The first time I went to Herrang – which all those years ago was pretty much our only way of getting to quality Lindy Hop classes – I found a musical paradise. There was SO MUCH INCREDIBLE MUSIC that I’d never heard the like of before – and I came back home with songs like Jeep Jockey Jump and One O’Clock Jump ricocheting around in my brain. At that time, I had no idea what these songs even were – the word “swing” just suggested some guy called Glenn Miller, and Glenn Miller meant exactly one thing – In the Mood. I’d barely even heard of Count Basie… but I absolutely had to find out more.
Swing and Blues Corner Posts
This year, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Chase Festival in Heidelberg as head DJ. I’ve had that position at DJam for the last decade, but Chase is a different proposition – a considerably larger event with nearly a thousand attendees, and one of the highest profile Lindy Hop events in Europe, so it was very flattering to be invited to take up such a role.
Part of my job was to prepare music for competitions, which is simultaneously fun and stressful. It’s a huge responsibility – you need to find music which challenges dancers, but brings out the best in them, entertains the audience, preferably without being too obvious and using the same old songs time after time after time. Lindyhopper’s Delight, for example, is an amazing competition tune, but so well-known by now that most experienced dancers could probably hum it backwards. Yes – I will use it, but I try not to rely on songs like that.
And – of course, you need the songs to fit whatever criteria the organisers have requested – plus you you need enough suitable songs for the number of heats and competitors… and crucially, you need a good number in reserve for any last-second changes of mind, and – from past experience – any unforeseen circumstances such as those extra two heats which are suddenly sprung on you without warning, or the two extra spotlight couples we suddenly need to fit into the only-just-long-enough jam song…
Luckily for me, the Chase team are extremely experienced and polished at running these competitions, and I wasn’t caught out by anything like that – but experience has taught me always to prepare well.
What I want to do in this post is to go through the various Chase competitions, and talk about the music I chose, and why I chose it. So without further ado…
I was actually just looking for some recordings from the wonderfully named Club Hangover, and Google brought me here. Started in 1998, and run by the gentleman above – Dave Radlauer – there’s an incredible wealth of information to be found here about Jazz, Swing, and many of the great artists.
Jumping back in time from my last post – I just stumbled across this one: Earl “Fatha” Hines and Teddy Wilson having a bit of an ideas-trading session playing All of Me. If you’ve not come across either of these guys before – and I can guarantee that if you’ve danced to many of my sets, you’ll have heard a lot of both. Teddy Wilson played with many of the greats, including Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman (he was a regular member of the Benny Goodman Quartet, in its many incarnations)
He was also one of the first black musicians to feature prominently with Benny Goodman (who, according to some stories, had initially to be shamed into putting Wilson into public performances with the quartet, despite using him for many recording sessions) Earl Hines was another jazz giant, and is regarded by many as one of the most influential of the early jazz pianists.
This rendition of I Got Rhythm may or may not be to your taste – it’s nowhere near my DJing criteria, I honestly find it quite challenging – it’s little…
We’re recently back from a wonderful week at Swing Summit (after five visits, still my favourite dance camp) – and as usual, I did a fair amount of DJing. I promised I’d put a set list up from one of those sessions, and this is it.
This was from the Saturday night, starting around midnight, and I’d say people weren’t in a high-energy mood. Up for dancing, but it wasn’t generally a crazy week, and this night was no exception – so I was playing it a little cautiously, but overall, things went well.
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.