Category Archives: Big Band

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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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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Songs of the Month Club: March 2011

As a DJ, I’m constantly hunting for new songs to play or familiar songs that I might be missing from my collection. Sometimes, I look through the depths of my collection to discover gems I never even knew I had or that I had forgotten about. As a new feature for All the Cats Join In, I thought I’d share my DJ finds with you at the end of each month.

March 2011:
“Something’s Gotta Give” — The McGuire Sisters. I played cocktail music for a birthday party where the guest of honor had been in a McGuire Sister-esque group. They asked for a medley of McGuire Sister songs, so I did some research and found this totally danceable tune.

“Conjunction Junction” — Cartoon Theme Players. This one has been around for years, but I’d never gotten it for my collection. Its always a hit.

“Rhythm of Love” — Plain White T’s. I think this is the Plain White T’s way of making up for “Hey There, Delilah.” A great danceable song with apologies to all dancers for the horrid dancing in the video. Continue reading

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Vintage Jazz Buffet (2 of 5)

This post is part 2 of a series that lists one hundred different songs by one hundred different artists. It is designed to be used as an inspiration for dancers to explore the catalogs of our great vintage jazz recording artists. I’ve placed what I consider to be iconic artists in bold. If you are just starting to explore vintage jazz, I recommend you start with these artists.

Part 1 (1-20)
Part 2 (21-40)
Part 3 (41-60)
Part 4 (61-80)
Part 5 (81-100)

  1. “Till Tom Special” – Charlie Christian. In 1937, Charlie Christian started using an electric guitar. For the next five years, he defined what electric guitar meant for a generation of jazz musicians before his untimely death from tuberculosis at the age of 25. At least he didn’t drink himself to death.
  2. “Lindyhopper’s Delight” – Chick Webb. Chick Webb never had the same commercial success as some of his peers, in part due to the limitations of recording technology to capture his powerful and innovating work on the drums. As the house band at the Savoy Ballroom, Chick Webb is the stuff of dancing legend, particularly legends of band battles at the Savoy that are still talked about today.
  3. “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” – Clarence Williams. Pianist, Vocalist, Jug player. Williams was at his best in a washboard band as his piano and vocal chops were merely passable. But his real talent was as a songwriter leaving us such classics as “Everybody Loves My Baby” and “T’Aint What You Do.”
  4. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” – Claude Thornhill. After training on piano in the conservatory, Thornhill worked his way up the dance bands in the Midwest, eventually playing for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. His own catalog often veers out of jazz/swing territory, but there are solid tunes in his collection, and his arrangements tend to be a little more mellow, later becoming an influence for the cool jazz movement.
  5. “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” – Count Basie. Count Basie had his first hit on the charts in 1937 with “One O’Clock Jump,” and produced a steady string of chart toppers after that. What I personally love most about Basie is how his piano playing can be full and robust or light and well-edited. He plays the piano as if it is an additional orchestra, sometimes commenting on the band and sometimes taking over.
  6. “Wave To Me My Lady” – Dinning Sisters. Three sisters from a midwestern family of nine, the Dinning Sisters started singing harmony in church, eventually moving to Chicago to sing for NBC radio and record for the Capitol label. While not as well remembered as the Andrews Sisters who they modeled themselves after, the Dinning Sisters were well-known and popular in their day. Continue reading

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Vintage Jazz Buffet (1 of 5)

After talking about pop music as a gateway for beginners to connect to lindy hop, I started thinking about how to get dancers more deeply invested in and knowledgable about vintage jazz/swing/big band. Some of that comes from time and exposure. Some of it comes from encouraging them to learn about the music, talking about it, sharing favorite songs, proclaiming “I love this song” when a great song comes on. We also need to ensure that information is available to start their own journey of exploration.

Here is a musical buffet of vintage songs. One hundred different songs by one hundred different artists. I’ll post twenty a day for the next five days. I’ve listed them alphabetically by author’s first name because that’s how I searched my music collection. Also, there’s no rhyme or reason to the songs I picked for each artist. Sometimes, I picked a classic like Duke Ellington’s “Cottontail,” and sometimes I picked lesser known songs like Glenn Miller’s “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.” If I left out a favorite song or a favorite artist, it wasn’t meant as any kind of slight, and you should just add them to the comments.

Also, I didn’t list the recording info because the idea is for this to be an inspiration. Look up the artist and see what else they’ve recorded. Find different versions of the song by the same artist or by other artists. Allmusic.com is a great resource where you can look up artists, read their biography, see their discography, and get a list of similar artists. For beginners, I’ve highlighted some artists that I think are good to start with.

  1. “Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar)” – Andrews Sisters. The Andrew’s Sisters were the most successful female singing group of the time. Their collection goes far beyond the few well known hits that always get played. Its worth looking through their collection for some real gems like “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh” and “Hold Tight.”
  2. “Drinking Wine, Spo Dee O Dee” – Andy Kirk & His Clouds of Joy. Besides having the best band name ever, Andy Kirk recorded some solid tunes in the 30’s and 40’s. He never reached real fame with his band, but many great sidemen came through his band including Don Byas, Fats Navarro, and for a short time, Charlie Parker.
  3. “Watch the Birdie” – Anita O’Day. Anita O’Day started out with Gene Krupa’s band (featuring trumpeter Roy Eldridge), and these recordings from the 1940’s are the most approachable for dancers. In her later recordings, she started incorporating be-bop into her soloing. There are still some good tunes from those years, but you have to hunt for them a little more. Continue reading

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A Rose by Any Other Name

Today, I watched clips from the 2011 Lone Star Championships. For the invitational jack and jill competition, competitors danced two songs together, one classic lindy hop selection and one that was “Sweet Soul Jam” or “Karaoke Grab Bag.” I got a big kick out of watching some of the best dancers of our day let loose during the second selection (Check out Peter Strom and Mia Goldsmith). It got me thinking about the role of popular music in our lindy hop scene.

Some dancers really enjoy dancing to non-traditional swing songs. Some dancers don’t enjoy it at all. For as long as I’ve been dancing, I’ve heard arguments, sometimes heated ones, about popular music and lindy hop. I’ve heard people argue that, because the aesthetic of the dance changes when danced to non-traditional swing songs, its no longer lindy hop. I’ve heard others argue that the lead/follow technique and the shared framework for creating the dance is the same in both, and so its a perfectly valid expression of lindy hop. Personally, I think there’s some truth in both perspectives. Continue reading

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