A couple of books have come to my attention this year – and both, I think, make great reading for anyone wanting to know more about the history of Swing, more about the music, and more about the musicians that pioneered and developed it.

The Swing Era - The Development of Early Jazz 1930 - 1945

The Swing Era

First, there’s Gunther Schuller’s The Swing Era – The Development of Jazz 1930 – 1945. Be warned  - this one is not for the faint-hearted – it can be pretty dry and academic, and by the end of the first chapter, I had come to realise that I know nothing about Jazz… but it’s fascinating stuff, and if you preservere, it has a great deal of insight into the origins and development of swing, the mechanics of it (for want of a better term), and the involvement, accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses (Mr Schuller can be pretty merciless about those he puts under the microscope – of the various musicians)

It is definitely best read with a great swing collection (and something like Spotify) immediately to hand, so you can seek out and listen to some of the myriad examples cited in the book. It’s also hard going at times, I do admit – I’ve read several lightweight works of fiction as light relief while reading the book – and you may not always agree with his opinions on some of the music discussed (it’s hard to get a more subjective topic than music after all) – but if you’re after serious insight into about the genre, it’s hard to beat.

Available on Kindle and in more tangible forms.

Harlem Jazz Adventures

Harlem Jazz Adventures

I am just a little layman with an ear for music, and a heart that beats for Jazz” – Timme Rosenkrantz – The Jazz Baron

In complete contrast, my favourite book of the year so far is Timme Rosenkrantz’ Harlem Jazz Adventures.

Timme was a jazz-obsessed Danish baron, who arrived in New York in early 1934 with the intention of immersing himself in the New York jazz scene – an intention which he realised more fully he could possibly have hoped for. He was by all accounts a very charming, likeable character who made friends easily, a terrible businessman, and utterly passionate about jazz. On his first night in Harlem, he managed to see Don Redman and his orchestra at the Apollo Theatre, see a battle between Chick Webb, Teddy Hill and Willie Bryant at the Savoy Ballroom, hear Billie Holiday and Willie “The Lion” Smith at another club – and in the process, met and made friends with Chick Webb and Don Redman – amongst others. All on his first night in New York.

During his numerous and lengthy stays in New York over the following years, he made friends with most of the major jazz stars of the time, including Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Slim Gailliard and Slam Stewart… the list goes on and on. The book – a collection of his memoirs – takes you on an unforgettable tour of the New York jazz scene, its clubs and theatres, musicians, dancers, and some of the less savoury aspects into the bargain. Into this, he managed to cram a lot of detail on the history of many of the  people, places and music that he encountered, making the book a hugely entertaining and fascinating read. The icing on the cake is the wonderful translation by Fradley Garner, who has researched a lot of the detail in the book, adding some fascinating annotations (and occasional corrections) to Timme’s always entertaining stories.

The only downside of this one is the price – £41.85 for the Kindle edition is a little daunting, but for me, worth every penny. I can see myself reading and rereading it for some time to come – reading this book was an utter joy.

Find it on Amazon, or visit the Jazz Baron website for more information / excerpts and so on.

djam (1 of 1)Well – DJam 2014 has been and gone. This year was our best yet – of course it would seem that I’ll always claim that, but a whole combination of factors, starting with the new venue and incredible new dance floors, vastly increased dancing time great DJs…. the list is endless, but the general consensus is that this was our best to date. And we’re already planning the next one.

All this is really by the by however – as I promised faithfully to publish a couple of my set lists from the event. The first is from the Friday night – this is the gently-easing-everyone-in night, so I tend to focus on keeping things relaxed, fun, and engaging.

A couple of notes – the Straycat Edit of Wang Wang Blues (got to love that name – whatever it actually means) – I find the first minute and a half interminably dull, so I cut half of it out. Sacrilegious, I know, but the everything after that point is so amazing, and I really don’t want to bore the dancers senseless before we actually get there.

That version of Sister Kate… is a nasty thing to do to a floor filled with dancers. Extremely funny though. In this particular case, it felt like the ideal way to finish up before clearing the floor for the teachers’ demo. I chose Rex’s St Louis Blues partially because it’s a really fun song, and partially because it has around 30 seconds of slooooow intro before kicking into gear – which was perfect to allow our our blues teachers to shine. Uncle Sam Blues is a bit long, to say the least (I must do an edit of this) – but it’s a fun track, and we were doing a snowball.

Overall, the shape of this set is pretty much a classic wave – I’ve seen suggestions lately that this isn’t such a great way to organise a set, but I still find it a very useful technique to help create flow – so I can’t see myself moving away from it any time soon.

Title Length Speed Artist Album
How Come You Do Me Like You Do 03:23 120.0 Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band This Kid’s The Greatest!
Dry Bones 02:34 132.0 Kay Starr, Pete King & His Orchestra Rockin’ With Kay (Original Album Plus Bonus Tracks, 1958)
Its Tight Like That 02:47 143.0 Jimmy Noone The Complete Recordings, Vol.1 CD 2
Shake It 02:50 149.0 Jelly Roll Morton Jelly Roll Morton Selected Hits Vol. 7
Take It From The Top 02:57 161.0 Ella Fitzgerald & Her Famous Orchestra Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) (disc 7)
Solid Mama 02:39 177.0 Earl Hines & His Orchestra Classic Earl Hines Sessions (1928-1945) [Disc 4]
Gotta Go Places And Do Things 02:44 187.0 Cab Calloway Complete Jazz Series 1932
Swingin’ On That Famous Door 03:00 196.0 Roy Eldridge with the Delta Four Little Jazz Giant
Wang Wang Blues (Straycat Edit) 02:56 154.0 Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band Kid Ory New Orleans Jazz Man
Won’t You Come Over To My House 03:00 128.0 Sippie Wallace Sippie
Between 18th And 19th On Chestnut Street 02:55 135.0 Charlie Barnet Swing Street Strut Vol.2
The Goon Came On (GG) 02:22 144.0 Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra The Complete Jimmie Lunceford Decca Sessions [Disc 6]
Six Appeal 03:11 156.0 Shreveport Rhythm Hot Jazz and Swing Vol.1
24 Robbers 02:38 159.0 Pugsley Buzzard Chicago Typewriter
Meet The Band 03:20 174.4 Edgar Hayes Complete Jazz Series 1937 – 1938
Oakland To Burbank 03:08 154.5 Ray Noble Noble Classics
I Like Pie, I Like Cake 02:53 158.0 “Jeter – Pillars “”Club Plantation”” Orch” The Territory Bands, 1935 – 1937
I’m Livin’ in a Great Big Way 02:35 171.0 Buddy Clark with Benny Goodman & Orchestra 101 – The Essential Benny Goodman
Sister Kate 05:28 151.0 Gordon Webster Live In Philadelphia
St. Louis Blues 03:11 188.0 Rex Stewart Baden 1966 & Montreux 1971
King Porter Stomp 04:38 178.0 Kansas City Band KC After Dark
Uncle Sam Blues 07:28 126.0 Hot Lips Page Jazz Masters
Blue Drag 03:02 140.0 Earl Hines Classic Earl Hines Sessions (1928-1945) [Disc 2]
Ballin’ The Jack 03:15 151.0 Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band This Kid’s The Greatest!
Potomac Jump 03:19 161.0 Harry Parry’s Radio Rhythm Club Sextet Crazy Rhythm

For the second set-list, I thought I’d post the competition tracks. I found the comps a lot more relaxing to DJ this year – but this was probably because last year, I confess, I winged the prelims. Completely. This is a shameful admission, and a daft thing to do – I hope never ever to do that again. Trying to come up with the perfect competition tracks on the spur of the moment (or trying to find a good set of blues prelim tracks while playing for a balboa prelim…) is stressful. Anyway – this year, I’d learned my lesson, and had it all planned. This takes hours, but oh boy, is it worth it.

Sometimes, I wonder if some of my choices for these are a little obvious, but for competitions, my philosophy is to provide music which inspires people to dance. It’s not a test of how well they adapt to weird and wonderful new songs that they may never have heard before. It needs to be fun for everyone – audience, competitors, and, ideally the judges.

Title Length Speed Artist Album
 Newbie J&J Prelims – This categories was for new dancers – so I wanted to use tracks that were fun, but not too tricky or traumatising.
Six Appeal 03:29 137.0 Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five, featuring Hilary Alexander Crazy Rhythm
Hallelujah I Love Him So 02:19 140.0 Ella Fitzgerald Twelve Nights in Hollywood
 Jack & Jill Prelims – Standard format – one mid-tempo, one faster track.
 Heat One
Ballin’ The Jack 03:15 151.0 Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band This Kid’s The Greatest!
Dancin’ With A Debutante 02:24 190.0 Mora’s Modern Rhythmists Mr. Rhythmist Goes To Town
 Heat Two
Sad Man Blues 03:21 153.3 Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra Just Rite
Blues in the Groove 03:06 190.0 Jan Savitt The Things I Love
 Heat Three
That’s How I Feel Today 02:35 156.0 Jay Higginbotham St. Louis Blues (Best Of)
At The Clambake Carnival 02:30 190.0 Chu Berry Classic Chu Berry Columbia And Victor Sessions
 Heat Four
Look Out 04:33 147.4 Metronome All Stars Metronome All Stars The Classic Recordings
Swinging In Harlem 03:10 190.0 Erskine Hawkins Complete Jazz Series 1936 – 1938
 Balboa Prelims – Standard format – one mid-tempo, one faster track. I’m not sure why I didn’t hit them with something faster for the prelims, but it seemed to work. I made up for it in the finals.
 Heat One
Tim Tom Special 03:23 154.0 Lionel Hampton All Star Sessions, Volume 1: Open House
Town Hall Blues 03:15 184.0 Bud Freeman Complete Jazz Series 1946
 Heat Two
The Beaver Bump 03:35 152.0 Glenn Crytzer And His Syncopators Harlem Mad
Flying Home (quality) 02:54 186.0 Charlie Barnet Complete Jazz Series 1940
 Blues Prelims – Two tracks, one fairly jazzy, one Chicago Blues. I was then asked for a third, as the judges needed a little more – always have some spare songs lined up, as this is very likely to happen.
Back O’ Town Blues 03:51 73.0 Louis Armstrong & His All Stars Louis Armstrong : New Orleans Function
Blues Around Midnight 03:08 81.0 Lowell Fulson Black Nights
Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya 05:32 94.0 Woody Allen;Eddy Davis;Greg Cohen;Simon Wettenhall;Jerry Zigmont;Todd Robbins;Rob Garcia Wild Man Blues
 Strictly Lindy Prelims – Again – one mid-tempo, one faster track.
 Heat One
Take It From The Top 02:57 161.0 Ella Fitzgerald & Her Famous Orchestra Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) (disc 7)
The Trouble With Me Is You 02:31 200.0 Adrian Rollini 1934-1938
 Heat Two
Number 26 In The Book 03:09 158.0 Orginal Teddies Swing In Europa 1
Whoa Babe 02:52 199.0 Lionel Hampton, vocal, & His Orchestra The Complete Lionel Hampton Victor Sessions 1937-1941
 Heat Three
Mr Ghost goes to Town 02:54 160.4 Hudson – DeLange Orchestra
No Calling Card 03:02 200.0 Wingy Manone Complete Jazz Series 1927 – 1934
 Newbie J&J Finals
Shufflin’ and Rollin’ 03:11 154.0 Buddy Johnson Unkonwn
 J&J Finals – one slow, one fast with spotlights (and a second fast one when we ran out of time)
Between 18th And 19th On Chestnut Street 02:55 135.0 Charlie Barnet Swing Street Strut Vol.2
Spreadin’ Rhythm ‘Round 02:53 195.0 Billie Holiday Lady Day Swings
(I Would Do) Anything for You 02:49 189.0 Benny Goodman & His Orchestra Big Bands (Benny Goodman And His Orchestra Volume 3 1936)
 Balboa Finals – one slower, one faster. With spotlights.
Yacht Club Swing 03:51 170.0 Fats Waller All My Succes – Fats Waller
I’m True To You (06-05-44) 03:42 222.0 Rex Stewart Complete Jazz Series 1934 – 1946
 Blues Finals – One Chicago, with spotlights, one jazzy number.
Ask At Any Door In Town 03:04 89.0 Lowell Fulson Tramp/Soul
Downward Road 03:08 89.0 Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone
Bad Spell Blues 04:00 56.0 Ottilie Patterson With Chris Barber’s Jazz Band Blues Book and Beyond
 Strictly Lindy Finals – One slow, one fast, with spotlights. Then another for a quick all-skate
Tuxedo Junction 03:14 126.0 Cy Laurie’s Jazz Band Jazz Classics From London
The Harlem Stride 03:29 200.0 Ella Fitzgerald & Her Famous Orchestra Live At The Savoy – 1939-40
Lindy Hopper’s Delight 02:51 191.5 Ella Fitzgerald & Her Famous Orchestra Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941)

Photo by Jonny Howe

BrollyIt’s a little disconcerting when something starts raining on you mid-set, especially when you’re inside. My first response was able to turn off the air-conditioning double-quick. My second was to pull out my umbrella, until the air-con unit above my head stopped trying to drown myself and my laptop…

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Excepting, possibly:

1) Umbrellas can be useful at the most unexpected times, and
2) Never set up electrical gear under an air-con unit.

You learn something new every day…

You can spend far too much of your life watching YouTube videos – and I’m quite sure I have. I might as well put that to good use on occasion though, so I thought I’d post some of my favourites on here.

Ella & Basie – Jazz in Montreux 1979

An absolutely incredible rendition of Booty’s Blues – with Ella and Basie amongst other greats – a slow start gently builds for nearly ten minutes (and via some highly entertaining diversions) into an amazing high energy crescendo and payoff… I have watched it many times, and it never gets old.

Lionel Hampton’s Tom Tom Solo

Lionel Hampton was known chiefly as a vibraphone player and band leader – and lot of the Lindy Hop standard tracks come from him (Lavender Coffin and many versions Flyin’ Home come to mind) – but he was also an amazing and spectacular drummer, as this little clip shows. I only wish the whole song was featured on the video, because I’d love to see the rest of it. C’est la vie. At least we have this.

More Hamp. With Benny Goodman – A Song is Born

While I was finding the link for the above, I found this. Lionel Hampton and Benny Goodman together. Utterly beautiful to watch.

Big Noise from Winnetka

This one’s had me enthralled for years. Something of a showpiece for Bob Crosby’s rhythm section – Ray Badauc on drums and Bob Haggart on bass – and this has to be one of the most beautifully casual pieces of drumming I’ve ever seen. There’s various other versions of this around, including a great one from Gene Krupa, but I still don’t think anything beats these two.

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