Category Archives: Music

Walking in Memphis

This past summer, Susanne and I spent a week of vacation in Memphis enjoying the sights, sounds, and barbecue. We left with many great memories: Beale St., Stax Records, Sun Studios, Ground Zero Blues Club, the Delta Blues Museum, Muddy Waters house, the plantation where Pinetop Perkins drove a tractor. We ate barbecue five of the eight days we spent there, and soul food on one of the other days. Our lovely dancer friends, Michael Quisao and Annabel Truesdell, took us to a couple of great little local joints, including Di Anne Price’s “court” and a gods-honest Memphis juke-joint. We are both so thankful to them for the time and treasures of Memphis they shared with us.

For me, visiting Memphis was transformative. I feel as though I have a much more visceral understanding of the blues and of rock and roll. I know more deeply the roots of decades of our musical heritage. Living in Baltimore, I am no stranger to poverty. I’m not blindly walled off into little white-picket fenced plots of suburbia. I see it around me, and I see it often. But the poverty I see and experience here is nothing compared to the swaths of empty store fronts nestled in between vast fields along the Mississippi delta. I’ve often heard the blues talked about as a catharsis of the soul, a release of the worries of the day. There on the banks of the Mississippi, I felt but a drop of the depths of oppression, poverty, and struggle that the blues emerged from. Blues isn’t just a catharsis. It is a triumph of the human spirit; to be lifted so high from such lows.

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Filed under Blues, Blues Dancing, History

Song Exchange – August Edition

A warm ‘Hello’ from Rehoboth Beach, DE where Susanne and I have spent the week on vacation. This post is part of what was formerly the “Songs of the Month Club,” but we decided to mix it up. Frankly, I was tired of sharing all my carefully collected gems without hearing back from you all about your discoveries! So I’m hoping that everyone who reads and enjoys this series will share at least one of their favorite dance tunes from the past month to help me build my collection as well! Let me know what you’re listening to!

Onto the music, this was a bit of an odd month. I DJ-ed for a couple of July 4th patriotic themed dances, and went hunting for vintage WWII themed songs. We also hosted our annual Luau Dance in Annapolis, and I found some Hawaiian swing for the occasion.

Patriotic Tunes:

  • “Thanks  Mr. Roosevelt” – Harry Leader & His Band. A peppy little vintage sounding tune that clocks in just over 205 BPM, but feels very laid back and approachable. I am particularly fond of the vocals which are backed by some great piano work. Sid Pimm is listed as the pianist for the band, and I may try to track down some more of his work.
  • “Yankee Doodle” – Jack Teagarden. The vocals are just passing, but the band is swinging hard with some really tight ensemble work from both the trumpet and the reed sections.
  • “You’re a Grand Old Flag” – Barrel Fingers Barry. Barrelhouse piano styling. It has a little more square, ragtime/early jazz feeling to it. If you need some patriotic music for dancing, it can fit the bill nicely, but otherwise I’d let this one sit for better options. Continue reading

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Filed under Big Band, Blues, C-Jam, Dixieland, Jazz, Music, Pop

Songs of the Month Club: June 2011

Happy belated fourth of July, everyone! I actually DJ-ed that night, and spent most of my weekend tracking down patriotic music for dancing rather than writing this blog post. Thankfully, Christina Austin kept things going here with this awesome post on following. In addition to patriotic dance tunes, I also picked up some songs during my adventures at Stompology in Rochester.

Patriotic Songs:

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Filed under Blues, Jazz, Music

Correction: Four Clefs

Recently, Susanne and I went up to Rochester for Stompology, and had a fantastic time there. We’ve got a couple of posts in the works inspired by our time there, but in the meantime I thought I’d post a little discovery from our road trip.

As we were driving, we started talking about “I like pie, I like cake,” which I thought was by The Four Chefs. As I was playing it off of the iPad, I looked carefully at the album art and saw. . .”The four CLEFS.” on the list of artists! The artist track was mislabeled in the iTunes file. I had mentioned the song in an earlier post, and asked for information if anyone knew anything about the artist. Well, now that I have the artist right, here’s some info on them.

In honor of the upcoming July 4th celebrations, check out their patriotic tune, “V-Day.

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Songs of the Month Club: May

Sorry for the delay. Susanne and I have been crazy busy lately running dances, traveling a bit, and enjoying some down time together. This past month, I’ve been listening to more blues and building that part of my collection a little more. I’ve also been looking for songs for Collegiate Shag since our friends Joe and Tabitha Robinson have been teaching beginner shag for us in Annapolis.

“You Can Leave Your Hat On” – Michael Grimm. Michael Grimm won America’s Got Talent, which I wouldn’t consider a ringing endorsement, but the modern soul man has some good chops. Looking through his catalog, his song selection isn’t always the greatest or lend itself well to dancing, but there are a few gems in there for the blues/soul DJ.

“Momma, Where’s My Daddy” – Keb’ Mo’. Susanne and I have tickets to see Keb’ Mo’ in September. He’s one of the artists on my list of “People to see in concert before I die,” so I thought I’d look through his collection again for some more great tunes to listen to before the concert rolls around.

“It’s Only a Paper Moon” – Benny Goodman. We held a USO themed dance in May, and I found this on a compilation of most requested songs from the 1940’s. Continue reading

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Songs of the Month Club: April

Songs of the Month Club is a regular feature on All the Cats Join In where Craig lists his newest finds and old gems that he’s dusted off. Enjoy!

“No Me Voy Sin Bailar (When I Get Low I Get High)” – Ana Belen. This song sounds primarily like trad jazz, but there are a few little nuances that give it a hint of gypsy jazz. (I swear there’s an accordian or bandaneon in the background)

“I’ve Got No Strings” – Andrew’s Sisters. One of our April birthday girls in our scene is enamored with Disney, so I tracked down a couple of swingin’ Disney songs. Everyone knows the jungle book, but as a DJ, I don’t always like to go for the obvious if I can find a high-quality, unknown gem.

“Pure Imagination” – Boilermaker Jazz Band. Nice Work If You Can Get It, the Boilermaker’s new album, dropped this month. This is a fantastic song, one that I do with my band as well. Paul and his crew do a great job of it. I’ve heard him do it live many times, and am incredibly glad he recorded it on this album. Continue reading

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Filed under Big Band, Blues, C-Jam, Jazz, Music, Pop

Anatomy of a Swing Song

While preparing for my upcoming gig for the Towson University Ballroom Club’s Spring Fling, I’ve been arranging some “non-traditional” songs for my band. I love finding amazing, well-written songs and adapting them to the style of music that I love. I really appreciate groups like The Lost Fingers, and Paul Anka’s Rock Swings! album. Both of these artists maintain their own artistic voice and integrity while covering songs that originated far outside of their own style of music. It got me thinking about my process of transforming songs into my genre of swing/dance music and what makes a swing song.

There are a lot of different ways to answer this. At the most basic musical level, a song swings when it uses uneven eighth notes. If you’re not sure what that means, say “Ta-ta-ta-ta ta” fast and evenly. Those are straight eighth notes. Now, in a long-short long-short pattern, say “Da-ba Da-ba Da-ba Da-ba.” That would be a swung eighth note. Even if a song is written with straight eighth notes originally, its still possible to swing it. I love covering Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” which you can swing really hard even though the original is as straight as a board. Continue reading

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