I’m sitting in Frankfurt Airport, chilling out after the wonderful intensity of Chase Festival, and I’m feeling inspired to jot down some thoughts about the allure of swing music. I mean – this music, above all, is the reason I dance… and given just how long I spend dancing to it, collecting it, DJing it, describing it, talking about it – I really ought to be able to tell people what’s so great about it. So here goes.
OK – so yes – there’s a rhythm section… but in the main, this is a two man show between Barney Bigard and his clarinet with Arvell Shaw on bass – and Sid Catlett gently contributing some subtle percussion in the background.
If you’re thinking of DJing, and you’re anything like me, it can all seem a bit overwhelming. What equipment should you use? How does everything plug together? What music should…
I don’t really know why I do these. I think I have a certain awe for the people who can somehow see links between pieces of seemingly incongruous music, and make them work – so it pretty much goes without saying that I should try to do the same thing myself.
Anyway – I’ve always loved the Hudson Delange Orchestra – they played some great songs, including my favourite version of Mr Ghost – but their Definition of Swing has always bugged me, because it does have some amazing swinging sections once it gets going, but the pianist seems determined to remove every ounce of dancing potential the song might have by trying to send a single-note message in Morse Code all the way through. You mileage may vary.
And then I watched Luke Cage (which I highly recommend) – and on came O.D.B’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya – which is obviously a spiritual successor to Definition of Swing.
At our classes, one of the most common questions that newcomers ask is: “What music should we practice to, and where can we get it?”
There’s a whole world of jazz and swing music out there, but for newcomers to the dance, who aren’t yet used to some of the complexities and intricacies of some of the more sophisticated examples, I prefer to use songs of reasonable tempo, with clear uncomplicated rhythms, and which are nicely accessible to everyone. At the same time, I want them to be fun songs, with good energy melodies – they still need to be enjoyable for beginners. Finally, they have to swing. These are for new swing dancers, and in my view, it’s essential that newcomers get a feeling for the music as soon as possible.
Finally, I want these songs to be easy to get – so this will be a very simple article – just a list of songs suitable for basic Lindy Hop practice, with Amazon, iTunes and eMusic links to allow people to get the songs easily. These aren’t necessarily the best, or the most exciting pieces of swing music around, but neither are any of them particularly challenging to dance to.
So without any more preamble, here’s a bunch of songs.
Some Preamble… Here’s the long awaited (by me, anyway) part two for my last post: Finding those Perfect Swing Tunes (Part 1, honest) with the extra things that I plain forgot about…
Oh – the dream of the perfect swing tune. Those gold-dust tracks – those beautiful, amazing tracks which everyone is going to fall in love with, and which cannot fail to set the dance floor ablaze every time they’re used. All you need is a collection filled with nothing but those, and you have it made as a DJ.
It’s nice to dream. Sadly, there’s no such thing – sure there are plenty of amazing tracks out there, but no single track can possibly fit every mood, every moment that you’re going to have to fill as a DJ. The best tracks in your collection can fall completely flat if you play them at the wrong moment. On the flipside, some of the most unlikely ones can work really well if you play them at just the right moment…
Remember – not every song is Lindy Hopper’s Delight. And even Lindy Hopper’s Delight can become Lindy Hopper’s Oh Dear God Not Again if you’re not careful. Read More Finding those Perfect Swing Tunes
Listen to the whole track before ever DJing it. That may seem self-evident, but given the time pressures of modern living, and the urgency need we can feel to build up a great collection of music as quickly as possible, it’s easy to get half-way through a track, go: “This is a great version! Next!” and add it for later DJing.