lindy hop and other dances and music

recent djing

Posted by dogpossum on March 9, 2009 10:03 AM | Comments (7)

I've been doing quite a bit of DJing in Sydney, more than I did in Melbourne. I quite like it - I need the money for CDs (or downloads), I like keeping my hand in, DJing-wise, and DJing gets me out to see dancing people while I'm injured and not dancing.

I can't say the actual DJing has been awesome. This is partly to do with my own less-than-awesomeness, but also to do with my adjustment to a scene which doesn't have the sort of crowded, hard core dancing I'd DJ for in Melbourne. Sydney actually has more social dancing nights than Melbourne, it's just that this greater number of (diverse) gigs means that the dancers are spread across more events, leaving you with fewer people at individual events. There are also the usual issues RE teachers and troupe dancers - they don't go social dancing as much.
I suppose (though it's impossible to generalise) that the usual factors contribute: these guys are already dancing three nights a week and not interested in another social dancing; they value performing and teaching over social dancing; they're involved in tight knit social groups which make them reluctant to explore social events without their homeys. What this means for me as a DJ, is that there are fewer of these more experienced, hard core dancers out social dancing when I'm DJing. Which means that you're left with a crowd who have less dancing stamina, less experience with more complex rhythms and patterns, and less interest in hard core dancing. This isn't an entirely bad thing - I've always liked DJing for new dancers, if only because they haven't developed a rigid set of dance and music preferences - they're just in it for the fun. But it does mean that I have to take more care with the tempos and song selections. But I'm not complaining - I am still enjoying DJing. And there are still quite a few experienced dancers out there on the floor - the types of people who aren't interested in the teaching and performing, but are interested in gettin' jiggy on the dance floor.

I DJ one night at a pub which is heaps of fun. Pub or bar gigs are always good, as there's alcohol involved, and that usually loosens the dancers up a bit. But at this gig there's a larger number of older dancers who don't really have the dance fitness required for hard core lindy hop. When I say older, I'm talking people in their mid to late 40s and higher. I know, it's not actually 'older' at all, but once you get over 20, if you're not actually dance-fit, lindy hop is really challenging, especially at higher tempos. As Frankie Manning says, "Get in shape to do lindy hop, don't do lindy hop to get in shape." I also find that this crowd has more interest in talking and socialising than dancing; they tend to do things like dance two songs in a row then stand on the dance floor talking rather than moving off the floor. This discourages other people from dancing, and means that I'm left with an empty floor for a song. So I have to 'start from scratch' with the next song. They do this regardless of the type of song I'm playing in that third spot. They just want to talk.

As you might expect, this makes this gig the most interesting and welcoming, socially speaking. As new folks in town, we've always preferred this gig, just for hanging out and meeting people. But it's a very difficult crowd to DJ for. There's also a large number of rock and roll dancers there, and these tend to be the older dancers. Who really aren't into old school swinging jazz. And seeing as how that's where my DJing preferences lie - right back there in the 30s, well before the shuffle rhythms and un-swingness of rock and roll. And I've even been easing off the jump blues lately, so I'm not really offering much to this particular crowd.

I have played some really bad gigs at this venue. But I have also done some good sets. Last gig I did there the sound set up was seriously fucked, so I had trouble getting anything to sound ok, let alone being able to concentrate on the combination of songs. But I have, finally, figured out that a combination of tempos and eras works with this crowd: old school for the lindy hoppers, 50s jump blues and later swing for the rock and rollers. I refuse to play rock and roll (mostly because I don't own any and don't really want to buy any), but I will play 50s Basie, Witherspoon, etc, leaning on their later, less-swingy, more-jumpier stuff. It's not ideal, and I really hate seeing what it does to people's lindy hop, but I do breathe a sigh of relief when the floor fills up again.
To make it work at this gig, I need a mix of dancers - I need younger, hard core lindy hoppers. I need the drinking, less-dancing rock and rollers for the social, party vibe. I simply don't have the skills to work this crowd as-is. I find it frustrating. And while I'd usually muddle through for a paid gig, I do this one pro bono for mates, so I'm a little less happy about the deal. It's mostly that I'm frustrated with myself for not being able to make it work. And I'm frustrated because I can't play the sort of music I really love, all the time. I do get to play it, just not in a big, solid block. And I certainly don't get to experiment with even early (ie late 20s) stuff or with things like recretionist New Orleans doods like later Bechet - that stuff goes down like a ton of bricks with this crowd. The problem is really that they simply don't have the musical experience that I need to be able to play a really diverse set. But then, these sets remind me that that stuff (the 20s and NO revivalist) isn't that great for lindy hop - it doesn't quite swing properly, it often doesn't have the right 'feel'. Frankie wouldn't like it.
So I don't think of this gig as a 'crap gig'. I think of it as the most challenging gig on the calendar, and I'm stretched to make it a successful one. I'm not quite there, yet.

Beyond this one, I also play a blues night. It's once a month, and the only blues night on the calendar. It's pretty well attended, but the venue is a little big for blues dancing, so you don't get the right vibe in the room. Blues really needs a crowded, smaller room that feels like a crowded bar. Well, that's what I like for blues - I like to play a rollicking, rolling blues room where people are shouting and sweating and partying hard. Lots of energy and fun. I'm not interested in playing cuddle-blues gigs at all. Boooooring. But this set isn't too bad a gig. The dancers are new and enthusiastic, and blues is simple enough (because it's slower and it's taught in a simpler format), easier than lindy hop, so dancers feel more confident. I don't have a very big collection of music for blues dancing, so I'm not actually all that specialised - I tend to play across styles. Though I avoid soul and funk (because that's not blues, and because there are specialist soul and funk DJs in the broader music community who use original vinyl and make swing/blues DJs look like lame amateurs), I don't lean as heavily on olden days stuff as I do for lindy. This means I have a better chance of pleasing more people. Or rather, I have a better chance of pleasing them with less effort. When you're playing old school, I think you have to work harder to draw people in. With a mixed set, you eventually find something someone likes, even if it's just the right 'style' for their tastes. This is how I started DJing lindy hop. I think it can be the mark of a newer DJ, but I also know experienced, truly top notch DJs who play fabulous mixed sets. It's just that DJs often specialise after a few years as their own musical interests follow particular trails and historical periods or particular artists.
As a dancer, I like both types of DJs. Though I loathe a DJ who changes gears without the clutch: smooth transitions are essential for making this work.
But I like the blues sets. The crowd is enthusiastic and supportive, the set up of the room lets them get physically close enough to talk to me (and let me know whether they like what I'm playing), they like looking over my shoulder from the raised mezzanine behind me to see how I'm DJing (blokes like this especially - they like seeing the technical side of DJing), and like hearing their responses to my music and knowing whether I'm doing what they're interested in. I would like to use a smaller room, but I'm not going to bitch about that when the crowd is so enthusiastic and welcoming. It's also in a bar, and bar + blues = good news for the DJ.

I also play a couple of other lindy gigs. One is a twice-per-month larger event in a church hall, another is a fortnightly, smaller event in a smaller bar venue. The larger one is tricky. The sound set up isn't adequate for the large, echoey, high-ceilinged church hall. It's a large space, and not particularly 'nice'. It's fine once the lighting's fixed, or if there's a large crowd. But otherwise, it's fairly 'church hally'. There's no bar, either, which is bad news at this event, which is already in pretty dire need of some loosening up. One of those two monthly gigs is also explicitly marketed as a 'beginners' night'. This is a mistake, I think. It means that anyone who doesn't think of themselves as 'beginner' doesn't turn up. And of course, with dancers being as status conscious as they are, we see no troupe members or teachers of any type at these 'beginner' nights. Ordinarily, this wouldn't worry me - I quite like a packed room of beginner dancers high on their own endorphines, discovering the headiness of physical contact with strangers. But this gig doesn't pull a large crowd at all, and it'll have to pull a massive crowd to fill that hall. So it ends up kind of quiet and empty. Tricky stuff. I'm not all that good at working smaller crowds (though I am improving), so this night is really challenging for me.

The last social dancing night is fast becoming my favourite. The venue is the same as for the blues night, but it works better for lindy hop. It has a good set up, with the sound desk facing the speakers rather than being behind them (it makes me crazy that lindy hoppers can't seem to grasp the fact that sitting behind the speakers sucks for DJing - I want them on the opposite wall so I can hear what's going down!). The venue is the right size for the crowd. I can get there easily on the bus, or catch a train (rather than only having the train option for the church gig - which requires my walking to the station, which hurts my foot a lot). The sound set up is generally pretty good (not perfect, but the best in this town). There's also a bar! I found this crowd tricky at first as it's a mid-week, mellower gig. But I've gradually figured out that that does not mean that I should only play low-energy music. I need to mix it up and work the energy just as I would with any other gig. But because the crowd is smaller, it requires a little more work.

In general, this town dances to very, very, very low tempos. We're talking between about 110bpm and about 150bpm. That's super, super low. When we get to 155bpm, they switch to balboa. There are a number of reasons for this. 1) the DJs play a lot of groove, which is often lower in energy - the uppy-downy bounce of the big band is smoothed out by super-behind-the-beat smaller bands. 2) the DJs play the same music every set - they don't have large enough collections to really push their DJing, and encourage them to explore new music. 3) the DJs tend to all play the same songs. This could be a result of music sharing or simply sharing similar tastes. 4) the transitions between tempos isn't terribly smooth - there are often blocks of faster music for 'balboa', moving straight back down again to 110. So we hear 110, 120, then suddenly a few at 200, then down again to 110. And of course, everyone sits down at those 'balboa' tempos, unless they do dance balboa. I do like balboa, but it's not as exciting to watch at 200 as badass lindy.

My comfort zone for dancing lindy hop is about 140-200bpm. I am comfortable at 180, start to work at 200, then am challenged above 200. Well, when I'm dance-fit and not injured. But I have been dancing for a while. Though I'm certainly not a badass lindy hopper or competitor extrovert; I'm actually pretty conservative. In the olden days (ie at the Savoy in the 30s), 180 was average. At Herrang the DJs aren't to play under 160bpm. This is quite fast - most contemporary 'disco' music is about 120 bpm.
These higher tempos are very challenging if you're very tight in your upper body, or if you don't do triple steps or simply don't have very solid technique. Smaller steps, stay relaxed, do your triple steps (because followers need them to travel!) - all that helps you lindy at higher tempos. But these are often things that are neglected in class. And many dancers don't hear older music (which tends to be faster) in class, so they're not used to the structures of the music. They want to do their smaller, subtler body movements, when big band 30s action and faster music want you to do larger movements (as in, swing outs rather than body rolls), and to think of musicality in terms of combinations of these larger moves, thinking of the music in terms of phrases, rather than thinking of musicality in terms of responding to each individual note or sound. But if the moves you're taught in class are about smaller, finer movements, you're going to be kind of at a loss when you hit the social dance floor and hear faster, older music.

At any rate, when I started DJing in Sydney, I came in swinging, just as I would have in Melbourne, starting at about 130bpm. There isn't terribly far to go from 130 to 150bpm. I am finding that the dancers are stretching a bit, but things are still pretty slow, generally. I used to play much faster gigs at the mostly-beginner Funpit in Melbourne. But I try to 'begin as I mean to go on' - so if I don't want to sit on 110 all night, I need to start higher. I like 130 as a beginning tempo, though I'd really prefer to start on 140 and not drop below that. I won't start on 120 any more - it's just too freakin' slow. As you can see in the set list below, I started at 140 and was actually doing relatively higher tempos at first. This was in part because the music in the class was higher than usual (they were doing charleston).

The preponderance of balboa is both a blessing and a challenge. On the one hand, balboa lets dancers get used to dancing to faster music (they're really not much beyond 200 for faster music here), but on the other, it means that they default to balboa as soon as they hear slightly higher tempos. And balboa is less physically exhausting than lindy at these higher tempos, so they don't work up that dance fitness that you need for faster music. I'm not disparaging balboa here - it's a craft. It's a challenging dance. It's an awesome dance. But the movements are smaller. Though I do like what balboa has taught a lot of Melbourne dancers - bounce (or pulse as they call it). Smaller steps. Leading 'with the body' - by moving their body to move their follower's body (rather than using their arms to move a follower). A more relaxed upper body, especially at higher tempos. All this is fabulous for lindy too. I also have some frustrations with the type of music Sydney people hear as 'balboa music'. Someone's obviously been teaching a lot with Mora's Modern Rhythmists, Campus Five and Sydney Bechet. They hear revivalist New Orleans as 'balboa music'. This drives me nuts when I'm trying to play this stuff for lindy hoppers; the lindy hoppers sit down, the balboa dancers get up. From what I can learn, balboa dancers in the olden days were into the same types of music as lindy hoppers. So there was a lot of big band action in ballrooms. I can't really see them getting into revivalist New Orleans action... but I could be wrong. Either way, it niggles me to see balboa dancers hear one type of music as 'balboa music', especially within the broader swinging jazz family: that's way to rigid a definition, even for a purist like myself.
But this will change as balboa dancers travel more and get more experience with a wider range of music. It'll also help the lindy hoppers to travel a bit more too.

For me, DJing, I have to take the long term view. I can't just jump in and play with an agenda and expect them to DANCE. I have to gradually add stuff in and move the general vibe of my set in a particular direction. As a new DJ in town, all my music is 'new' to them - they haven't heard me overplaying my favourites for the past few years. So I do have some liberties. But it's also been important to find out exactly what they're dancing to otherwise. Basic research tool? My getting out there and dancing. So you can see how my DJing might have lagged a bit since I've been off the floor. At any rate, because I'm DJing so much, I can start adding in 'new' songs, while also building up a body of music which is 'familiar'. While I type this, part of me is shouting, "Hey! Arrogant, much?" I'm not sure I actually have a solid grasp of what dancers are into in Sydney - I can't see them when they're sitting down behind me. I'm not getting out to social dance and hear and see what they're dancing to in other DJs' sets. And I'm not in class, hearing the teachers' music. So I'm not entirely sure my instincts are tuned in properly. It's all a bit frustrating, and I do worry that the longer I'm out of dancing, the more my DJing will decline. I've seen it in other DJs: if you don't dance, your DJing inevitably declines as you get disconnected from what actually feels good for dancing. It's a struggle if you're generally someone who only dances within one particular style or one particular tempo range, but it's impossible to stay on top of things if you're neveR dancing to anything.

In that vein, I'll be doing my first set for balboa dancers next week. I've tried to score a balboa set in the past in Melbourne, but have been knocked back a few times. This could be because I suck, because I'm not a hardcore balboa dancer, or because I'm just not in the loop. But we'll see how I go. I'm looking forward to it - I think I'm going to learn a lot. I'm putting together a list of 'maybe' songs (as I usually do before a gig), and I'm looking forward to playing a wider range of tempos. I have a lot of faster stuff that I rarely, if ever, get to play for dancers. Thing is, I have absolutely no idea what these guys play at a regular balboa night, so I'm not going to have any idea what their 'normal' music is like. I will make it clear to the dancers on the night that I have no experience, and that I'd like feedback. The organisers also know I haven't done this before, so they're going to be ready with suggestions (hopefully). It's not a paid gig, either, which is good... although it's not, really. I'm going to enjoy it, I think. Once I stop being nervous.

Anyways, here's the set I did last week at the fortnightly gig in the smaller blues/bar venue. It's a 'lindy hop' set. The tempos are higher than I usually hear at that venue. At one point a guy asked "can you play something slower?" This was while I was playing 'Chimes at the Meeting' which is 245bpm, so I was "of course - I was just about to drop the tempos a lot. This next block will be much slower." And it was. I'm kind of working the wave here, but I think that these days I'm focussing a bit too much on the transitions between musical styles, and not enough on the tempos. It's almost as though I've lost touch with how dancing to four songs at 150 in a row can feel (bit boring, mostly). I think this is a consequence of my not dancing these days. But it's also a consequence of my DJing for people who like a wider range of tempos. If you're happy at 180bpm, three songs at 150 are a 'rest'. But if 160 is your max, then three 150 songs is a real stretch. Sigh. These are the little things that I'm worried about, as a DJ. And I do wonder if I'll be able to continue DJing if my foot never recovers (which the specialist says is a real possibility - though I'm going to address that again at our appointment this week). Three months off dancing already, and I'm having trouble with the thought of no more dancing ever.

If you've ever seen any of my other sets or heard me DJ, you can see from the set below that I didn't play terribly much new or challenging stuff. An awful lot of old favourites, stuff I overplay. There are a few new things that I've bought from emusic or on CD lately (mostly emusic, though - hence the incomplete details). That Bob Crosby song 'Rag Mop' is fully sick. I love that MBRB version of 'Mr Ghost Goes To Town' - I will never play the Campus 5/MMR version (which does it?) again. MBR's version just has more pep and zing to it. It's also a little faster (maybe 10 or 20bpm - enough to spice it up a little). The musicianship is certainly far better. There was a birthday/farewell dance at 'Jersey Bounce', hence the sudden style change. After that, I suddenly had the urge to go all groovy and hi-fi. I really like that Ernestine Anderson album atm, even though Gene Harris is involved. That version is way better than the live one we hear a lot. Then I decided I was over this slumpy, low energy groovy stuff (it was also making people sit down rather than jump about like fools). So I played 'Smooth Sailing' because everyone knows it, and because I like to pair it with 'Lemonade'. Note the tempos there - boooringly 110 or so. The dead zone. So we went up a bit with the Jay McShann one. That song 'Blue Monday' is on my overplayed list, but it has lots of shouty energy. From there I did drop down with the Basie, but it's another high energy, live song that's good for building a sleepy room. The inclusion of CJam Blues there should let you know just how badly I was leaning on the overplayed list. That song is overplayed everywhere in the lindy hopping universe. The last two songs were requests. Then I had to RUN for my bus.

While I am leaning on the overplayed stuff, I'm not sure if it is actually overplayed here in Sydney. Many of these songs I know I've played a lot and still do play a lot. I try to avoid them at exchanges, as people are at exchanges to be challenged and to experience something new and exciting. But at a smaller gig like this, familiar stuff is often welcome, and it's hard to resist the way people respond to something they know, especially if they're finding the other stuff a bit challenging or unfamiliar. I do tend to DJ lazy and lean on the familiar, and I will try to fix that up. Thing is, some of these songs I know I'm the only one playing, so I never get to dance to them, so they don't feel overplayed to me - I know them well, but I don't know them well with my body.

Any how, here's the set. name, artist, bpm, year, album, length, last played (the last played will vary - I did the set on the 4th, starting at 9pm, so ignore the last played times/dates on the ones I've listened to since).

Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan 147 1956 A Tribute To Andy Razaf 3:19 4/03/09 8:58 PM
My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone 120 The Great Nina Simone 3:38 4/03/09 9:02 PM
Bli-Blip Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five 140 2007 Moppin' And Boppin' 2:44 4/03/09 9:05 PM
Rag Mop Bob Crosby and the Bobcats 164 1950 Bob Crosby and the Bobcats: The Complete Standard Transcript 2:15 4/03/09 9:07 PM
Savoy Blues Kid Ory 134 1945 Golden Greats: Greatest Dixieland Jazz Disc 3 3:01 4/03/09 9:10 PM
Ain't Nothin' To It Fats Waller and his Rhythm 134 1941 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 3:10 4/03/09 9:13 PM
Summit Ridge Drive Artie Shaw and his Gramercy Five 128 1940 Self Portrait (Disc 2) 3:21 4/03/09 9:17 PM
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 153 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:26 4/03/09 9:20 PM
Mr. Ghost Goes To Town Mills Blue Rhythm Band 192 1936 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: 1933-1936 3:24 4/03/09 9:23 PM
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and his Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 1950 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 3:04 4/03/09 9:26 PM
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and his Orchestra 146 1949 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 3:01 4/03/09 9:29 PM
Oh I'm Evil (05-01-41) Una Mae Carlisle 158 1941 Complete Jazz Series 1938 - 1941 2:25 4/03/09 9:32 PM
Turn It Over Bus Moten and his Men 148 1949 Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Disc 3) 2:38 4/03/09 9:35 PM
Did You Ever See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? (06-29-49) Count Basie and his Orchestra 155 1949 Complete Jazz Series 1947 - 1949 2:15 4/03/09 9:37 PM
Cole Slaw Jesse Stone and His Orchestra 145 Original Swingers: Hipsters, Zoots and Wingtips vol 2 2:57 4/03/09 9:40 PM
Bearcat Shuffle Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy with Mary Lou Williams 160 1936 The Lady Who Swings the Band - Mary Lou Williams with Any Kirk and his Clouds of Joy 3:01 4/03/09 9:43 PM
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and his 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 2:49 4/03/09 9:46 PM
Chimes At The Meeting Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 245 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:01 4/03/09 9:49 PM
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra 165 1937 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 3:10 4/03/09 9:52 PM
Walk 'Em Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra 131 1946 Walk 'Em 2:53 4/03/09 9:55 PM
Hungry Man Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 135 1949 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 6) 3:08 4/03/09 9:58 PM
Four Or Five Times Woody Herman Orchestra 141 The Great Swing Bands (Disc 2) 3:09 4/03/09 10:03 PM
Jersey Bounce Ella Fitzgerald 134 1961 Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! 3:36 26/01/09 9:50 PM
Goin' To Chicago Blues Ernestine Anderson with Ray Brown, Gene Harris, Red Holloway, Gerryck King 135 1984 When the Sun Goes Down 4:53 4/03/09 10:11 PM
Smooth Sailing Ella Fitzgerald 118 Ken Burns Jazz: Ella Fitzgerald 3:07 4/03/09 10:15 PM
Lemonade Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 117 1950 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 6) 3:17 4/03/09 10:18 PM
Blue Monday Jay McShann and his Band with Jimmy Witherspoon 125 1957 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 3:40 9/03/09 8:58 AM
Every Day I Have The Blues Count Basie and his Orchestra 116 1959 Breakfast Dance And Barbecue 3:49 9/03/09 9:01 AM
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 143 1999 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke 3:34 4/03/09 10:29 PM
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie 144 1958 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 3:13 4/03/09 10:32 PM
All The Cats Join In Benny Goodman 176 All the Cats Join In 4:23 4/03/09 10:37 PM
Shake That Thing Mora's Modern Rhythmists 227 2006 Devil's Serenade 2:58 30/09/08 3:31 PM

"recent djing" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

February 25, 2009

river and train obession

Posted by dogpossum on February 25, 2009 4:42 PM | Comments (1)

I can't stop listening to this song. Not this precise version, but one that's very similar.
It's the first song in the film 'Jazz on a Summer's Day'. I'm obsessed. Suddenly, not dancing means that I'm actively listening to jazz that can't be danced to. I've even dug out my Miles Davis CDs. And I'm liking it light and nice - nothing too challenging. No bop, thanks.

"river and train obession" was posted in the category music

February 21, 2009

The Columbia and OKeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions

Posted by dogpossum on February 21, 2009 6:59 PM | Comments (0)


Mosaic has a lovely Benny Goodman Orchestra set that I have my eye on. I've been going through my music lately, doing a little tidying, and I've discovered I have only a couple of Benny Goodman Orchestra albums. This must be rectified.
I know it's just an obessive 'must have' completist type thing, but... must. have.

On other (related) fronts, I have been blowing through my 50 emusic downloads not within a month, but within a few minutes after my account ticks over. I can't possibly get by with these few songs. It's just not possible. Again, this is crazy 'must possess all' thinking. But then, I must. And emusic is really wonderful - it has all those chronological classics. And quite a few other hard-to-get indy labels. And that's just in the 'olden days jazz' section. I've glanced through the 50s blues, but I really haven't even begun to look at anything else.

Think of me, in my obsessive compulsiveness this week. I think I might 'back up' my downloads with CD copies. Nerd ON!

"The Columbia and OKeh Benny Goodman Orchestra Sessions" was posted in the category music and objects of desire

February 20, 2009

loose marbles

Posted by dogpossum on February 20, 2009 5:37 PM | Comments (1)

I found this neat photo of the Loose Marbles singer here. That's how lindy hoppers are looking these days - covered in tatts. Low body fat. Very ghetto Harlem, a la 1930s.

The Loose Marbles are a great American jazz band who do a lot of busking. They do have CDs, but they're hard to find. The band's hard to find online, as well. Look, here they are busking:

"loose marbles" was posted in the category music

February 10, 2009

Bud Freeman- Chicago/ Austin High School

Posted by dogpossum on February 10, 2009 5:10 PM | Comments (0)

1002.jpg ... featuring my new love, Jack Teagarden. A little hi-fi 'trad' jazz... (more details here.

"Bud Freeman- Chicago/ Austin High School" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and objects of desire

February 1, 2009

bob willis and the texas playboys' Tiffany Transcriptions

Posted by dogpossum on February 1, 2009 2:31 PM | Comments (0)

ttbw.jpg Suddenly, I want this Western Swing classic. I know most of the songs, either via jazz or my western swing faves.

Initially recorded for a furniture company to play in their shops (!), this collected set apparently has greater live and vivacity than their other recordings. I don't much care, so long as the band continues to remind me of the Hot Club of Cowtown... though it should be the other way around.

It isn't as hot here in Sydney as in other cities and I have largely recovered from the world's worst stomach virus. Three days of throwing up. Two days in bed. One day partly up and out of bed, mostly sitting or lying on the couch. Today I had a real lunch and kept it in my body. For about two hours. It was pretty cool, though - I had digestion going and everything. My ps are visiting. It's been hard. I have been foul. But then, I am ill. They're acclimated to Hobart and think this is hot. We know it's not in the 40s, so we think it's nice. Apparently it's broken 30 in Hobart this week.

I have recently begun saving water from my showers. The Sydney water restrictions aren't as tight or as well policed and publicised as in Melbourne, so collecting water makes me feel badass and way wicked. Also, it's free water for our new baby plants. I have plans for a rough tomato/basil patch near the compost bin. But the seeds didn't come from Eden Seeds, which is just plain weird. I will chase it up on Monday if I'm up to it.

Bought new songs on emusic yesterday. Suspect it's not so good to buy music when so trashed. But it could shake my collection up a little.
Just finished Alison Bechdel's Essential Dykes to watch out for. It's great, as you'd expect. Have eye on Fun House.

Humidity is high. But that's ok.

"bob willis and the texas playboys' Tiffany Transcriptions" was posted in the category djing and domesticity and greenies and music and objects of desire

January 19, 2009

mercy dee walton's Pity And A Shame and mildred anderson's No More In Life

Posted by dogpossum on January 19, 2009 6:05 PM | Comments (0)


Finally, my emusic month rolled over, and there was goodness to be had. Unfortunately 50 songs doesn't go that far when you have a wish list as long as mine. At the moment that list is divided equally between spankin' olden days jazz from the 20s and 30s and saucy hi-fi blues from the 50s and 60s. Well, actually, the list is weighted towards the olden days stuff. Because I just can't get enough of the Chronological Classics - it's a little bit exciting to have them available.

Mercy Dee Walton's Pity and a Shame is making me very happy. Hi-fi 60s blues, piano + harmonica + vocals. Kind of sparse instrumentally, but with a big, fat hi-fi sound. Perfect for blues dancing. Also, fixing my need for saucy blues.


Mildred Anderson's No More In Life

This woman has an amazing voice. I'm also enjoying the superior quality of these recordings: stereo! It's been a long time since I bought something in stereo. It's a bit exciting. And caught be my surprise, the first time something different came out of the second speaker. Both are from the Fantasy/Prestige label on emusic. This is some special stuff.

I'm also thinking of both these with blues dancing in mind. Not mine (as I am still MIA with fuckingshit injury), but other people's.

You know, it's actually a lot easier finding music for blues dancers. The time period is looser - I'm working between the 20s and the current day, though I'm heavier in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. There was just such a wealth of nice, fat blues action recorded. The swinging stuff I need for lindy hop (mostly late 20s, 30s and 40s, with some time in the 50s) is a lot harder to find, and it's also a lot trickier to judge the quality. Quality as in recording quality, but also (and more importantly) quality for actual dancing. Perhaps my standards are just lower for blues dancing. Or perhaps Australian blues dancers just have lower expectations of their DJs. At any rate, with all this lovely blues music available (and relatively easy to find - both online and in music shops), why is it that we have to listen to bullshitty 'blues fusion', trance, etc at blues dances? I know other people are into it, but it just shits me. If I wanted that action, I'd go listen to some decent DJing by hardcore trance/fusion DJs who really knew their shit. And I wouldn't be dancing the naff blues partner dancing to that shiz. No way.

... I guess I'm a little cranky about this stuff at the moment - I can't dance to anything, so it's horrible watching people waste their lucky dancingness on bullshit music.


I am cranky.

"mercy dee walton's Pity And A Shame and mildred anderson's No More In Life" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

oh goodness me

Posted by dogpossum on January 19, 2009 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

This is one kickass band of stars. I'm still on my Willie Dixon kick. Watch for his seriously saucy vocals and bass action.

"oh goodness me" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and objects of desire

January 17, 2009

Introducing the Rhythm Club All Stars

Posted by dogpossum on January 17, 2009 3:40 PM | Comments (0)


I can't really be bothered writing about this, beyond "want!".
From the site:

Introducing the Rhythm Club All-Stars . . . a brand new, super swingin collective specializing in jazz from the 1920s and '30s. True to its name, the RCAS is an all-star aggregation that features some of the top professionals on the Southern California scene. Led by internationally renowned drummer Daniel Glass (Royal Crown Revue, Bette Midler, Gene Simmons), the RCAS also include guitar wizard and vocalist John Reynolds (Cab Calloway, Janet Klein), bassist John Hatton (Brian Setzer Orchestra), and horn master Corey Gemme (Johnny Crawford, High Sierra Jazz Band) on cornet and trombone.

Combining vintage instruments and a classic look with a period-perfect sound that swings like crazy, the Rhythm Club All-Stars offer an authentic, high energy retro experience that has quickly become a favorite among Los Angeles area swing dancers and corporate clients alike.

The band's debut CD features a wide variety of classics, from the familiar ("Honeysuckle Rose," "Blue Skies") to the obscure ("Old Joe's Hittin' the Jug," "Digga Digga Doo"). But it's the band's hard swingin' approach and unique arrangements that bring new life to this material. Check out the moody cadence of "Caravan," the fiery brushwork on "Jeepers Creepers" or the virtuosic banjo playing on "Digga Digga Doo" and you'll find yourself screaming for more. This is one disc not to be missed!

CDbaby pleases me: wonderfully prompt service, great products. Yes.

"Introducing the Rhythm Club All Stars" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and objects of desire

January 12, 2009

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Posted by dogpossum on January 12, 2009 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

This is how I danced at sharon Jones and the Dap Kings last night:

...well, I would have if we weren't mashed in like sardines. Even though I'm still injured, that's how I would have danced. If I'd had room.

It was great. The Ray Mann 3 were pretty ordinary, but SJ&DK were freakin' AWESOME.

"Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings" was posted in the category digging and music

December 27, 2008

CW Stoneking

Posted by dogpossum on December 27, 2008 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

CW Stoneking reminds me more of Beck (when he was doing all the ol' timey blues stuff characterised best by his album One Foot In The Grave) than of anyone else.
Nor do I think Stoneking sounds 'black' - he sounds like one of those good ole boys from somewhere in the south. It's something in his timing or his phrasing... something in the way he treats timing. I keep thinking of that line I read somewhere, that music reflects the vocal or linguistic structures of the people who create it. Singing 'black' is more than adding in an accent. It's about intonation and a subtler sense of pitch - more than just going 'up' and the end a sentence to make something sound Australian.
Anyways, I scored both his CDs for christmas from The Squeeze and I like them both a lot.

"CW Stoneking" was posted in the category digging and music

December 22, 2008

be good tanyas

Posted by dogpossum on December 22, 2008 11:18 PM | Comments (1)

Emusic is doing more than just bringing me good jazz, blues and soul. It's also reminding me of my passion for bluegrass and 'American traditionals'. I bought the Be Good Tanyas' first album when I first moved to Melbourne. I think I lasered the grooves out of it.
I'm afraid to look at Amanda's list. I know I'll only add a zillion albums to my Want list.

That 250gb of birthday computer space isn't going to last too long at this rate.

"be good tanyas" was posted in the category digging and music

December 21, 2008

willie dixon and memphis slim's Willie's Blues

Posted by dogpossum on December 21, 2008 10:08 PM | Comments (3)


Willie Dixon and Memphis Slim's 'Willie Blues'.

Emusic has me by the throat.
The Deadwood soundtrack* is, once again, fascilitating my unhealthy desires.

Not to mix a metaphor...

*more specifically, the (songs played over the credits of Deadwood)

"willie dixon and memphis slim's Willie's Blues" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and objects of desire

December 19, 2008

sweetness of sweetnesses

Posted by dogpossum on December 19, 2008 9:58 AM | Comments (0)

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings supported by the Ray Mann 3. Could there be anything more wonderful? I don't think so.

"sweetness of sweetnesses" was posted in the category music

December 12, 2008

swingstyrke 7 Right On!

Posted by dogpossum on December 12, 2008 5:30 PM | Comments (0)

Sw7%202.jpg Danish Goodness continued. This Swingstyrke 7 album was recorded live in 2007 and it's great. Still lots of late Basie, but some other action as well, including a version of 'Doodlin'', a song I'm quite partial to. I've put this in the 'groovy swinging lindy hop' category in my collection, which means that it's not for people who only like old scratchy. But if you like a little hi-fi and a little super groove, then it is for you. I like this stuff for the quality, I like the super laid-back swingingness of it, and I like it that it's super groove, which I think of as high powered groove. It doesn't make you sit down and listen, it makes you get up and dance. As with the other Swingstyrke 7 CD, the songs can be a bit long. This is ok when the tempos are lower, but I'll have to watch it when I'm DJing them for dancers.

This CD is good, but the 70s band gave good moustache. European, tight-jeaned flare-legged moustache. And that's sweet.

"swingstyrke 7 Right On!" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

leo mathisen 1941-42 To Be or Not to Be

Posted by dogpossum on December 12, 2008 5:12 PM | Comments (0)

Leo%204.jpg More crapped on about before, which Scotti and I have a shared love for, and which I heard a couple of different versions of over the MLX8 weekend. I love the Hamp version, but this Leo Mathisen version is pretty spankin' good.

In fact, this whole CD is pretty awesome. He's kind of like a Danish version of Fats Waller. Which is weird, but to which I couldn't possibly object. I also liked the version of 'My Baby Just Cares for Me' which was written in the 20s, but which I had assumed was a modern one. It was made super-famous by Nina Simone.
Those of us who grew up with Rage remember this clip with fondness:


Leo Mathisen doesn't look anything like Nina Simone, and neither of them are anthropomorphised cats. I imagine they also had quite different politics. But this Mathisen CD is a neat contrast to the Swingstyrke 7 one. It's olden days music, it has a chunky base and rhythm, which is just right for dancing phat lindy hop, and it's got that nicely saucy, self-reflexive humour which I adore in my jass.

"leo mathisen 1941-42 To Be or Not to Be" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

swingstyrke 7 1978-82 Count's Place

Posted by dogpossum on December 12, 2008 4:33 PM | Comments (0)

ss7.jpgLast week I emailed the people at Little Beat Records (meaning, Peder at LBR) and bought a heap of CDs (you can see the catalogue here). Then The Squeeze paid a bunch of money into their paypal account. Then Peder sent me the CDs (6 of them). He very kindly gave me free postage (well, I did buy a bunch of CDs) and sent them without the jewel cases, which meant that the whole lot fit into one package. They arrived today. It's been raining for ages, but they were ok (phew).

Little Beat is pretty special. They're a small operation (as in one or two blokes) and they basically get olden days Danish music and make it sound nice. Then they put it on CDs and sell it to nerds like me.

So far I've listened to some Harlem Kiddies and some Swingstyrke 7. It's all really fabulous. The quality is magical. And the musicianship is amazing.

Swingstyrke 7 really rock my boat (I'm in the mood for some of this). Crudely, I'd typify them as a 1950s Basie tribute band recording in the 1970s and 80s. So they were a small band making Basie music. And it's freakin' great. I will _definitely_ be playing this next time I DJ. I thought the Paul Tillotson stuff was pretty good (and they're doing similar things with a smaller band), but these Danish guys are the fushiz.

It has that laid back, hi-fi, in-the-pocket feel of late testament Basie, but also smells like Europe. It's a little chunkier in the rhythm section (which is nice for dancing) and makes me want to get up on my (still, stupidly sore and injured) foot and dance about like a fool. DJing it will just KILL me.

Anyways, I'm only just onto the second CD, so I'll be a while yet. I'll write about the Harlem Kiddies next.

"swingstyrke 7 1978-82 Count's Place" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

December 9, 2008

exchanges are great

Posted by dogpossum on December 9, 2008 3:18 PM | Comments (0)

when you're a DJ.

It was really nice to hear some quality DJing from DJs with extensive collections and mad skills. It really makes a difference.

One of the nice parts of the MLX8 weekends was hearing DJs playing from albums/collections I own, but taking songs I'd never have thought to play.

Trev played a neat song from the Chu Berry Mosaic collection (Chasin' Shadows, with Putney Dandridge and his Orchestra) which I'd missed, and now I'm revisiting the collection. It's so very, very good.
I think, if I were to buy just one Mosaic set, that'd be the one. Actually, I'd probably buy that one and the Lionel Hampton one and the Duke Ellington small group one.

But if I could buy any now, I'd get the Kid Ory one and the (early) Louis Jordan one.

"exchanges are great" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music and objects of desire

December 7, 2008

always last to the bar

Posted by dogpossum on December 7, 2008 3:37 PM | Comments (0)


Can't believe I missed CW Stoneking in Melbourne. I'm a dummy.
Old timey blues and low-down action. Just my cup of tea. listen here.
Can be bought via itunes (blurgh) or amazon (double blurgh), or via his label Voodoo Rhythm (check their punkrockingly dodgy site) or here.

And he's Australian, no less.
Also, note the musicians in his 'band' - the sorts of jazznicks you know you can love.

"always last to the bar" was posted in the category djing and music and objects of desire

October 31, 2008

firehouse five

Posted by dogpossum on October 31, 2008 1:09 PM

My desire for the Firehouse Five (specifically this album) has forced me to think, even more seriously (as in, will probably do it) about emusic.
This band is in the vein of the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, the Firecrackers and other recreationist bands. Excepting the Firehouse Five are actually from the revivalist period (mostly). I've just bought this CD, but I think I could go on and on and on. I know it's tighty-whitey cultural appropriation, but dang. The quality is good. And, well. You know. I want it. And thinking about music means I don't have to think about the masses of reading I have left to do.

But the sudden plummeting dollar has meant that buying CDs is expensive, mostly because of the postage. I like to have the liner notes, emusic will hit me with an extra bill each month, but... instant music. Sweet. Cheaper music. Double sweet. I think I will use it for 'taster' songs, finalising my departure from itunes, and for albums by newer artists where I don't need the liner notes. I think I'll also keep back up copies on CD with copies of the album cover (just in case, and because I'm a bit ob-con).

"firehouse five" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music and objects of desire

October 20, 2008

sweet eddie condon (and friends) action

Posted by dogpossum on October 20, 2008 2:10 PM

(props to Plog for finding this)

"sweet eddie condon (and friends) action" was posted in the category music

October 19, 2008

little fats and swingin' hot shot party

Posted by dogpossum on October 19, 2008 8:19 PM

lf.jpg Hot Japanese swing. Yes. You can listen to it here.
I am always a sucker for a contemporary band doing skankin' old timey jazz. Most of the best bands seem to be punker kids. Because, really, that's what that olden days hawt jass was all about. Sex and drugs and rock and roll.

"little fats and swingin' hot shot party" was posted in the category music and objects of desire

October 16, 2008

maybe i am just getting cynical

Posted by dogpossum on October 16, 2008 6:02 PM

I found this video clip on someone else's blog:

This type of song would have been right up my alley when I was about 16. He's all mournful and longing for his wooz. It's very sing-along-able.
But it really doesn't do anything for me today. Watching, it I thought (in this order):
1. 'What's that goob on his... oh, he has a nose ring. Ok. And so does she. Well, I guess piercings are pretty everyday now, aren't they?' Goes to show how long it's been since I watched a mainstream video clip. In the olden days you'd have found a nose ring on any indy boy (or girl), but definitely not in the nostril of this little emo lad. Things've changed. And it's been a long time since I shaved my head each week and wore docs. Now I just let my hair get shaggy and long and wear hiking shoes or sneakers everywhere.

2. 'He's singing like a girl, and that's probably why I would have liked him when I was a teenager.' All that emotional exposure was not something I would have found in your average northern Brisbane suburban boy in the 80s. It would have been riveting, fascinating and utterly irresistible. I think, in part, because it's the type of hardcore emoting girls my age did. But not boys. Now I look at it and think 'harden, up, mate'. If I knew him, I'd know that this arty lad was a one for pulling the guilt trip, some hardcore passive aggressive manipulation ('I'm emotionally sensitive - you can't say you don't want to have sex/come to the party with me/do what I want - I'll cry or spend hours writing poetry or get into bed and never get out'). These days, this is the type of bloke I have absolutely no patience with. I know that he's the type of bloke who'd spend hours telling you about his emotions or his poetry or his songs or his whatever, and then cleverly manage to turn the conversation back to himself, him, he when I wanted to perhaps talk a little about myself. I am wary of men who like a woman who listens. I am wary of these soft-centred blokes who really just want you (woman, girl) to listen to how they feel. When I was a teenager, it would've been my cup of tea. These days, if I meet a bloke who doesn't once ask me about myself, or who can happily spend hours talking bullshit about himself, I'm totally not interested. Get a blog, for god's sake. I like blokes with emotions (and who know how to use them), but this sort of overly-romantic, dumb-rhyming, soft-focus shit gets my hackles up.

3. 'He's attractive, attractive in an ordinary-bloke sort of way. Why isn't the girl in the clip attractive in an ordinary-girl sort of way? Why is she this super-skinny glamour-girl? He'd be so much hotter if she was actually attractive in that idiosyncratic ordinary-girl way.' It was quite jarring to see this too-conventionally-attractive girl in the clip. It kind of busted up his 'I'm just interested in what you say' refrain. Obviously he's also missing her skinny arse and her lashings of mascara and her my-eyes-look-this-big-because-I'm-malnourished dull as dishwater mainstream chic. Booooring. He'd ring my bell if the woman he's pining for was actually wearing a proper indy aesthetic, and not just a piercing.

Watching the clip now, listening to it, it's so difficult to have patience with this sort of music. I think it's the territory of teenagers. Only they can actually feel like that, so completely and bottomlessly and without any sense of irony. I look at that clip now, and it makes me giggle a bit. Inappropriately. I think this type of music is for teenagers. Because most adults realise that those intense, hormonally charged feelings aren't going to go on and on forever. You get up, you go to work, you talk to people; you can't just wallow all day in the way you feel. Unless you actually are a teenager. Or seriously depressed. And only a teenager would think that sort of depression was romantic. I listen to that song (which is designed to be played and played and replayed and replayed and so become eternal and never-ending... interminable) and I think 'There's some crazy obsessive stalking going on there. Get over it, mate.'
It certainly pales in comparison with some of the music I listen to now. I mean, Billie Holiday is queen of being freakin' depressed and on heroin and getting beat up by your man. But her songs manage to be both utterly miserable and also kind of self-depreciating. She knows she's screwed, but she can manage a wry smile. She has that level of self-awareness. That lad up there... well, really, either he's trying it on to pull some romantic teenager, or he's too caught up in his own pain to realise he's lacking sympathy.

Maybe I am just getting cynical.

"maybe i am just getting cynical" was posted in the category music

October 7, 2008

i wish i could shimmy like my sister kate

Posted by dogpossum on October 7, 2008 11:39 PM

shake it like jelly, on a plate.

Eva Taylor etc

The SLX was on this past weekend. I am too trashed to post much. There are some gorgeous pics of The Squeeze about, though.

"i wish i could shimmy like my sister kate" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

September 30, 2008

watch this nerdy stuff

Posted by dogpossum on September 30, 2008 9:34 PM

The Archive from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.
Poor record nerd. :(

"watch this nerdy stuff" was posted in the category music

September 24, 2008

andy kirk, mary lou williams and the clouds of joy

Posted by dogpossum on September 24, 2008 1:27 PM

I need more of this man:


and this woman:


and these blokes:


[all photos ripped, shamelessly, from This wonderful site devoted to the African-American Musicians Union. It's fully sick]

"andy kirk, mary lou williams and the clouds of joy" was posted in the category djing and music and objects of desire

September 23, 2008

Fats Waller's A Good Man Is Hard to Find: The Middle Years, Part 2

Posted by dogpossum on September 23, 2008 6:03 PM

I love Fats. It's no secret. This love is becoming an obsession. But A Good Man Is Hard to Find: The Middle Years, Part 2 is another in an excellent series of collections from Bluebird/RCA. I've been happy with every Bluebird purchase I've made - they seem to have recorded my favourite artists and to have produced some lovely albums.
I also have 'the Last Years' and 'the Middle Years part 1'. There're three 'Early Years' sets in this series.
I don't recommend them to new Fats fans - it's pretty samey, and if you don't like one Fats song, there's a good chance you won't like the others. But if you do... well. These are the best collections I've seen around (which are also easily accessible/purchased), the quality is pretty decent and the liner notes are interesting.

"Fats Waller's A Good Man Is Hard to Find: The Middle Years, Part 2" was posted in the category digging and music

The Chronological Martha Davis 1946-1951

Posted by dogpossum on September 23, 2008 11:57 AM

The Chronological Martha Davis 1946-1951. I have a couple of her songs from a great compilation of Kansas Blues singers and I play them over and over and over. There's not a lot of Davis stuff about, but that's what I want. I play one song, 'Kitchen Blues' an awful lot - she has a lovely, velvety voice.

[edit: marking these essays has apparently done irreparable damage to my language skills]

"The Chronological Martha Davis 1946-1951" was posted in the category djing and music and objects of desire

September 22, 2008

lovely blooz action

Posted by dogpossum on September 22, 2008 3:34 PM

Firstly, I just wrote a decent version of this post then deleted it. Shit.

Ok, so I'll see what I can remember.

Firstly, you have to watch this clip below.
I think a lot of people think that blues dancing is just standing about cuddling to really slow music - sort of frottage on the hoof. But it's not. It's not that boring (and I have to say, there's nothing more boring than DJing that type of blues gig - booooring. Unless you're into voyeurism. But I guess even then you'd lose interest after about 4 hours). It's not. There's lots more fun stuff going on.

I think Blues Shout is on the top of my list of American camps I'd like to go to, right now. There's lots of interesting stuff going on there.
I blogged about this a little while ago with this great clip from 2007.

So what do I like about that latest clip?

1. body shapes. There's a lot more going on there than the muscle and sinew action we've been seeing in lindy hop lately as the tempos get really high. But there's no silly barbie frou-frou rubbish either. I keep thinking 'built for comfort'.

2. sass + sauce. The extreme sensuality, but also the radical parody. The snicker with the shimmy. I like the way you really have to bring it to make this work - you have to commit, physically and emotionally, and really perform to make the tension between humour and sexuality work.

3. hot and cool. The relationship between extremely hot bodies and very cool faces.

Well, with all that in mind, here's the set I did last night. It was quite a long set, which was nice (though a bit scary, as I really don't have that much music for blues dancing - just what I find on my 'lindy' CDs... hahahah... well, really, this is a good argument for buying CDs rather than downloading individual songs - with an album you get the whole emotional spectrum and a selection of songs by an artist, with one song you get ... just one song).
It was a lovely set to do, though I was fanging for a dance. I would have, perhaps, as this crowd is pretty laid back, but I don't feel confident enough to line up a few songs and then dance, with blues. I'm just not experienced enough to be sure it'll work. I ran through a whole range of styles, partly because my tastes are quite varied, but also because I think it's a better idea with a group of dancers who are newer to a style - give people a general taster. Also, I'm not sure I have enough music to do a solid speciality set. People really seemed to like it... I think. There's a lot more socialising and drinking here in Sydney than at Melbourne dance events, and that makes it harder to judge the crowd. Also, there were about six zillion chicks there last night, so there'd always be a lot of people sitting and watching.

A couple of notes about the music:
I've been exploring Taj Mahal lately. He's not my number one favourite, but you have to respect a legend. I've downloaded a couple of songs from his greatest hits albums from itunes, but I'm not sure I really need entire albums just yet. I'll think about it though, especially if I see them cheap at a shop.


I came in loud and proud, partly because I wanted to get the energy up and fun, rather than coming in all quiet and kissy. Most useful thing I've ever learnt about DJing blues was from Andy: keep it loud, like a party. Loud as in high energy. I also favour a little humour and sass in my blues, so I'm not much good with the overly earnest artists (though I do like a little Nina Simone).

There was a birthday dance, for which I chose 'Miss Celie's Blues'. I had a feeling the birthday girl would be into that Sistah action, and she was very happy with the choice.

jr.jpegPeople seemed to like 'New Orleans Bump'. I mean, I've played it before, but the reaction of dancers last night was more interesting than in the past. They were warmed up, which helped. They were feeling 'up', which helped. They'd had a couple of drinks, which helped. The class before hand (which was really quite interesting) was all about dancing to the music, and how to combine moves and types of movements to illustrate the music, and the dancers were all trying out the ideas all night. It made DJing a whole lot more interesting. But anyhow, people were experimenting with stuff in the percussion intro, and then they really seemed to dig the tango rhythms, and then were totally digging the 'drama' of the song - there were many campy dips and uber-emoting. Which is just perfect for Jelly Roll, who's all about making shit up and showing off.

I still don't feel that I'm a terribly good blues DJ. I feel as though I ignore tempos too much, and tend to ram songs together based on style, rather than working for a longer-range emotional wave. But there's a much smaller tempo range to work with (about 45-120bpm as opposed to 120-300 bpm for lindy) and you can't apply the usual rules about giving dancers a break 'cause they're tired. It's all slow, so you can just dance every single song, forever. I think I jump about, 'mood' wise, and that's not so cool. But I guess I just need more practice.

I don't much like Molly Johnson, but I do like it that she sounds like Masie Grey (sp?). She's really not as good as the old school chicks. But she doesn't suck. I bought a few of her songs from itunes after listening my way through most of her albums on amazon.

Every time I play Dinah Washington a woman asks me who that artist was. She goes down well with ladies. Because she rocks. I own a lot of Washington, but I still want this Mosaic set. Because.
Carol Ralph also always goes down well. People can't believe she's local. But she is. And that album is really very good - the musicians are top shelf. Not many Australians can pull off the sass/humour of those old school blues queens. But she can.

[title, artist, bpm, year, length, album, last played - NB there are some inaccurate dates as I just can't keep up with that data - I can't keep up with making sure all the dates are actually the recording dates and not the album release date. This is especially tricky because sometimes CDs' liner notes don't include recording details, especially if they're a cheap CD (like that Aretha greatist hits).]

Sleep in Late Molly Johnson 86 2002 2:47 Another Day 21/09/08 9:55 PM
Built for Comfort Taj Mahal 98 1998 4:46 In Progress & In Motion (1965-1998) 21/09/08 10:00 PM
Blues Stay Away George Smith 82 1955 3:10 Kansas City - Jumping The Blues From 6 To 6 21/09/08 10:03 PM
Confessin' The Blues Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 92 1957 4:16 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 21/09/08 10:08 PM
Bargain Day Dinah Washington 89 1956 2:55 The Swingin' Miss "D" 21/09/08 10:11 PM
Jealous Hearted Blues Carol Ralph 80 2005 3:48 Swinging Jazz Portrait 21/09/08 10:14 PM
Reckless Blues Velma Middleton with Louis Armstrong and the All Stars 88 2:30 The Complete Decca Studio Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars (disc 06) 21/09/08 10:17 PM
Rosetta Blues Rosetta Howard with the Harlem Hamfats 103 1937 3:00 History of the Blues - disc2 21/09/08 10:20 PM
Kitchen Blues Martha Davis 80 1947 3:05 BluesWomen Girls Play And Sing The Blues 21/09/08 10:23 PM
I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl Nina Simone 65 1967 2:33 Released 21/09/08 10:26 PM
Rangoon Cootie Williams 63 2:12 In Hi-Fi 21/09/08 10:28 PM
Goin' To Chicago Count Basie and His Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing 79 1952 3:22 Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings (Disc 2) 21/09/08 10:31 PM
Incoherent Blues Clark Terry, Ed Thigpen, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown 64 1964 2:41 Oscar Peterson Trio + One: Clark Terry 21/09/08 10:34 PM
My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More Alberta Hunter 76 1978 3:49 Amtrak Blues 21/09/08 10:38 PM
I Feel Like Layin In Another Woman's Husband's Arms Blu Lu Barker 89 1946 2:57 Don't You Feel My Leg: Apollo's Lady Blues Singers 21/09/08 10:41 PM
I Ain't No Ice Man Cow Cow Davenport 89 1938 2:51 History of the Blues - disc2 21/09/08 10:43 PM
Tin Roof Blues Wingy Manone and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings 92 1934 2:58 The Wingy Manone Collection Vol. 2 21/09/08 10:46 PM
New Orleans Bump Wynton Marsalis 128 1999 4:36 Mr. Jelly Lord - Standard Time, Vol. 6 21/09/08 10:51 PM
St. James Infirmary Henry "Red" Allen 98 1991 3:45 World on a String - Legendary 1957 Sessions 21/09/08 10:55 PM
Wild Man Blues Louis Armstrong and the All Stars 75 3:58 The Complete Decca Studio Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars (disc 05) 21/09/08 10:59 PM
Do I Move You? (Second Version) (Bonus Track) Nina Simone 70 2006 2:20 Nina Simone Sings the Blues 21/09/08 11:01 PM
Shave 'em Dry Asylum Street Spankers 131 1997 4:21 Nasty Novelties 21/09/08 11:05 PM
Son Of A Preacher Man Aretha Franklin 77 3:16 Greatest Hits - Disc 1 21/09/08 11:09 PM
Soul of a Man Irma Thomas 121 2006 3:02 After the Rain 21/09/08 11:12 PM
Telephone Blues George Smith 68 1955 3:03 Kansas City - Jumping The Blues From 6 To 6 21/09/08 11:15 PM
Miss Celie's Blues Molly Johnson 97 2002 3:46 Another Day 21/09/08 11:19 PM
Back Water Blues Dinah Washington with Belford Hendricks' Orchestra 71 1957 4:58 Ultimate Dinah Washington 21/09/08 11:24 PM
Wee Baby Blues Count Basie with Mahalia Jackson 64 1968 3:14 Live In Antibes 1968 21/09/08 11:27 PM
Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You Count Basie and His Orchestra with Joe Williams 68 1957 2:32 The Count Basie Story (Disc 2) 21/09/08 11:30 PM
When The Lights Go Out Jimmy Witherspoon 100 1998 3:01 Jazz Me Blues: the Best of Jimmy Witherspoon 21/09/08 11:33 PM
The Mooche Michael McQuaid's Red Hot Rhythmakers 117 2006 3:41 Rhythm Of The Day 21/09/08 11:36 PM
Blue Leaf Clover Firecracker Jazz Band 111 2005 4:59 The Firecracker Jazz Band 21/09/08 11:41 PM
Sweet Home Chicago Taj Mahal 93 1998 3:15 In Progress & In Motion (1965-1998) 21/09/08 11:45 PM
Young Woman's Blues Loose Marbles 102 4:22 21/09/08 11:49 PM

"lovely blooz action" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

September 21, 2008

old fat blokes making sweet, sweet jass

Posted by dogpossum on September 21, 2008 10:06 PM

I'm off to DJ some blooz tonight, and have just paused to show The Squeeze on of the Best Things about youtube:

Live concerts by freakin' amazing musicians. This is Oscar Peterson and Count Basie playing lovely jazz. Basie was about a zillion years old then. Peterson has only passed away in the last couple of years.
This is a really nice song, and one I might consider playing for blooz dancers. Or lindy hoppers in a quiet moment. Either way, it's sweet listening and dancing.

I especially love the way the drummer is penned off in a little bubble. That's become drummers are Trouble and need to be kept away from the big kids.

"old fat blokes making sweet, sweet jass" was posted in the category music

September 12, 2008

it could just be that nerds - no matter their flavour - love to talk to other nerds about stuff they love

Posted by dogpossum on September 12, 2008 6:15 PM

I've been crapping on about DJing on the SwingDJs board. I started a thread called mad skillz: mentoring, encouraging and skilling up (new) DJs. As with all threads I've begun with long, expository posts that don't really make much sense and which tend to be far to theoretical, the thread has been languishing. Kind of like my tutorials when I ask a long question which is really a bit of exposition or otherwise impossible to answer.
But someone asked a question which caught my interest, so I'm going to answer it here, at length.

I made this comment (in a post that was far too long):

One thing I've noticed - if a scene values social dancing and has quite a tight community vibe, there's a strong emphasis on skilling up new DJs. But the local culture dictates how this skilling up is achieved.
(Posted: Thu Sep 11, 2008 20:40, first page of the thread at URL above)
And Haydn replied:
Can I ask you - in practice, how does this 'tight community vibe' translate into DJs helping each other?

I'm going to answer this at length here, rather than cluttering up that discussion board with my own opinions/rambles.

I have to reiterate: I'm working largely from an Australian perspective, with only a bit of international experience. I'm sure things are vary in different places.

'A tight community vibe' needn't actually translate into DJs helping each other. I don't see it very often, but I'm sure there've been times when a DJ has made it difficult for a new DJ or experienced DJ to 'break into' a scene - to preserve their own status, to preserve their own profits, etc.
Also, definitions of 'community' (and who's actually considered part of that community) are ideologically and politically loaded. Do you count west coast swing dancers as part of your 'swing' community? Rock and rollers? People from other dance schools/studios? Musicians? People you don't know?
When I say a 'tight community vibe', I'm thinking about scenes where people articulate some sense of 'communitas' or identify themselves as part of a scene or community with some sort of pride, protectiveness, etc.

But how might that translate to DJs helping each other?

Well, if a local scene has an active social club or organisation who also run social events, then that club might have an incentive to manage DJs quite carefully - so new DJs will get a bit of mentoring or coaching. I've noticed that gigs run by a smaller more coherent group - or by one person, or coordinated by someone who really cares about the DJing/social dancing - often manage the DJs more carefully. If the night is only one of many, is managed by an inexperienced dancer (or DJ) or isn't actually 'valued' terribly highly, the DJing might be less strictly managed. Also, interestingly, if an event (or club) has a particularly fervent revivalist bent (ie they're really really really into historical 'accuracy'), they're also pretty anal about music and about 'teaching' their DJs to like the 'right' music. But people might 'manage' DJs for other reasons - nepotism, interpersonal rivalries, failed romances, burning desires, professional networking, etc - all might affect who hires whom for which gigs.

I've noticed that these trends increase as a scene develops - in a newer scene, for example, where there are fewer DJs, there's less 'regulation' of DJing: people are just happy to have someone play some music. As DJing becomes increasingly 'professionalised' or formalised in a scene (eg introducing pay rates, introducing a DJ roster, introducing preferences for particular types of music), then it becomes more 'regulated'. It can also become less accessible. I've wondered if this is as a scene or community grows it also develops increasingly complex modes of cultural production and management (whether we're talking DJing, dancing, dress making, event management, website design, whatever). Also, people figure out that formalised ways of working together can be useful on large projects - a camp has 'rules' for teachers (whether unspoken or not), an exchange is run by a group who become a nonprofit organisation to deal with tax and insurance, a social night has formal (or informally enforced) 'no aerials' rules for public safety.

What I've noticed (and I guess I'm talking about Australian examples, and only very vaguely in reference to the US, etc) is that if a local scene has quite a close community - ie people volunteering their time for events, events run by committees with a 'community development' agenda and ethos rather than (or in addition to) a profit motive, etc - then there's a greater interest in 'skilling up' DJs - for the community's benefit. More experienced DJs are more likely to volunteer to mentor new DJs in that context out of a spirit of 'communitas' or 'doing good stuff for the community'.

There are other reasons for managing new DJs, though - profit motive is a good one, especially if you're in a scene where dancers really value or care about the quality of DJing. Or plain old competition for cultural capital - a DJ might feel it's in their interests to discourage new DJs or to not open their night to new DJs (ie they want to keep their status and ward off competitors). If a particular event has a specific musical focus (eg it might want to showcase a particular musical style or moment in history), then there'd also be reason to manage the DJs - if you were (for example), interested in running a 'neo revival' night, you might favour DJs who play BBVD, etc, and not hire DJs who play old school exclusively. I've even played gigs where what I've looked like - on stage - has been important: wearing vintage gear was specifically requested... which leads to interesting questions about the 'performance' of DJing. And how we might 'perform' the role of 'vintage music fan' or 'swing dancer = vintage costume fan' for an audience of non-dancers, for example. [That last bit is interesting in the light of things like the Facebook group 'Embracing my embarrassing swing adolescence' which seems largely to be about aesthetics and protocols of swing dance fashion - ie what not to wear]

There's also another interesting aspect to all this. Throughout much of the academic literature dealing with online communities, authors note the importance of 'answering questions', especially in an established and well-moderated online 'community'. People might answer questions for a number of reasons: to help out; to demonstrate their own knowledge (and status); to test their own knowledge; to enter into the discussion (and hence participate in the community - basically, answering simply as a way of getting into the conversation and enjoying the process of answering and discussing questions); etc etc etc.

I've always been interested in noticing what type of people answer what types of questions in swing dance discussion boards. In the years I was gathering data for my doctoral thesis (and before), I was really surprised by some of my findings. Sure, the data suggested all this stuff, but I was really hoping to find that how we play online wasn't so tightly bound to gender. But I found that female posters tend to be quicker to offer assistance (eg hosting, info, etc), but that they mightn't do so publicly (they're almost always over-represented in offering condolences, giving positive feedback, compliments and proffering kind words generally). Men are more likely to post 'information' or 'facts', and to disagree. There are exceptions, but on the whole these tropes are consistent, and they also correlate with the way we talk in groups face to face. I'm also interested in the way the threaded discussion echoes 'formal turn taking' in a meeting - which is something all-male groups tend to favour (whereas women tend to favour a more casual, more interrupting/cooperative meaning-making approach). There are also ethnic issues at work here - I was at a fascinating book launch the other day for indigenous literacy day: the speeches and discussion was very very different to the usual middle class 'literati' book launch: a room full of koori ladies don't really do formal turn taking :D.

This is partly to do with how we're socialised (which of course will result in regional variations), but also to do with the social/cultural context of online communication, especially on something like a discussion board. I've been wondering how Facebook changes all that, especially as it's far more accessible than something like a discussion board.

All this might mean, in the context of DJs helping each other, that women are more likely to answer questions via private message or to ask for help via private message, and less likely to post publicly on the board generally. It also suggests that people post answers and 'help each other' for a range of reasons.
SwingDJs is a tricky case study as DJing generally is so male-dominated: there are more men posting regularly here than women, for example (which could be a result of the culture of online communication rather than directly correlating to the number of women DJs IRL).

Something I've noticed: experienced DJs, no matter what their gender, are generally very helpful and welcoming to new DJs. They mightn't be very good at actually helping or communicating their welcome, but they certainly want to be helpful and care about this stuff. This might be a trickle-on effect from the revivalist impulses of contemporary swing dance generally - there's this impetus towards 'recruiting' new dancers, so as to 'preserve' historic dance forms.

Or it could just be that nerds - no matter their flavour - love to talk to other nerds about stuff they love.

" it could just be that nerds - no matter their flavour - love to talk to other nerds about stuff they love" was posted in the category djing and ideas and lindy hop and other dances and music

September 5, 2008

you know the inspector gadget theme?

Posted by dogpossum on September 5, 2008 5:55 PM

It's actually ripped from a song called 'Zonky'.

You know this song is a Fats Waller/Andy Razaf gem.

I would have illustrated this post with a picture Inspector Gadget, but I used google with the safety switch off and am now feeling a bit distressed (not to mention confused).

"you know the inspector gadget theme?" was posted in the category music

September 3, 2008

oh goodness me: the new orleans jazz vipers

Posted by dogpossum on September 3, 2008 12:25 AM

But I do like the New Orleans Jazz Vipers.

They play olden days music with a nasty olden days energy that gets me all excited. I can't wait to DJ this stuff.
I couldn't help but buy all their CDs from And I love shopping at CDbaby - they got these kids to me in about 10 days from the States, they send nice thank you emails, and they pimp indy music. There're quite a few artists I like DJing who sell their gear through CDbaby - Gordon Webster, who's a really great pianist and also a nice guy and a lindy hopper. I've had my eye on that CD for a while - that's some sweet action for blues dancing. His other half (oh, how they'd hate me describing them that way), Solomon Douglas is also sold through CDbaby... I can't think of any others just now, but I've bought a few CDs through them.

And I love love love these Vipers CDs. I also have my eye on a Tshirt.

"oh goodness me: the new orleans jazz vipers" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

August 22, 2008

oh yes

Posted by dogpossum on August 22, 2008 6:29 PM

Whoa Babe is the best song in the world. Yes.

"oh yes" was posted in the category music

August 15, 2008

oh goodness me

Posted by dogpossum on August 15, 2008 12:10 PM

isn't sister Rosetta Tharpe the fushizz?

(via flopearedmule)

"oh goodness me" was posted in the category music

August 11, 2008

hot and anxious

Posted by dogpossum on August 11, 2008 10:09 PM

While it might perhaps be the most recognisable song of the 'swing era', I don't like 'In the Mood'. Glen Miller can go screw himself. I know that he had some action going on, but I'm adamant. In fact, I'm standing by my line, and not liking his version of that song. I don't like dancing to it, and I don't particularly like listening to it. No, no, I don't.

I do, however, very much like There's Rhythm in Harlem by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1935). That online version there, though, unfortunately doesn't feature the very recognisable In the Mood melody line.
I also have a song called Hot and Anxious (1932) by Don Redman (who wrote stuff for the McKinney's Cotton Pickers - that's him to the left there), which also pwns the Miller version. Having said that, I'm not entirely sure they're different songs... or different versions.

... wait, let me get my learn on.

Gunther Schuller tells me that Hot and Anxious was arranged by Horace Henderson for Don Redman (and his orchestra) in 1932. He also writes that In the Mood...

...has an interesting history. A riff tune, built on blues changes, it was composed by the black reed instrumentalist and arranger Joe Garland. But as is so often the case in riff pieces, it was based on a motif that had kicked around a long time and was simply assembled, notated, and put by Garland in a specific copyrightable form. It appears that the trumpeter Wingy Manone first used the basic In The Mood lick from 1930 on a Chicago-style recording called Tar Paper Stomp. He recorded it again, rechristened as Jumpy Nerves, in 1939, just four months before Miller's In The Mood recording. But by that time Joe Garland had picked the riff up and had used it in his 1935 composition and arrangement of There's Rhythm in Harlem for the Mills Blue Rhythm Band. But long before that (March 1931) Horace Henderson had incorporated the riff as the second strain in his Hot and Anxious, recorded by both his brother Fletcher's band and Don Redman's.

Joe Garland took his 1935 arrangement with him when he left the Blue Rhythm Band along with Edgar Hayes, and recorded it as In The Mood for Hayes in early 1938. Next he offered it to Artie Shaw, who played but never recorded it, on the one hand thinking the simplistic riff a little beneath his own musical ambitions and on the other hand finding Garland's arrangement too long to fit on a ten-inch disc.

When Garland offered In the Mood to Miller, who was undoubtedly looking for strong new numbers for his Glen Island Casino booking, Miller grabbed the piece. With the precise skills of a first-rate surgeon Miller trimmed Garland's arrangement down to essentials, retaining the two initial strains, building in two solo sections (a saxophone exchange between Beneke and Klink, and a Hurley 16-bar trumpet solo over an Aflat pedal point) to the famous fade-away ending with its riff repeated three times at ever softer dynamic levels, then suddenly roaring in ff a fourth time for the final climax. ... [and here Schuller continues with an in-depth analysis of the score and recording]...

No official word has ever been offered as to how the arranger's credits are to read. Two things are clear, however, from the aural evidence itself... [and Schuller describes this evidence in detail]...

It is ironic but in the nature of the popular music business, that Miller became a millionaire on In The Mood alone, unlike his three arranger helpmates - [Joe] Garland, [Eddie] Durham [once trombonist with Jimmie Lunceford's band], and [Chummy] MacGregor [Miller's pianist] - who did not share in the financial rewards. Durham reputedly received all of five dollars for his contribution. (The Swing Era, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1989: 674-675).


I recommend Schuller's histories of jazz. The Swing Era is awesome - it's a big, fat book, and you can pick it up on amazon for a tiny amount. I don't have Early Jazz, but it's on my wish list. While his analyses of each musician are complemented by some seriously in-depth analysis of the score, it's still accessible. And listening along is really fascinating - you learn an awful lot.

"hot and anxious" was posted in the category music

August 6, 2008

trev got pwnd

Posted by dogpossum on August 6, 2008 4:36 PM | Comments (5)


But this image pwns all.

"trev got pwnd" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

August 3, 2008

barbara morrison does sydney

Posted by dogpossum on August 3, 2008 5:24 PM | Comments (2)

BM.jpg Sparingly: Barbara Morrison rocks. Her music is very popular with swing dancers (though I'm always surprised that so few go see her shows when she's in town - she's a seasoned musicians who specialises in playing for dancers), and she's doing a few shows in Sydney and one in Melbourne. She's doing one special show for dancers with specially-priced tickets: only $30 for the first 100 tickets. She'll be playing with the Brad Child Orchestra & John Harkins Trio. I met Brad Child last week at the Unity Hall Pub (where we'll be this afternoon... quite soon... if you like jass) and he's quite keen on the gig. I'm curious and looking forward to it.

From the site...


The undisputed first ladies of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holliday are being saluted by US acclaimed jazz/blues vocalist Barbara Morrison, who is returning by popular demand to Australian stages in August 2008.

“The Captivating Ms. Morrison just tears ‘em up!” (LA Scoop)

“A joy! At Carnegie Hall, Barbara Morrison delivered one song a la Esther Phillips and another with Ella Fitzgerald’s blithe scat singing.” (New York Times)

and “She can be as playful as Ella, as thoughtful as Sarah, as naughty as Etta. Barbara Morrison, has an international following with her big personality and delicious sense of swing” (The Jazz World Magazine).

Where and when?
Thursday, August 21 from 7:30 pm
Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Road, Enmore, Sydney, Australia

"barbara morrison does sydney" was posted in the category lindy hop and other dances and music

jazz on a winter's day

Posted by dogpossum on August 3, 2008 1:45 PM | Comments (0)

1. I am full of snot because I forgot to take my antihistamine yesterday and our house is full of moving dust.

2. I got up late because we went dancing at the Roxbury. Yes, we had a night at the Roxbury. It was wicked fun - a crowded, pumping room with lots of dancers and lots of fun. There's a lot of dancing in Sydney, and a lot of dancers. So far we have been out dancing four times (in two weeks!), and had to beg off a fifth because we were wrecked from house hunting. It wasn't just a heap of fun because there were so many dancers there, it was also a heap of fun because there's such a range of dancing styles on the floor. There're two major schools in Sydney, one which is an off-shoot of a Melbourne school, another which also has an interstate presence and which teaches 'Hollywood' style. I have to say that there were some leads there last night that blew my brain - they were so good I just thought 'just follow, just follow - don't muck this up with any fancy business'.
They weren't just technically good dancers, they were also socially 'good' - they'd smile and respond and interact with their partners and did nice things like say "thanks for that dance!" and ask for another with enthusiasm. They were also more musically interesting - not just dancing the same old boring steps in the same old combinations, regardless of phrasing or energy or the structure of the song generally. And then they were great because they did things like include interesting jazz steps, experiment with the connection and really make me pay attention.
First night in town dancing I was suddenly struck by how obstructive my own bad habits are to my following. And when I danced with someone who 'felt' like a Melbourne dancer (yanking me in on one, rather than using a more mellow lead in), I suddenly thought 'oh, this is why I have this bad habit of running in one, rather than waiting to be led - I'm trying to protect myself and avoid yank'. But that same protective rush is also impeding my following - it's like I'm interrupting and yapping on without listening to their idea; I'm finishing their sentences. And in turn this makes it difficult for us to actually have a proper conversation where we're both contributing equally.
A nice thing about dancing in a really diverse scene with lots of leads who take very different approaches is that I have to pick up my game and I feel inspired and really interested in actually dancing. Another nice thing is that it's really nice to watch the floor. In fact, it feels like we're at an exchange - even The Squeeze is dancing a lot. We're possibly going dancing again tonight (a big band squeezed into the Unity Hall pub in Balmain this afternoon) and while I'm a bit hesitant as we have more house stuff to do, he's all "yep, we'll be there!"
There're actually quite a few live bands to see in Sydney. In fact, there's not much of a DJing culture at all here, and most people are into live music for their dancing. This is really very nice - we've only seen one band so far, but it's always exciting to see new musicians. The year we went to SLX (the Sydney Lindy Exchange) the exchange coincided with the Manly Jazz Festival - now that was special.

jsd.jpg 3. Which is a nice segue to my next point. Right now I'm watching Jazz on a Summer's Day, a 1960 film made about the Newport Jazz Festival. FXH recommended it in his comment to this post, but I'd mistaken it for another film. Any how, I ordered it on our Quickflix account and I'm watching it right now, while I wipe my nose and The Squeeze has a long, deliciously decadent lie-in (the first he's had in about a month). It's a great film, the music is really fabulous and the visuals are really neat - lots of crowd footage, scenes from the yacht race and of course, really, really amazing footage of musicians. anita1.jpg
Newport looms large in my mind for a number of reasons. Firstly, because there are so many freakin' amazing albums featuring performances from the festival.
mj.jpg My most recent purchase in this series was the Mahalia Jackson live in 1958, and that really is fully sick. Beyond that, there's the Count Basie at Newport album, and of course, the Ellington at Newport in '56. Both of these are really neat. What makes them so neat is the fact that these were really big stars live in front of a massive crowd at an outdoor festival.
hs.jpgBeyond these, Newport is also an important character in a film I've always loved, High Society. Louis Armstrong stars in High Society, and the protagonist Dexter is played by Bing Crosby. Dexter is set up as a patron/organiser? (I can't remember which) of the Newport Jazz Festival, and the entire film is set in Newport. There're some interesting class things going on in the film, the one that always catches my interest being the way Armstrong is set up as the 'narrative' of the film in the opening scene as he and his band arrive in town in a coach (a nice contrast with Samantha's sports car). Armstrong also sings the really great song 'Now You Has Jazz' with Bing Crosby, a song which is popular with dancers (and good fun for dancing). There's a sweet scene where Armstrong and the band introduce the very straight, very white crowd of Newport socialites to jazz. They play the one song then it's back to straighty-one-eighty unswing, unjazz for the rest of the party. I really like the idea of a black man (and such an important man in the history of jazz) introducing a bunch of straights to jazz at a Newport society house party. The crowd are apparently completely unaware of the festival and its significance - oblivious to the world beyond their high society manners and conflicts. Crosby's role is kind of problematic, set up as he is, as the 'patron' for the festival.
It's interesting to watch High Society in reference to Jazz on a Summer's Day, and in the light of the festival's history more generally. And I'm very grateful to FXH for getting me onto this film in the first place.

"jazz on a winter's day" was posted in the category fillums and lindy hop and other dances and music

July 31, 2008

sinner, you better get ready: more liveblogging unpacking

Posted by dogpossum on July 31, 2008 11:09 PM

My mum got me a few great CDs when she was in Washington (DC, that is). She went to about a million Smithsonian museums, and gotted me some great CDS. Just in case you didn't know, the Smithsonian collection includes some freaking amazing recordings of American folk music (including jazz, blues, gospels, spirituals, etc etc etc). I am a big old nerd for late 19th and early 20th century American music. I prefer jazz and blues, but I'm also a nut for some of the sort of music you might have heard on the Cohen Brothers' film O brother, where art thou?. Anyhow, one of the CDs mum got me is called VA/Classic Southern Gospel From Smithsonian Folkways. I know my grammar is broken, but I am suddenly very tired.

Any how, I have moved on from Leadbelly (which was another mum gotted CD, btw) to this stuff. Beginning with The Lilly Brothers singing 'Sinner, you'd better get ready'. Sweet. I like this sort of southern gospel/bluegrass type stuff for the obvious development of British/European folk forms. I'm a nerd for being able to hear the history of a music/see the history of a dance in its current form. Especially when we're talking about diaspora. I likes folk music and dance because they change - they're not institutionalised and static. They're constantly changing to suit people's needs and interests. Just like language. Fully sick.

(If you're interested, mum also got me a couple of Harlem Hamfats CDs: a document self titled job (vol 3) and Let's Get Drunk and Truck. I love that shit).

"sinner, you better get ready: more liveblogging unpacking" was posted in the category digging and domesticity and music

June 6, 2008

Mora's Modern Rhythmists

Posted by dogpossum on June 6, 2008 4:04 PM

cd-bundle.jpg In a fit of frivolity the other week I picked up this bundle of four Mora's Modern Rhythmists/Swingtet CDs:

These guys are from the US and specialise in creating 'authentic' recreations of 20s, 30s and 40s dance music (mostly 20s and 30s, really). I'm a big fan. I already had Call of the Freaks and 20th Century Closet, but this 4-pack was too good to pass up (and I've already found someone who wants the doubled up copy of 20th Century Closet, which is (in my opinion), the best). As I said, I really like this group - they're recreating music I really like, which means I have nice quality versions of good songs for playing to crowds who aren't really comfortable with serious scratch. These better quality versions are also a nice way of changing the vibe or lifting the energy in a set without moving away from this nice musical period.

Their latest CD Devil's Serenade reminds me of the Melbourne band The Red Hot Rhythmakers (which we've featured at MLX a few years in a row now) - earlier dance band stuff. Hot and seriously fun.

The Rhythmakers are a good example of the music that's quite cool with some of the younger American dancers atm, especially in places like Seattle. It tends to the super fast and is really quite freakin' good fun. The Rhythmakers have just realised their new CD, actually (the launch was this past Monday). Though I couldn't make the launch, friends have managed to secure copies of the CD for me, which is also very neat. I really like their first one and am looking forward to this one.

Any how, I'm very happy with these Mora CDs - it was a bargain and this stuff is very useful for DJing, even if though I tend to prefer the 'originals' for home listening. These guys are also useful for performances - good quality but also 'authentic' and not bullshit neo rubbish.

"Mora's Modern Rhythmists" was posted in the category digging and djing and music

maybe i should stick to dancing

Posted by dogpossum on June 6, 2008 1:45 PM

Goodness me, I've gotten up late this morning. I played a very ordinary set last night that went down very ordinarily. Here it is:

Froggy Bottom Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 155 1957 2:37 5/06/08 10:06 PM Goin' To Kansas City Blues
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie 144 1958 3:13 5/06/08 10:09 PM Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks]
Jump Through The Window Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra 154 1943 2:42 5/06/08 10:12 PM After You've Gone
Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra 135 1945 3:21 5/06/08 10:15 PM Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings
Hungry Man Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 135 1949 3:08 5/06/08 10:18 PM Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 6)
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and His 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 2:49 5/06/08 10:21 PM The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2)
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra 165 1937 3:10 5/06/08 10:24 PM The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2)
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant And His Orchestra 153 1936 3:26 5/06/08 10:28 PM Willie Bryant 1935-1936
Stompy Jones Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 200 1934 3:03 5/06/08 10:31 PM The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 07)
Jive At Five Count Basie 174 1939 2:51 5/06/08 10:34 PM The Complete Decca Recordings (disc 03)
Good Queen Bess Duke Ellington 160 1940 3:00 5/06/08 10:37 PM The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 10)
The Basement Blues Nobel Sissle with Sidney Bechet 153 2000 3:16 5/06/08 10:40 PM Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Sidney Bechet
Krum Elbow Blues Mora's Modern Swingtet 162 2004 2:46 5/06/08 10:43 PM 20th Century Closet
Effervescent Blues Mora's Modern Swingtet 122 2004 3:07 5/06/08 10:46 PM 20th Century Closet
New Orleans Bump Wynton Marsalis 128 1999 4:36 5/06/08 10:50 PM Mr. Jelly Lord - Standard Time, Vol. 6
Charlie's Prelude Mora's Modern Swingtet 128 2004 2:49 19/04/08 7:19 PM 20th Century Closet
Digadoo Firecracker Jazz Band 247 2005 5:20 5/06/08 10:56 PM The Firecracker Jazz Band

All the blues dancers were in town and they were afraid of a) tempos over 120 and b) old music. I think I might actually suck as a DJ, mostly because I just didn't want to play any new groovy rubbish. I just don't have any interest in that stuff any more. Thing is, most of the stuff I really am interested in just goes down like a lead balloon. Sigh. I have to stop playing that 'Froggy Bottom' - it's not good lindy hop.

I'm doing that other set on Sunday - blues - so I hope that goes ok. We'll have to see about that. I've been asked to play 'old school' blues because not many other people will be, but that's not really all that great an idea - after a weekend of groove and soul, old scratchy stuff that's actually higher tempos won't go down well.
I'd like to play some Harlem Hamfats, some early Ellington with Bessie Smith (!!!), some more Bessie Smith, some skanky Kansas doods (Walter Brown with Jay McShann, Big Joe Turner, Juliea Lee, etc), some odd people like Cow Cow Davenport, some dirty chicks like Blu Lu Barker, some rowdy neworleans people like Jelly Roll Morton, some Jimmie Noone (of course!), some Bix Beiderbeck, some Sam Price, Bechet, Wingy Manone, etc etc etc... heck, lots of stuff. Really, just the stuff I'd like to play for lindy hoppers, but slower.
But I find people can't hack the sound quality (especially after a weekend of lovely hi-fi supergroove)...

I like this stuff because it screams 'DANCE BY YOURSELF! DO THOSE JAZZ STEPS, YOU BABY!!!' and it has an edge - it's not so serious, it's dark and quite scary, but it's also winking at you, inviting a bit of black humour...
Well, we'll just have to see. I might end up playing emergency Aretha Franklin and late testament Basie as a compromise.

But I'm not feeling hugely confident in my abilities right now. Maybe I should stick to dancing.

"maybe i should stick to dancing" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

May 5, 2008

extreme DJing nerdery

Posted by dogpossum on May 5, 2008 2:04 PM

I've had a busy DJing fortnight... well, month, really. I've done 6 sets this month, including a blues set. The week before last I did a double on Thursday, then a set on Friday, and then last week I did a set Wednesday and one Thursday. I'm about done with this. Remind me to talk about my sore ears, ok?

Any how, here're the sets I played that are kind of interesting.

This next set is the double from Thursday 24th April. It was a last minute double set, and for once the gig (CBD) actually had some people. It was the night before a public holiday, so there was an almost full room. Not the biggest ever, but much bigger than other weeks. And a mixed crowd, so I could play a mixed set. But I'd had a pretty horrible day, and wasn't feeling terribly inspired or great. So I played the most ordinary set of overplayed favourites ever. But people really liked it. They were dancing like fools, over-energised, over-adrenalined. Which was nice. I started at 8.30 and finished at 11. Here's the set:

Moten Swing Count Basie 135 1958 25/04/08 12:07 PM 4:50 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks]
Jump Ditty! Joe Carroll and The Ray Bryant Quintet 134 25/04/08 9:49 PM 2:54 Joe Carroll Sings
I Diddle Dinah Washington 153 1/05/08 10:15 PM 3:05
Tain't Me Roy Milton and his Solid Senders 158 1992 1/05/08 10:17 PM 2:34 Vol. 2: Groovy Blues
Fine Brown Frame Nellie Lutcher 123 2006 25/04/08 12:18 PM 2:54 Fine Brown Frame
Big Fat Mama Lucky Millinder 135 25/04/08 12:21 PM 3:09 Apollo Jump
Be Careful (If You Can't Be Good) Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra 121 1951 1/05/08 10:12 PM 3:09 Walk 'Em
My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone 120 25/04/08 10:49 PM 3:38 The Great Nina Simone
Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan 147 1956 25/04/08 12:32 PM 3:19 A Tribute To Andy Razaf
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 143 1999 25/04/08 10:23 PM 3:34 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke
For Dancers Only Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra 148 1937 25/04/08 9:59 PM 2:41 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford
Pan Pan Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 152 1941 1/05/08 10:20 PM 2:54 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 2)
Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra with Sonny Parker 134 1949 25/04/08 9:56 PM 3:24 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and His Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 30/04/08 11:20 PM 3:04 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 146 1949 30/04/08 11:17 PM 3:01 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950
Pound Cake Count Basie and His Orchestra with Lester Young 186 1939 24/04/08 9:23 PM 2:46 Classic Columbia, Okeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940) (Disc 2)
Good Queen Bess Duke Ellington 160 1940 1/05/08 10:39 PM 3:00 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 10)
Six Appeal (My Daddy Rocks Me) Benny Goodman Sextet with Charlie Christian 150 1940 1/05/08 10:36 PM 3:13 Charlie Christian: The Genius of The Electric Guitar (disc 2)
Bli-Blip Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 140 2007 1/05/08 10:29 PM 2:44 Moppin' And Boppin'
Jersey Bounce Ella Fitzgerald 134 1961 24/04/08 9:36 PM 3:36 Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!
Blue Monday Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 125 1957 1/05/08 10:05 PM 3:40 Goin' To Kansas City Blues
Hallelujah, I Love Her So Count Basie 145 1959 24/04/08 9:42 PM 2:36 Breakfast Dance And Barbecue
Tickle Toe Count Basie and His Orchestra 234 1960 24/04/08 9:45 PM 2:36 The Count Basie Story (Disc 2)
Hop Skip and Jump Mora's Modern Swingtet 191 2004 24/04/08 9:47 PM 2:44 20th Century Closet
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and His 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 1/05/08 2:17 PM 2:49 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2)
A Viper's Moan Willie Bryant And His Orchestra 153 24/04/08 9:54 PM 3:26 Willie Bryant 1935-1936
Apollo Jump Lucky Millinder 143 30/04/08 11:08 PM 3:27 Apollo Jump
Jump Through The Window Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra 154 1943 24/04/08 10:00 PM 2:42 After You've Gone
The Heebie Jeebies Are Rockin' The Town (Alt Tk) Red Allen & Lionel Hampton, vocal, & His Orchestra 141 1939 24/04/08 10:02 PM 2:44 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 3)
Walk 'Em Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra 131 1946 25/04/08 10:04 PM 2:53 Walk 'Em
Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra 136 1945 24/04/08 10:09 PM 3:22 Lionel Hampton Story 3: Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop
Savoy Blues Kid Ory 134 24/04/08 10:12 PM 3:01 Golden Greats: Greatest Dixieland Jazz Disc 3
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho Kid Ory And His Creole Jazz Band 160 1946 1/05/08 2:42 PM 3:13 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46
Shake That Thing Vince Giordano 230 2004 24/04/08 10:18 PM 2:59 The Aviator
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Sidney Bechet 140 1951 30/04/08 10:49 PM 5:44 The Blue Note Years
Tishomingo Blues Carrol Ralph 128 2005 1/05/08 2:27 PM 4:15 Swinging Jazz Portrait
Going To Chicago Barbara Morrison 126 2002 24/04/08 10:33 PM 5:35 Live At The 9:20 Special
Every Day I Have The Blues Clark Terry Quintet and Carrie Smith 122 2001 24/04/08 10:38 PM 5:12 The Clark Terry Quintet: Live On QE2
Mumbles Oscar Peterson 188 1964 24/04/08 10:40 PM 2:02 Ultimate Oscar Peterson As Selected By Ray Brown
Froggy Bottom Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 155 1957 25/04/08 10:13 PM 2:37 Goin' To Kansas City Blues
Sent For You Yesterday Count Basie and His Orchestra with Joe Williams 163 1960 25/04/08 10:16 PM 3:10 The Count Basie Story (Disc 2)
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie 144 1958 1/05/08 10:08 PM 3:13 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks]
Lavender Coffin Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra with Sonny Parker and Joe James 134 1949 25/04/08 10:07 PM 2:47 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings
On Revival Day Lavern Baker 144 25/04/08 10:10 PM 3:16 Lavern Sings Bessie Smith

As I said, it's very ordinary. Nothing new except a Carole Ralph track and a Jimmy Witherspoon, neither of which are actually new.

Any how, the next night I played the Funpit gig. The room was absolutely solid. You couldn't push your way into the room, let alone the dance floor. It was all beginners, too - people who'd only had a lesson or two. Plus a few other people with more experience. But no one who'd been dancing more than a year or two besides me, the teachers and one or two other people. In a room that was the crowdedest gig I've ever played in Melbourne. It was heaps of fun to play. But I was coming down with a cold, so when I got up to dance after my set I was too tired to dance more than a song. I spent the weekend being very ill, but I still had fun that night.
Here's the set (Friday 25th April, 9.30-10.45pm, Funpit):

Splanky Count Basie 125 1957 3:36 Complete Atomic Basie, the 25/04/08 9:47 PM
Jump Ditty! Joe Carroll and The Ray Bryant Quintet 134 2:54 Joe Carroll Sings 25/04/08 9:49 PM
Hungry Man Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 135 1949 3:08 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 6) 1/05/08 2:11 PM
Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra with Sonny Parker 134 1949 3:24 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 25/04/08 9:56 PM
For Dancers Only Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra 148 1937 2:41 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 25/04/08 9:59 PM
Are You Hep To The Jive? Cab Calloway 160 1994 2:50 Are You Hep To The Jive? 25/04/08 10:01 PM
Walk 'Em Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra 131 1946 2:53 Walk 'Em 25/04/08 10:04 PM
Lavender Coffin Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra with Sonny Parker and Joe James 134 1949 2:47 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 25/04/08 10:07 PM
On Revival Day Lavern Baker 144 3:16 Lavern Sings Bessie Smith 25/04/08 10:10 PM
Froggy Bottom Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 155 1957 2:37 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 25/04/08 10:13 PM
Sent For You Yesterday Count Basie and His Orchestra with Joe Williams 163 1960 3:10 The Count Basie Story (Disc 2) 25/04/08 10:16 PM
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie 144 1958 3:13 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 1/05/08 10:08 PM
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 143 1999 3:34 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke 25/04/08 10:23 PM
Be Careful (If You Can't Be Good) Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra 121 1951 3:09 Walk 'Em 1/05/08 10:12 PM
Pan Pan Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 152 1941 2:54 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 2) 1/05/08 10:20 PM
Ain't Nothin' To It Fats Waller & His Rhythm 134 1941 3:10 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 1/05/08 10:27 PM
Laughing In Rhythm Slim Gaillard and his Peruvians 142 1951 2:56 Laughing In Rhythm: The Best Of The Verve Years 25/04/08 10:35 PM
Bli-Blip Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 140 2007 2:44 Moppin' And Boppin' 1/05/08 10:29 PM
A Viper's Moan Mora's Modern Rhythmists 143 2000 3:30 Call Of The Freaks 1/05/08 10:33 PM
Squatty Roo Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 173 2003 3:43 Jammin' the Blues 25/04/08 10:45 PM
My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone 120 3:38 The Great Nina Simone 25/04/08 10:49 PM

Again, nothing new or exciting. I'm really quite a boring DJ these days. Partly because most of the stuff I'm buying (helloooooooo Jelly Roll Morton!) is completely inappropriate for lindy hop. Not so bad for blues dancing, though.

Then this week just passed I did my first set at Madame Dynamite's. This is what I played:

Blue Monday Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 125 1957 3:40 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 1/05/08 10:05 PM
Hungry Man Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 135 1949 3:08 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 6) 1/05/08 2:11 PM
Give Me Some Skin Lionel Hampton and His Sextet 138 1941 3:16 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 5) 5/05/08 12:06 PM
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and His 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 2:49 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 1/05/08 2:17 PM
Just Kiddin' Around Artie Shaw and His Orchestra 159 1941 3:21 Self Portrait (Disc 3) 1/05/08 2:20 PM
Bli-Blip Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 140 2007 2:44 Moppin' And Boppin' 1/05/08 10:29 PM
Tishomingo Blues Carrol Ralph 128 2005 4:15 Swinging Jazz Portrait 1/05/08 2:27 PM
The Blues B Artie Shaw And His New Music 122 1937 2:59 Self Portrait (Disc 1) 1/05/08 2:30 PM
Deep Trouble Jimmie Noone 161 1930 2:49 The Jimmie Noone Collection 5/05/08 12:09 PM
The Basement Blues Nobel Sissle with Sidney Bechet 153 2000 3:16 Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Sidney Bechet 1/05/08 2:36 PM
Ballin' The Jack Bunk Johnson's V-Disc Veterans 156 1944 2:45 Bunk And The New Orleans Revival 1942-1945 1/05/08 2:39 PM
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Sidney Bechet 140 1951 5:44 The Blue Note Years 30/04/08 10:49 PM
Stuffy Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 153 2003 3:46 Jammin' the Blues 30/04/08 10:53 PM
The Grabtown Grapple Artie Shaw and His Gramercy 5 178 1945 2:57 Self Portrait (Disc 3) 30/04/08 10:56 PM
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra 165 1937 3:10 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 30/04/08 10:59 PM
The Heebie Jeebies Are Rockin' The Town Red Allen & Lionel Hampton, vocal, & His Orchestra 139 1939 2:44 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 3) 30/04/08 11:01 PM
Pan Pan Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 152 1941 2:54 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 2) 1/05/08 10:20 PM
Apollo Jump Lucky Millinder 143 3:27 Apollo Jump 30/04/08 11:08 PM
Half Tight Boogie Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 150 2003 3:13 Jammin' the Blues 30/04/08 11:11 PM
Bogo-Jo Lionel Hampton and His Sextet 158 1940 2:55 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 5) 30/04/08 11:14 PM
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 146 1949 3:01 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 30/04/08 11:17 PM
Solid as a Rock Count Basie and His Orchestra with The Deep River Boys 140 3:04 Count Basie and His Orchestra 1950-1951 30/04/08 11:20 PM
Till Tom Special Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra 158 1940 3:24 Tempo And Swing 30/04/08 11:23 PM
Summit Ridge Drive Artie Shaw and His Gramercy 5 128 1940 3:21 Self Portrait (Disc 2) 30/04/08 11:27 PM
Easy Does It Big 18 129 5:14 30/04/08 11:32 PM
B-Sharp Boston Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 126 1949 2:55 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 30/04/08 11:35 PM
It Takes Two to Tango Lester Young and Oscar Peterson 104 1997 6:09 Lester Young With the Oscar Peterson Trio 1/05/08 2:04 PM


It was the second set (Wednesday 30th April, 9.30-late), there weren't many people there at all and the floor was really slippery. I really struggled to find the right vibe that night. I'd expected a crowd who'd want old school, and mostly faster. I was looking forward to playing some of my newer, more obscure stuff. But that didn't happen so much. I'm not sure if it was because I sucked or because the dancers just weren't in the mood. I find it really difficult to work smaller crowds - I just need critical mass to really make them do what I want... or to get where I want to go. This crowd was also really into a bit of talking rather than dancing as well. So this set is more of the same, especially at the beginning, then there's some newer stuff. I did play that 'Give Me Some Skin' song from my new Hampton Mosaic set (which I adore), I screwed up and played 'Bogo-Jo' instead of ... some other song from that same set, and it didn't work so well. So I recovered with a safety song, 'Joog, Joog'. Overall, I wasn't too happy with that set, but it didn't suck. I mean, I liked the music a lot, and would have liked to dance to it, but it didn't really work the crowd properly. I also learnt that it's important to be able to see the people sitting down not dancing as well as the dancers when I'm DJing. At the Funpit I couldn't see anyone because it was so packed, but that's kind of easier to work. At MD's I couldn't see the people sitting down, so I couldn't judge their body language to see how they were feeling. Oh well.

I quite liked the bit from 'The Blues B' to 'Ballin' the Jack'. I'm especially fond of 'Deep Trouble'. But that stuff doesn't make for good lindy hop. It's too early. I'm really loving 1927-1930 right now (incidentally, that's the period the third season of House of Eliot is set, and I'm loving THAT - the skirt hems are so HIGH (knees! knees!)), but even though I know that's when lindy began, people in Melbourne can't dance to it. There's not enough swing, and it still feels a bit too oomp-a, oomp-a for proper lindy. D says that that type of music is good for 'one and five' dancing, and that people overseas dig it atm. I dig it, I'd like to dance to it, but it simply doesn't make for nice lindy hop. People at MD's seemed to like it, but they weren't really sure what to do with it.
In fact, I'm finding that people generally quite like the songs, but that they don't really know how to dance to it. Some of the songs I played at the blues night had a similar effect. People really liked them, but their dancing looked pretty awkward. And I could hear an awful lot of stompy, clattering feet during a few tracks.

Anyhow, here's that set list:

Do I Move You? (Second Version) (Bonus Track) Nina Simone 70 2006 2:20 Nina Simone Sings the Blues
Save Me Aretha Franklin 122 2:19 Greatest Hits - Disc 1
Get Back Temptation Ollabelle 80 2004 2:50 Ollabelle
I Left My Baby Kansas City Band 83 1995 7:24 Kansas City: A Robert Altman Film
St. James Infirmary The Cairo Club Orchestra 109 2004 3:33 Sunday
Reckless Blues Velma Middleton with Louis Armstrong and the All Stars 88 2:30 The Complete Decca Studio Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars (disc 06)
Back Water Blues Dinah Washington with Belford Hendricks' Orchestra 71 1957 4:58 Ultimate Dinah Washington
Cloudy Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 69 1957 3:16 Goin' To Kansas City Blues
Wee Baby Blues Count Basie with Mahalia Jackson 64 1968 3:14 Live In Antibes 1968
Amtrak Blues Alberta Hunter 95 1978 3:24 Amtrak Blues
Long John Blues Dinah Washington 97 1948 3:10 Dinah Washington:the Queen Sings - Disc 2 - Stairway to the Stars
My Daddy Rocks Me Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra 114 1929 3:09 The Jimmie Noone Collection
New Orleans Bump Wynton Marsalis 128 1999 4:36 Mr. Jelly Lord - Standard Time, Vol. 6
Black And Tan Fantasy Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 88 1999 4:36 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke
Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho Mahalia Jackson 130 1958 2:13 Live At Newport 1958
Goin' To Chicago Count Basie and His Orchestra with Jimmy Rushing 79 1952 3:22 Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings (Disc 2)
I Want A Little Girl Big Joe Turner with Pete Johnson and Freddie Green 91 1956 4:19 The Boss Of The Blues

It's from the SP blues night, 13th April, 10.30-11.30. I especially love that song 'My Daddy Rocks Me'. I've heard a more recent version played lately round town - something hi-fi. But this version is the BEST. The older versions always sound so much dirtier. I wonder if it's because the contemporary singers, today, don't know what the words mean? Or if they can't make it work because they don't use those expressions themselves in their everyday talk (vernacular much?), so they can't give it the right weight....? Any how, Jimmie Noone is my man. My homey. My main squeeze. We are having a Thing. If you read the Red Hot Jazz entry about him you'll see where my musical taste is at at the moment - I am still really keen on Kid Ory (and following him through Jelly Roll's bands), nuts for Johnny Dodds and chasing some Earl Hines.

This blues set was quite varied, moving from an excellent (truly great) set by Leon. But Iiked the part from Long John Blues onwards especially. I played the Winton Marsalis version of 'New Orleans Bump' rather than the Jelly Roll one because I needed to get up out of the scratchy sound quality for the room to get a bit of energy. People really have trouble with those blues tracks with tango type rhythms, though. Me, I lubbs them, because I have experience with Argentinian tango. And because I really like blues music which makes you feel like moving around the floor rather than just standing there getting your frottage cheeze on. Also, the guy who wrote 'St Louis Blues' said in an interview I read somewhere that he wrote the song with a 'tango' intro because tango was so cool with dancers at that moment, and he wanted to get them on the floor before hitting them with the blues action.... now I think about it, I'm not sure it was 'St Louis Blues'. But whatever, it's an interesting point. And I really should look up the quote so I can get it right. But I like the late 20s for all the interesting stuff that was going on. We see early labour movement stuff. Women's movement stuff (where women were beginning to reap the benefits of the suffragette movement of the late 19th century). Sweet-as music stuff. It was just an interesting period.

Any how, I played the LCJO version of 'Black and Tan Fantasy' rather than a bit of sweet Ellington because of the scratch factor. This crowd isn't all that used to or comfortable with really old stuff - they prefer the hi-fi. And the sound gear and room just wasn't working with so much lo-fi, scratchy, messy sounding music. Which is a real shame.

Some day I'd like to do a set that played all the music from a particular period, regardless of tempo or style, just working it all together to make for an interesting night of dancing. I'd like to play the really slow stuff and the really fast stuff, working it all together so it kind of flowed, but not having to think 'oh, these speed freaks won't dance slow' and vice versa.


-- Note: all pics are from this interesting site, --

"extreme DJing nerdery" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

April 9, 2008

jook joint pics

Posted by dogpossum on April 9, 2008 1:35 PM

There're more of these wonderful images here.

"jook joint pics" was posted in the category clicky and lindy hop and other dances and music

March 30, 2008

djing by remote

Posted by dogpossum on March 30, 2008 8:45 PM

Argh. This Yehoodi set is killing me. I've been working on this set off and on for ages and it's really not a very great thing. I've finally put together 4 hours of music that I think could work and I'm listening to it now, back to front. The last hour (currently the first hour) or so is pure cop out - I suddenly decided I needed to take the tempo extremely low and the tone equally so. This was cheering on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, but it sounds a bit odd to suddenly drop like that at the end of the session.
What I've been trying to do is work between different styles, much as I would while DJing, but perhaps on a longer 'curve' - so I can spend more time with each style. I'm also playing fast and loose with the tempos - I'm not tempering things for the physical limitations of a real, live crowd of dancers.
This is, of course, playing havoc with my internal DJing instincts. Playing 9 or 10 songs at 250bpm and higher in a row is wrong. Only balboa doods could hack that tempo. Similarly, it feels wrong to go from 200 to 160 to 60 within 4 songs. And then to move on up. Historically, it's fairly accurate - a band playing for a crowd in 1928 would move between subsonic and supersonic speeds ad libitum. But lindy hoppers today get all freaked out by that. Speed freaks in particular have trouble with songs at about 60bpm. Babies.
Anyhow, it's making me feel kind of anxious to break the rules like this.
But it's also quite nice - I'm playing songs I really, really like but hardly ever get to play. And I'm playing them in clumps that I know would never work for dancers. There's a particular lump of about 8 songs which are quite fast but also quite low energy - they're more along the 'chamber jazz' sort of line, which is really nice for listening, but would be ordinary for dancing.

... I had to resist the temptation to try to be as obscure as possible. Thanks for the tip, Trev - it's been very useful. It's not difficult to remind myself that I don't have anywhere near as large a collection as some of the supernerds out there, so there's no way I'm going to be able to pull off some esoteric collection of completely obscure and unknown gems. So I'm going for 'songs I freakin' love' and 'songs I love to play for dancers'.
That means there are quite a few favourites ('Jumpin' at the Woodside' is in there), I've played a couple of versions of a couple of songs (oh no! gasp! rule breaker!), but I figure it's a really nice way to contrast and compare. I don't play them one after another, of course, but it's a nice way to show how songs have stuck around for decades, in and out of the popular repertoire, given different treatments and flavours by different musicians. I have to say, all this stuff is chugging along in my head but is probably completely unnoticeable to most listeners - most people simply wouldn't notice or care. Which is ok by me. I certainly don't want to come off sounding as though I'm trying to take the listener to school. I just figure, while I'm breaking some rules, I might as well break others.

I'm also doing some shifts between songs that are purely for my own enjoyment. Yes, that is Freddy Green there in that Joe Turner song following that Count Basie song. And that's certainly not the only time I use a common artist to segue between songs/groups.

I've noticed that I over use a few different artists. But frankly, how can it be wrong to play a lot of Ellington? Or Basie? Those guys are the bread and butter of the swing dancing world, they recorded a jillion songs, they played for a jillion dancers and they really shaped the popular music world of the day. So I'm going to rock on with those mens.
Not so many ladies in the list, though. That's hardly suprising - how many lady rock stars are there in your average 'rock and roll' set list? Not a whole lot.

...more updates as I go. And I'll let you know when it's on the radio so you can listen - it's an internet radio station, so you'll be able to hear it (and me talking!) on your computers. If I have time I'll see if I can make some sort of read-a-long thing for this blog, so you can read my thinking along with the music. Or not, if you happen to have, well, a life. Ok, gotta ping ding chicken wing now - blllooooooz dancing!

"djing by remote" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

March 21, 2008

last night's set

Posted by dogpossum on March 21, 2008 12:40 PM

There's a thread on the SwingDJs board called 'last night's playlist' which I'm not sure I'm brave enough to post in yet. So I'm going to post last night's set here. I've been listening to the set again this morning, so the 'last played' times are a bit off. It was a fun set - I'm enjoying listening to it now!
I played a fair few newer songs (new to me), which was really nice - I'm using all the new music I've bought lately. All this purchasing has been very inspiring and made me very happy. I'm loving the Lionel Hampton Mosaic set very much. It has quite a few nice, medium tempo songs which are great for newer dancers... or nannas like myself.

Last night was interesting as it's the second night of a new door cover charge for the venue. I think $5 (or is it $6?) is kind of crap for a venue where the drinks are really expensive and you're still not allowed to bring your own water ($1.50 for a glass of water!). I wouldn't mind a cover charge, but I need to drink a lot of water... it's also a fucking disgusting place. The toilets leak everywhere and stink, the taps don't work on the sink (of course - it's a scam to keep you buying water), it stinks, the floor is inconsistent, the DJing podium thing is a bit scary (a giant crevasse down behind it, etc), and it just generally has a nasty vibe. Plus the bar staff are surly bastards.
Anyhow, the door charge has cut the people through the door by 25% at least. This kind of sucks. But it means that those people who are going are there to dance rather than drink, which means it's easier to work the crowd - you get a greater proportion on the floor at any one time. The crowd should have been bigger, and the night should have been pumping because it was the Thursday before good Friday, but it wasn't - and that's a sure sign that the door charge is having detrimental effects.
But most of the people there were from the classes before, and the retention rate was higher than usual. It felt like a Funbags night - more 'beginner' dancers. Which is actually very nice, as they just want to DANCE and they're not as picky about musical style. They like a solid beat, and they really like the older music that I play, and they're totally unfazed by higher tempos - they just get out there and shake it, regardless.
But they don't have a lot of stamina, so you get everyone in the room dancing for 3 songs, then an empty floor (except for more experienced people), then 3 songs of packed floor, then an empty floor. They just don't have the stamina, the basic fitness and - more importantly - the body awareness and basic muscle memory/awareness to move efficiently and energy-savingly. Which means that they kind of get out there and thrash around, limbs all over the place, wasting energy. They're having fun, but they're killing themselves. So they need a rest. But they're still really keen to dance, so as soon as they've caught their breath, they're back out there, dancing like fools. Which is really very nice.

So I'm happy with the job I did last night, and I enjoyed it. It's about my fifth set this month (what with the 3 gigs over the MSF weekend just passed), so I'm steadily saving money for more CDs. Yay! I'm also getting my DJing in now before the second semester starts and I have to go back to being working stooge who has to keep normal hours. But I'm down to do a blues set next month, which I'm looking forward to (I only do one a year these days, not counting exchanges). Oh, and excitingly, I've been asked to do a set on Yehoodi radio soon. So I'm getting myself a bit worked up about that. I'm not sure whether I should play stuff I usually play for dancers (which could get kind of dull), stuff I'd like to play for dancers, stuff that's not necessarily for dancing but rocks, a lindy set, a blues set, a combination of the two... I'm also finding part of me is trying to find the most obscure stuff I can. It's a show off thing. And this obscure stuff is the older, more unusual stuff. And most of that is pre-lindy hop. Which probably isn't the best way to go. But I'm looking forward to it. All four hours of it (!!).

The Comeback 20/03/08 8:41 PM Barbara Morrison 134 2002 7:41 Live At The 9:20 Special
Froggy Bottom 20/03/08 8:43 PM Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 155 1957 2:37 Goin' To Kansas City Blues
Walk 'Em 20/03/08 8:46 PM Buddy Johnson and His Orchestra 131 1946 2:53 Walk 'Em
Give Me Some Skin 21/03/08 11:08 AM Lionel Hampton and His Sextet 138 1941 3:16 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 5)
Apollo Jump 21/03/08 11:12 AM Lucky Millinder 143 3:27 Apollo Jump
Summit Ridge Drive 21/03/08 11:15 AM Artie Shaw and His Gramercy 5 128 1940 3:21 Self Portrait (Disc 2)
Don't Be That Way 21/03/08 11:17 AM Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra 136 1938 2:36 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 2)
I'm Beginning To See The Light 20/03/08 9:02 PM Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five Featuring Hilary Alexander 126 2007 2:57 Moppin' And Boppin'
Massachusetts 21/03/08 11:21 AM Maxine Sullivan 147 1956 3:19 A Tribute To Andy Razaf
Shoutin' Blues 21/03/08 11:24 AM Count Basie and His Orchestra 148 1949 2:38 Kansas City Powerhouse
For Dancers Only 21/03/08 11:26 AM Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra 148 1937 2:41 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford
Afternoon of a Moax 20/03/08 9:14 PM Charlie Barnet 132 2004 3:24 Charlie Barnet
The Heebie Jeebies Are Rockin' The Town (Alt Tk) 21/03/08 11:30 AM Red Allen & Lionel Hampton, vocal, & His Orchestra 141 1939 2:44 The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941 (disc 3)
Laughing In Rhythm 21/03/08 11:33 AM Slim Gaillard and his Peruvians 142 1951 2:56 Laughing In Rhythm: The Best Of The Verve Years
Ain't Nothin' To It 21/03/08 11:36 AM Fats Waller & His Rhythm 134 1941 3:10 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2)
Oh Red! 20/03/08 9:26 PM Sam Price and his Texas Blusicians with Sam Price 182 1940 3:05 1929-1941
A Viper's Moan 20/03/08 9:29 PM Willie Bryant And His Orchestra 153 3:26 Willie Bryant 1935-1936
My Baby Just Cares For Me 20/03/08 9:33 PM Nina Simone 120 3:38 The Great Nina Simone
Bli-Blip 20/03/08 9:35 PM Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 140 2007 2:44 Moppin' And Boppin'
Gotta Do Some War Work 20/03/08 9:40 PM Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five 150 2004 4:10 Crazy Rhythm
Savoy Blues 20/03/08 9:43 PM Kid Ory 134 2002 3:01 Golden Greats: Greatest Dixieland Jazz Disc 3
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho 20/03/08 9:46 PM Kid Ory And His Creole Jazz Band 160 1946 3:13 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate 20/03/08 9:49 PM Muggsy Spanier and his Ragtime Band 155 1939 2:56 Great Original Performances 1931 & 1939
Moppin' And Boppin' 20/03/08 9:53 PM Fats Waller & His Rhythm 173 1943 4:29 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 3)
Flying Home 20/03/08 9:56 PM Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra 197 1942 3:11 Lionel Hampton Story 2: Flying Home
Good Queen Bess 20/03/08 9:59 PM Duke Ellington 160 1940 3:00 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 10)
The Back Room Romp 20/03/08 10:02 PM Rex Stewart and His 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 2:49 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2)
Tippin' In 21/03/08 11:04 AM Erskine Hawkins and His Orchestra 144 1942 3:20 Tuxedo Junction

"last night's set" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

March 17, 2008

happy day

Posted by dogpossum on March 17, 2008 2:58 PM

LH.jpg This lovely thing just arrived! Sure, it was a little embarrassing opening the door to the post dood wearing only a (very) short, light cotton dress, but I like to think I made his afternoon a little more interesting. But it was just GREAT to see a giant Mosaic cardboard box under his arm.

I love Lionel Hampton very much. He's one of those guys I got into when I was first interested in DJing. In fact, I think his album Tempo and Swing was one of the first I bought thinking 'this is DJing music'. I'm still a massive fan. He made great dancing music - stuff that's really stompy and makes you want to get up and stomp around. Probably has something to do with his being a percussionist.

Anyhoo, it was interesting to see Ziggy Elman's name on the first page of the first CD's liner notes. Elman's interesting, not just because he's responsible for the freakin' awesome solo at the beginning of Tommy Dorsey's song 'Well git it!'. He caught my interest initially because he was a Jewish musician 'performing' whiteness - he changed his name.
This is something that Dean Collins also did (Saul Cohen originally). And all of this rings a bell with me because I keep coming across articles about Jewish musicians and actors who performed 'blackness' in the early days of radio and vaudeville - putting on 'black' accents and black face paint. It's something I'd like to follow up in greater depth at some point, not only because of the interesting Jewish history of American show business, but also because of the ideological ramifications of 'performing' ethnicity in swing culture generally.

Because, of course, when we lindy hop, we are dancing what was an African American dance. Dancers who are into historical recreationism are particularly keen on emulating 'black' ways of moving and movement aesthetics. Which is problematic, when you remember that these are predominantly white, middle class kids (especially in America). But all this gets even more interesting when you take into account the fact that lindy hop is getting very popular in places like Korea. A recent exchange guest was telling me that there are thousands of swing dancers in Seoul, and that he social dances every single night of the week - far more often than we can here in Melbourne. And then, remember that not all Australian dancers are white - we see an increasingly multicultural local swing community here in Melbourne (though still not entirely multicultural or diverse).

But back to Ziggy Elman. His solo in 'Well Git it!' has particular cultural resonances for contemporary lindy hoppers, as mediated by the internet. The Mad Dog people performed a routine in Danvers to this song in 2002 which proved very popular with Australian dancers, particularly in the then-very-introverted Melbourne scene. Here was a group of young people dancing crazy, wild lindy hop without rules or costumes! Suddenly, there was an alternative to the carefully 'safe' teaching of the larger school, dancers who weren't the 'old' recreationists ('old' being over 30, mind you). Suddenly, lindy hop got cool. Coolness which seemed to manifest in dancers wearing jeans in performances. And, most refreshingly for olden days music nerds like me, an increased general interest in music from the 1930s rather than 50s and 60s.

The Mad Dog troupe featured a bunch of young dancers who're now rock stars, some of whom learnt to dance in Ithaca with Bill Borghida (and other teachers), and some of whom were in the Minnie's Moochers dance troupe (circa 1999, 2000), which I remember being very influential. In fact, I remember watching this 2000 comp performance in my first year in Melbourne. This is as white a lindy hop performance as you're going to see, but holy smokes, it's tight. And these guys were young teenagers. If you're familiar with Borghida's teaching, you can see his sound technical foundations in there, and you can't help but envy those kiddies their early start on lindy hop.
This performance is an interesting contrast with the Mad Dog routine in part because it is so tight and carefully choreographed - each dancer is attempting to dance and move in exactly the same way (here's an interesting clip of the girls doing solo charleston). In the Mad Dog routine we see choreographed steps, but each couple (and dancer) is quite unique. And of course, if you watch this composite clip of old school lindy hoppers, you can see that though the routines are really tight, each dancer has a unique style. The Big Apple contest is probably the best example of this. So this representation or performance of 'individuality' through improvisation and 'styling' signalled a shift away from very white, studio ballroom/concert dance aesthetics and towards a more 'vernacular' dance ethos. Vernacular in that people were actually dancing how they felt, in clothes they wore every day, with their own particular 'accents'. And of course, lindy is just made for young people - it's fast music, it's crazy dancing, it's irreverent, it's badass*.

It's probably worth pointing out that the American lindy hop competition culture in 2000 was very strictly regimented. The scoring was complicated, there was a whole range of weird rules about what you could and couldn't do or wear in the competitions, and the type of dancing produced by these competitions was kind of... well, boring.
Competitions were kind of the same in Australia at the time, though there were no competitions run by lindy hoppers with specific 'lindy hop' categories. The biggest Australian competition at the time was 'Best of the Best', run by the VRRDA (Victorian Rock and Roll Dance Association), similarly constrained and rules-bound. It was also very much a 'rock and roll' competition - it was unusual to see 'real' lindy hop performances until about 2002.

In 2002 the MLX hosted the first Hellzapoppin' competition, a model borrowed from the American Hellza competition - no rules, an impetus towards historical 'authenticity', run as part of an African American cultural history festival in Harlem. Though the American Hellza comp has been largely superseded by the ULHS (Ultimate Lindy Hop Show Down) competition for wild, crazy, 'authentic' lindy hop - not to mention popularity - Hellza is the only competition in Australia which actually carries on this particular ethos. All other large competitions in Australia are run by one school, and this school's teachers tend to dominate the field, with the general tone being a little... straight.

So the 2002 Mad Dog performance is important as it signaled a diversion from the rules-bound competitions of previous years. The Mad Dog routine is probably more significant in American lindy as it was a very public diversion from the supergroove style that was popular at the time. I recently heard one of those dancers make a general comment about how 'we' used to dance 'groovier, smoother' and are not into 'rawer' dancing. It struck me as an example of how American dancers often generalise their experiences to the international community. But this is important stuff because these dancers were very young (and still are - under 30) and have been very influential in Australia.

So Ziggy Elman's name probably carries a little more interpretive weight for me than for most people, and one day I'm going to read up on all that stuff on Jewish showbiz history. I promise.
For now I'm busy filling up the last tiny bits of space left on my hard drive with Lionel Hampton goodness. Yeah!

* old people like it too. Frankie is 93 and he still likes it.

"happy day" was posted in the category cat blogging and digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

March 9, 2008

i like to move it move it

Posted by dogpossum on March 9, 2008 2:44 PM | Comments (2)

I did a late night gig last night that was very excellent fun. Starting at 2am and finishing at 4, I had to follow 15 minutes of heel slide competition (if ever there was a showing of hegemonic masculinity, that'd be it) to the Rocky theme, so it was a bit tricky starting out. But who does a better job representing The Man than Jimmy Witherspoon?

It was really nice to play a large crowd of dancers from all over Australia (and some overseas places) who were keen to dance hard and fast. Even after a long day of workshops, on the fourth day of an exchange, they were ready to lindy hop like it was 1937. Actually, it's nice to play a set later in the weekend as the dancers are kind of relaxed and warmed up. The DJ before me had set up a high energy vibe which was really nice to step into - it spoils me to have a DJ do all that work to establish a crazy, fun dancing energy in the room, and to be able to just step on in (or sit right down, rather) and take advantage of that.
It's a large room, and I'm not all that fond of the sound in there (the speakers are at one end of the room, so that end gets really crowded, really hot as the dancers squeeze up against the speakers). I think I should have gotten up and walked about the room a bit more to check the sound more often, but I was tired and I my buddies were mostly clustered towards the back (where it was cooler and there was more room for stunts). They're not shy of letting me know if the sound is bodgy, either.

Half way through, though, I had to sprint off for a wee break. Took me literally 45 seconds, even having to squeeze through a crowd. I guess I shouldn't have drunk all that water while I was DJing. But it was so hot up there at the front of the room I felt a bit dehydrated (didn't help that I'd been up til 4 dancing like a freak the night before, then ridden up for lunch during a hot afternoon).

The weekend isn't over yet, though. I have a set on tomorrow night (lindy hop from 12 - 1.30am) and there's blooz dancing tonight (though I've just checked the roster and there's apparently lindy on tonight as well - YAY!). A female friend asked me to dance the night before and mid-way through I was reminded of how great leading is. So I led most of that night. There are just so many fabulous follows in town - so many great chicks who're totally fun to dance with. And there's a bit of a shortage of leads (of course), so I'm laughing. I am still working up the guts to dance with Hanna. Maybe tonight. Or tomorrow.

Froggy Bottom Jimmy Witherspoon With Jay McShann And His Band 155 1957 2:37 Goin' To Kansas City Blues 9/03/08 2:08 AM
Jump Through The Window Roy Eldridge and his Orchestra 154 1943 2:42 After You've Gone 9/03/08 2:11 AM
Lopin' Count Basie, his instrumentalists and Rhythm 190 1947 2:29 Kansas City Powerhouse 9/03/08 2:13 AM
For Dancers Only Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra 148 1937 2:41 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 9/03/08 2:16 AM
Moppin' And Boppin' Fats Waller & His Rhythm 173 1943 4:29 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 3) 9/03/08 2:20 AM
I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate Muggsy Spanier and his Ragtime Band 155 1939 2:56 Great Original Performances 1931 & 1939 9/03/08 2:23 AM
Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho Kid Ory And His Creole Jazz Band 160 1946 3:13 Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band 1944-46 9/03/08 2:27 AM
All Star Strut Metronome All Star Nine 176 3:12 Charlie Christian: The Genius of The Electric Guitar (disc 4) 9/03/08 2:30 AM
The Back Room Romp Rex Stewart and His 52nd Street Stompers 152 1937 2:49 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 9/03/08 2:33 AM
Peckin' Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra 165 1937 3:10 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 2) 9/03/08 2:36 AM
Shortnin' Bread Fats Waller 195 2005 2:41 The Panic Is On 9/03/08 2:38 AM
Laughing In Rhythm Slim Gaillard and his Peruvians 142 1951 2:56 Laughing In Rhythm: The Best Of The Verve Years 9/03/08 2:41 AM
Turn It Over Bus Moten and His Men 148 1949 2:38 Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Disc 3) 9/03/08 2:44 AM
The Grabtown Grapple Artie Shaw and His Gramercy 5 178 1945 2:57 Self Portrait (Disc 3) 9/03/08 2:47 AM
Lavender Coffin Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra with Sonny Parker and Joe James 134 1949 2:47 Hamp: The Legendary Decca Recordings 9/03/08 2:50 AM
Cole Slaw Jesse Stone and His Orchestra 145 2:57 Original Swingers: Hipsters, Zoots and Wingtips vol 2 9/03/08 2:53 AM
C-Jam Blues Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 143 1999 3:34 Live In Swing City: Swingin' With Duke 9/03/08 2:56 AM
Sent For You Yesterday Count Basie and His Orchestra with Joe Williams 163 1960 3:10 The Count Basie Story (Disc 2) 9/03/08 2:59 AM
Shoutin' Blues Count Basie and His Orchestra 148 1949 2:38 Kansas City Powerhouse 9/03/08 3:02 AM
Just Kiddin' Around Artie Shaw and His Orchestra 159 1941 3:21 Self Portrait (Disc 3) 9/03/08 3:05 AM
The Jumpin' Jive Chu Berry with Cab Calloway, vocal, & His Orchestra 177 1939 2:52 Classic Chu Berry Columbia and Victor Sessions 9/03/08 3:08 AM
Stomp It Off Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra 190 1934 3:09 Swingsation - Jimmie Lunceford 9/03/08 3:11 AM
Loch Lomond Chu Berry with Wingy Mannone & His Orchestra 153 1938 2:36 Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions Vol. 4 9/03/08 3:14 AM
Massachusetts Maxine Sullivan 147 1956 3:19 A Tribute To Andy Razaf 9/03/08 3:17 AM
Blues In Hoss's Flat Count Basie 144 1958 3:13 Chairman Of The Board [Bonus Tracks] 9/03/08 3:20 AM
A Viper's Moan Mora's Modern Rhythmists 143 2000 3:30 Call Of The Freaks 9/03/08 3:24 AM
Good Queen Bess Duke Ellington 160 1940 3:00 The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: Complete RCA Victor Recordings (disc 10) 9/03/08 3:27 AM
Mutiny in the Parlor Chu Berry with Gene Krupa's Swing Band; Helen Ward, vocal; 137 1936 3:06 Classic Chu Berry Columbia and Victor Sessions 9/03/08 3:30 AM
Joog, Joog Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 146 1949 3:01 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 9/03/08 3:33 AM
Ain't Nothin' To It Fats Waller & His Rhythm 134 1941 3:10 Last Years (1940-1943) (Disc 2) 9/03/08 3:36 AM
B-Sharp Boston Duke Ellington and His Orchestra 126 1949 2:55 Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 9/03/08 3:39 AM
Lemonade Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five 117 1950 3:17 Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five (vol 6) 9/03/08 3:42 AM
It Takes Two to Tango Lester Young and Oscar Peterson 104 1997 6:09 Lester Young With the Oscar Peterson Trio 9/03/08 3:46 AM
Blues For Smedley Clark Terry, Ed Thigpen, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown 137 1964 6:57 Oscar Peterson Trio + One: Clark Terry 9/03/08 3:53 AM
Christopher Columbus Maxine Sullivan 156 1956 2:21 A Tribute To Andy Razaf 9/03/08 3:55 AM
Smooth Sailing Ella Fitzgerald 118 2000 3:07 Ken Burns Jazz: Ella Fitzgerald 9/03/08 3:58 AM

Over all, the set went pretty well, I think. A few people came up to tell me they really liked it, which is always so nice. It's just so flattering to have people take the time to tell you that, especially if they don't know you. It makes me feel really good and encourages me to do my very best.
I played a few old favourites, mostly to hang a bit of shit on Trev, and I did think about doing a very mediocre set for all those people who've asked me to 'play something good' in the past. It maybe wasn't the very best I've ever done, but it felt like a good job. The floor was packajammed til 3am, and I kept a dozen couples on the floor after 3.30, which was pretty good. There were workshops this morning, so the numbers were bound to drop off, but I did a decent job keeping them up and lindy hopping. It was nice to see the floor suddenly fill up again when I played Blues for Smedley and then Christopher Columbus. That's a little super groove mini-set right there at the end. Two songs with chunky bass action a la Ray Brown at the end there (Two to Tango and BFS) for Jaymee to thank him for driving us home the other night (couldn't quite manage Blues for Stephanie, though).

Overall, it was a very fun set to do and I'm enjoying myself this weekend. Yay.

"i like to move it move it" was posted in the category djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

February 18, 2008

fats waller v duke ellington

Posted by dogpossum on February 18, 2008 11:18 AM


It's been tricky fitting in all my listening this past weekend.

Will it be Fats, or will it be Ellington? Witherspoon and Sam Price don't even get a foot in the door, I'm afraid.
I have 8 Ellington CDs to get through, and 3 Fats CDs to get through, and I'm not rushing, mind you. I like to listen to new CDs really slowly, lots of repeat listens to individual songs, lots of skipping back to check out a particular section.
So I'm not exactly running through my new goodies. And when I'm reading, I simply don't hear the music at all, so I never know when a song's finished. Or a CD's finished. I think this is partly why I hate having music on when I'm working - it's a waste. Music also tends to stop being music and just turn into the odd sound or bump or squeak which I catch every other minute as my attention shifts back to the aural world. I also really hate having that annoying background buzz distracting me from ideas when I'm thinking. So I like Total and Complete Silence when I'm working.

But I was all about Fats at first:
Fats Waller and His Rhythm the Last Years ( 1940-1943 ) to be precise. This is the other goody that came for me last week. It's really, really wonderful. I adore Fats, and this is perhaps the best collection I have (so far - there's no end in sight). So, seeing as it was the first collection that arrived, this was where my listening was at. But then the Ellington Mosaic arrived, and now I'm all about Ellington.
It's not a real competition, not really. But I'm finding it tricky getting through all these. And it feels like every single song on this Mosaic set is wonderful - I have to keep stopping to put songs into my 'should play' list for DJing. Luckily there's quite a bit of stuff I don't already have (I love, love, love the smaller group stuff, and have the Columbia 2-CD 'Duke's Men' vol 1 and vol 2.

I really should get my finger out and properly research all these guys, get a proper idea of who recorded with which companies when. Get some sort of clue as to who was in whose band at what time. But I really can't be arsed devoting valuable research time to something that's meant to be fun. There's so much other stuff I should be researching (let's not talk about reality TV, ok?), I just don't want to ruin music for me. I have read bits and pieces, but I just don't have a sensible, comprehensive set of facts and figures and names at my disposal.
I mean, I am totally crap with that sort of thing normally (my memory is so crap it's a joke), and I find it really difficult to remember the names of songs. I can pick the musicians or the bands (mostly because they tend to have quite distinct musical 'styles' or 'accents', so you can guess who's playing what), but names of songs? Nope. I can generally guess the era (30s, 40s, etc), but not reliably. This means that it's always a nice surprise to discover I actually own that song that such and such just DJed. But it also means my learning curve re jazz history is more of a plateau.
I've also noticed that a song seems to sound completely different when you're dancing to it than when you're DJing it or sitting at home listening to it. I think it's because when you're DJing or listening, you pay really close attention, in a conscious-brain sort of way. But when I'm dancing, I'm responding unconsciously, not actually consciously thinking 'oh, muted trumpet' or 'huh, chunky bass'. Plus there's a bunch of other things going on when you're dancing that distract you.

Anyways, the bottom line is, Ellington is winning, but Fats is kind of niggling in my hindbrain. It's high-brow versus visceral, bodily goodness - Ellington is clever, Fats is fun (Ellington is fun too, and Fats is clever, but Ellington is telling you he's smart and Fats is telling you he'd like you to sit a little closer and pass him a drink).

"fats waller v duke ellington" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

February 15, 2008

Sam Price and His Texas Blusicians 1929-1941

Posted by dogpossum on February 15, 2008 1:02 PM

images.jpegSam Price and His Texas Blusicians 1929-1941 is the other CD that came this week, part of the Big Binge. It's a Chronological Classic, which is important because this series of albums feature artists in chronological order - so you get a series of Duke Ellington CDs featuring songs in the order they were originally recorded.
It's the most comprehensive series of albums, and they're quite sought after. You can pay zillions of dollars for the rarer ones. But I've picked up ones that are cheaper and really great. My favourite is the Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 one, which I picked up quite cheaply. It featured a song called B Sharp Boston which I really like and play quite often at late nights (it's a bit slower). It also features Joog Joog, which has some nice female vocals (again, the CD's in the other room, so I can't check the name for you, sorry, but I think it's a combination of Ivie Anderson and someone else [EDIT: I just checked and I think the notes are screwy, or I don't understand, as it has a bloke's name for the vocals, when I'm certain it's Ivie Anderson and someone else...]). It's quite an interesting album because it's later Ellington (round about the time of some of the late testament Basie stuff that I really like), but Ellington is quite a different band leader. Most of these songs aren't that wacky arty stuff he got into in the later period, but are much more popular songs. So it makes for interesting listening. And some great dancing.

Any how, this Sam Price action was drawn to my attention by Trev, king of fun scratchy music. And I'm quite in love. He apparently played with Lester Young's band (or at least Lester - this is another CD I have to check the liner notes on. It's only new, so I'm totally clueless on specifics). Sam Price, not Trev, that is.

One of my favourite bits of this album is in the song 'Do you Dig My Jive?' where he sings:

Ain't nothin' new about jive,
Believe it or not,
I know when jive first started,
The time and the spot,
Way back yonder,
In the year one-ty-one,
You can bet your sweet life,
That's when jive begun.

I like 'onety-one' - the first year. It makes me giggle.

So, of course, I'm swimming in lovely music today. And trying to pretend I don't have a dentist appointment this afternoon. I think I'll follow that up with a nice film. Probably Jumpers rather than the more serious things I want to see (There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, American Gangster), as I'm always a bit traumatised after the dentist. Thing kind thoughts for me, will you?

"Sam Price and His Texas Blusicians 1929-1941" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

mosaic Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions and Witherspoon-McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues

Posted by dogpossum on February 15, 2008 12:23 PM

...and the last of my Big Binge CDs arrived today, along with a lovely needlepoint pack. It was just like christmas.
Let's start with the needlepoint. I bought it from this slightly dodgy looking site. I've recently gotten returned to needlepoint, c/o a christmas present Margarate Preseton job, and have gotten a bit obsessive about it. Had to have another to do, though I've managed to sate some of that obsession with a nice blue patchworked crocheted blanket for The Squeeze - I can't bear large crochet projects in summer, but the smaller squares are easier - remind me to post pics of my fabulous red flowered job. Note the price - $55 for printed canvas + all wool. That's not bad at all. And it's an Australian company, so there's less postage to pay.

1011.jpg Jimmy Witherspoon with Jay McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues from Mosaic. I'm a big fan of Jay McShann, and while I don't like Witherspoon's politics, he can sing like a mofo. I'm still keen on that big, fat 50s sound. This one has lovely quality recording, and the band is so freakin' good (Emmett Berry, J. C. Higginbotham, Hilton Jefferson, Seldon Powell, Al Sears, Kenny Burrell, Gene Ramey and Mousey Alexander). Some of it veers off into post-swing (this is a 1957 recording after all).
Most of my Jay McShann is earlier - nice, dirty Kansas City stuff. Though I do have this album Hootie!, a live job by his trio in... damnit, I haven't entered the date! [EDIT: just checked it - it's 1997] And the CD is far away... Anyhow, that's a great album, but it's supergroove. Lots of long, tinkly songs with tinkly piano, often at supersonic speeds. Not really the best dancing (except for the odd blues track), but really good listening music. I really like McShann's piano style - it's so different to people like Basie and Ellington and Junior Mance and Oscar Peterson.
So, anyhow, this new CD is really fun. Lots of great, upenergy songs. As I said, though, it's a bit post-swing, in that it stops swinging quite so much. The slower ones are better, but the uptempo ones are kind of staccato or abrupt. Don't swing so much. What this means for dancers is that it feels like you're rushing from beat to beat, and that songs feel faster generally. This can be good for lifting the energy in the room every now and then (especially if it's a more recent recording), but ultimately, it does bad things to your lindy hop. We need that gushy, delayed timing to really make us swing, to keep us hanging back and soaking every last moment out of each beat.

235.jpg My other lovely present is Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions, another Mosaic set I've had my eye on for ages. Cost a freakin' bomb, but oh-baby, I have a serious thing for Ellington that's just not going away. I have quite a few Ellington CDs and collections, but I couldn't resist some lovely Mosaic remastering goodness (that's what makes these expensive things worth it - good remastering, not to mention fab liner notes and packaging and great service).
This is completely different stuff to the Witherspoon CD - 20-odd years earlier, different approach to the rhythm section, very different approach to composition/arrangement. Really, this is a nice comparison between classic 30s swinging jazz and the 'next generation'. While I adore the Witherspoon/McShann CD, this is where my heart truly lies. I love Ellington for the complexity and sophistication of the arrangements and plain old management of the band. Each musician has a very particular job, and they do it just wonderfully. I also prefer this bouncy old school sound - makes me want to lindy hop. None of that shuffle-rhythm going on in the drum kit area. Nice shouty choruses at the end of songs. Yes, please.

I also like these big 'complete, collected works' sets because they include multiple takes of the one song. This means you get to hear the band make minute variations in the way they play, and you really begin to understand how the band work together as a team, and how a slightly shorter solo can change the whole song. I also like hearing the people in the studio talking - it's like we're just that little bit closer to a world that feels imaginary, most of the time. They way they talk, the things they talk about - are all so far away from us. But when you hear them swearing about fucked up takes or laughing at jokes, it becomes a bit more real.

So, sitting up in bed looking through all these goodies this morning (it was an early delivery), it felt like my birthday. And it was lovely.
Now I just have to score a few more DJing gigs to cover these extravagances.

"mosaic Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions and Witherspoon-McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues" was posted in the category digging and djing and music

February 12, 2008

slim gaillard's Laughing in Rhythm and Fats Waller and his Rhythm, the Last Years 1940-1943

Posted by dogpossum on February 12, 2008 10:22 AM

Two new arrivals:
Slim Gaillard's Laughing in Rhythm. Can't believe I've only just bought this. I am so the slowest, uncoolest DJ on the block. I mean, I've bought bits and pieces from places like itunes, but still. It's a bit late. I'd still like the giant Gaillard Proper set, but I just can't bring myself to buy all that nonsense singing...

Fats Waller and his Rhythm, the Last Years 1940-1943. I now own about 60 million Waller CDs. And I'm not quite sure that's enough.

"slim gaillard's Laughing in Rhythm and Fats Waller and his Rhythm, the Last Years 1940-1943" was posted in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

January 29, 2008

retuning for white audiences - more sister rosetta tharpe

Posted by dogpossum on January 29, 2008 11:23 AM

Helen has asked for specific details about the tuning of Tharpe's guitar in her comment here. Below is a big fat quote from an article called 'From Spirituals to Swing: Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Gospel Crossover' by Gayle Wald (published in 'American Quarterly', vol 55, no.3 September 2003), pgs 389-399. This is where I read that note about Tharpe's tuning - hope it's useful, Helen.
Wald's article is mostly about Tharpe's movement from black gospel music to the white jazz/blues/pop mainstream. Tharpe is taken as an example illustrating wider points about culture and music during this period. It's a really interesting read.

Although Tharpe arrived in New York already highly credentialed in Pentecostal terms, Sammy Price, Decca's house pianist and recording supervisor at the time Tharpe recorded "Rock Me," apparently wasn't feeling any of this joy. Tharpe, he recalled in his 1990 autobiography, "tuned her guitar funny and sang in the wrong key." In all likelihood Price was referring to Tharpe's use of vestapol (sometimes called 'open D') tuning popular among blues musicians in the Mississippi Delta region. (Muddy Waters is among the many blues guitarists, for example, who learned vestapol technique in the 1930s, when he was growing up in Clarksdale, Mississippi.) As common as it was in the South, however, vestapol tuning could sound distinctly crude and out-of-place in the context of northern jazz bands. By his own account, Price, who later went on to record several hits with Tharpe, refused to play with her until she used a capo, the bar that sits across the fingerboard and changes the pitch of the instrument. "With a capo on the fret," he explained, "it would be a better key to play along with, a normal jazz key."

Price's brief story of the carpo as a normalizing technology is rich with implications for the discussion of what 'crossing over' to the realm of popular entertainment might have meant for Tharpe. Resonant of southern black communities and of musicians who honed their craft in churches as well as on back porches - musicians Hammond quite unself-consciously called 'unlettered' - Tharpe's 'funny' guitar playing introduced, to Price's ear, an apparently unassimilable element into the prevailing sounds of urban jazz. It's also possible that Price was demanding that Tharpe sing at a higher pitch, to conform with popular as well as commercial expectations that high pitch evidences a correspondingly 'higher' degree of femininity. In any case, and as Price suggests, Tharpe quite literally had to adjust her guitar and singing techniques to make commercially popular, 'secular' records that would earn her an audience beyond the relatively small market of consumers of 'religious music.' The 'makeover' of Tharpe's sound also has important gender and class implications less obvious from Price's comment. In bringing her sound more into line with the sounds of commercial jazz, Tharpe would not only have to change her tuning, but 'change her tune' as far as her performance of femininity was concerned.

The 'Hammond' referred to in the article is John Hammond, an important figure in the promotion and management of a number of big jazz musicians. Gunther Schuller's book 'The Swing Era' reads almost as a history of Hammond's career. I think it's important to note that this one white man was important for his influence on the developing jazz and swing music industry. His selection and then promotion of specific artists shaped the recording industry, popular tastes and the white mainstream's understanding of and access to black music during this period. As the race records and black-run radio stations were forced out of the industry by white competitors and blatantly racist media regulation, black artists had less and less control of their own representation in mass media, and black musical culture was mediated by white corporate and cultural interests.


All of this makes for fabulous, fascinating reading. It is, though, all about America. I'm not sure how much (if any of it) can be translated to the Australian context. But that would make for interesting research in itself, particularly when you keep in mind that jazz in Australia is necessarily the product of cultural transmission - black music filtered through mainstream American recording and sheet music industries to white mainstream audiences and musicians and white Australian musicians and audiences. Sure, there were musicians making jazz in Australia (people like Graeme Bell of course), but I've been thinking about 'authenticity' and jazz in such a transplanted context... particularly as I've read recently somewhere (goddess knows where - I'd have to retrace my steps) that music tends to reflect the vocal patterns and intonations and rhythms of the culture in which it develops. So, we could draw from this the conclusion that we Australians would play jazz with an Australian accent. It wouldn't sound like American - or black American - jazz. I'm hesitant to make comments about the relative value of localised jazz, but it's an issue hanging in the background there...

But back to Hammond. John Hammond of course organised the concert 'From Spirituals to swing' at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1938 (you can see the artists here, in a recording of the concert) . This concert featured a bunch of super big artists (Jimmy Rusher, Joe Turner, Mitchell's Christian Singers, Albert Ammons, Sidney Bechet, Count Basie, Benny Goodman). It's goal was a combination of musical 'education' for the white mainstream and - indubitably, considering Hammond's impressive business sense - promotion of black music to new white audiences/consumers.

I'm interested in this concert and in Tharpe's cross-promotion to the mainstream as an example of cultural transmission - I'm fascinated by the way music and dance move between cultures. I'm also really interested in the uses of power in this process. Is it appropration? Stealing? Poaching? To quote (ad nauseum), Hazzard Gordon, we have to ask "who has the power to steal from whom?" when we're looking at this process.
I''ve been writing about the way different cultures not only 'take' dance steps or songs from other cultures or traditions, but also the way they then adapt these 'found' texts to suit their own cultural/social needs, values, etc.
I've argued all through my work that we can see the social heirarchy of the US in the reworking of dances and songs. What did they need to do to make these texts palatable for white audiences? With Tharpe it was 'retuning' her guitar and voice. With lindy hop, it was 'desexualising' and 'tidying' up the basic steps. Or at least presenting a different type of sexual performance.

Some interesting references
There's a really great page discussing race records that includes audio files, images and written text here on the NPR site.

There's also a pbs (US) site attached to the Ken Burns Jazz doco discussing race records.

For a (very nice) academic discussion, see David Suisman's article called 'Co-workers in the kingdom of culture: Black Swan Records and the political economy of African American music' (The Journal of American History vol 90, no.4, March 2004, p 1295-1324) which discusses the 'race records' of the period and the racialised nature of the American recording industry.
You can also walk through this article via the JAH's fantastic site (complete with images, sound files and other wonderful things). This is one site that really ROCKS.

Derek W. Vaillant has written a really interesting article about black radio in Chicago in the 20s and 30s which discusses these issues in greater detail ('Sounds of Whiteness: Local radio, racial formation and public culture in Chicago 1921-1935', American Quarterly vol 54 no. 1, March 2002 p25-66).

Katrina Hazzard Gordon has written quite a bit about African American dance culture. Here are a couple of references:
Hazzard-Gordon, Katrina. "African-American Vernacular Dance: Core Culture and Meaning Operatives." Journal of Black Studies 15.4 (1985): 427-45.
---. Jookin': The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

Read more about John Hammond, look at photos and listen to music here on this Jerry Jazz Musician page.

Wald, Gayle. "From Spirituals to Swing: Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Gospel Crossover" American Quarterly vol 55, no.3 (September 2003): 389-399.

"retuning for white audiences - more sister rosetta tharpe" was posted in the category academia and lindy hop and other dances and music

January 17, 2008

when the metal is hot and the engine is hungry

Posted by dogpossum on January 17, 2008 5:00 PM

If you saw this last night on ABC2, you'll feel the same way I do about this clip:

I'm trying to convince crinks that she could do with a man like that. Perhaps Jack Black would do.

"when the metal is hot and the engine is hungry" was posted in the category music

December 17, 2007

monday jazzblogging (because everyday's caturday when you likes jass)

Posted by dogpossum on December 17, 2007 5:00 PM


I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate ~ Mugsy Spanier and His Ragtime Band 1939

Oh, wish I could shimmy, like my sister Kate, Now she shakes it like jelly, On a plate.

My momma wanted,
To know last night,
Why the boys think Kate's so nice,
Every boy in my neighbourhood
Now knew she could shimmy
And it's understood,

I might be late,
But I'll be up to date,
When I can shimmy like my sister Kate
I'm shoutin'
shimmy like my sister Kate,
Oh boy.

Just one verse, really, but it's worth it, just for that line - she shakes it like jelly, on a plate. I like that sort of talk.
And the saucy trumpet (or is it a cornet?) solo makes it all work. But really, we're all just waiting for the big old shouting chorus at the end.
(That's not Kid's Ragtime Band there in the image, it's his other band - the Original Creole Jazz Band).

[PS - I just found this 'collection of New Orleans greats by Mahalia Jackson' and nearly weed with excitement. Apparently it's a misprint. Wracked with disappointment. Trying to get over it]

[PPS my favourite Kid Ory song is 'Creole Bo Bo' - a French nursery rhyme done with a seriously swinging New Orleans rhythm which makes me HAPPY! It also defies DJing. At 203bpm, with French lyrics, an obviously nursery rhyme melody and too much swing for charleston, it's just not a song you'll play every day. For anyone other than yourself.]

"monday jazzblogging (because everyday's caturday when you likes jass)" was posted in the category cat blogging and music

December 11, 2007


Posted by dogpossum on December 11, 2007 8:27 PM

I did a gig at the speegs during MLX which wasn't really very great. First, there were no dancers there but The Squeeze and I. So my swingin' jazz went down like a lead balloon. Thank heavens for James Brown, or I'd've been lynched. Though they booked me for a jazz gig, I just couldn't bear the empty floor any longer. So I played the very few soul and funk songs I had. And the punters loved it.
A bit later, some dancers arrived, so I started in with some good dancing from the jazz tradition. After 'Lavender Coffin' and midway through 'Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho' some drunk prick tried to climb up on the stage (I dealt with that, quick-smart and used my scary body to move him back). "Are we going to be subjected to this gospel swing all night?" he demanded in a pleasant drunken slur. And I sort of shrugged it off with a tight smile. He kept lurking and I gave him the super snub. A few minutes later he returns with the same charming line. And I reply "If at all, possible, YES!"
What could be better than an evening of hardcore New Orleans Jeeeeezuss! music? I can't imagine. Then I gave that prick some serious snubbing.

There's nothing worse than a know-it-all jazznick heckler who thinks he knows better. Prick. Hope I never see that loser ever again.
But speaking of gospel, I'm quite struck on Mahalia Jackson live at Newport. I want it. At first it was just for that version of Jericho, but now I just want it. Not necessarily for DJing (though the Jericho would go down well at a blues event). The Basie Live in Antibes CD got me keen on Jackson, and I think I could well get over this swing malarkey and return to my soul and funk roots. Sigh. More obsessive collecting to come.


So, anyway, to finish off that bit about the speegs gig, Trev and Russ came in later and played the other bits of the set for me. If you look at the pic there (courtesy of Wendy), you can see me DJing (and probably freaking) and Trev leaning over my shoulder with beer in hand (there are no DJing rules at the Speegs).

Trev played excellent part