Category Archives: Jazz

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

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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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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The Real Birdland

Yesterday was the Orioles first home game in Baltimore. I’m no fan of baseball, but I thought a baseball inspired post was in order. Living in Baltimore, home of the Orioles and Camden Yards, baseball is more than an institution. It’s a way of life. Driving around the other night, I saw a billboard that read “This is Birdland,” advertising the Orioles. Apparently, they’ve taken to nicknaming Camden Yards, “Birdland.” I guess they think they are clever since the team mascot is a bird and all. I hardly think one bird, an oriole, warrants calling the place Birdland.

The REAL Birdland was a jazz club named in honor of Charlie Parker, aka “Yardbird” or “Bird.” The Orioles rip this name off as a marketing gimmick. The club used it to honor a legend that played with the likes of Jay McShann, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Christian. 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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Jazz Women Are Not Unicorns

Name the top three most important women in jazz. I’m guessing you came up with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and then a third who was most likely also a singer. If you’re really the adventurous type, maybe you thought of a woman pianist/vocalist like Carmen McRae or Nina Simone. Generally, the history of women in jazz is told through the prominent singers and the occasional pianists, and not much else. Just take a look at this CD titled Women in Jazz from Putumayo. Every artist is a singer, and while I love all the artists on there, women have been doing a lot more for jazz throughout the years.

In fact, during the 1940’s when the men went off to war, many women played in various big bands of the time. Trumpeter Billie Rogers and vibraphonist Marjorie Hyams both played for Woody Herman’s band.  There were even some all girl bands like Ina Rae Hutton and her Mellodears and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. And of course, there are many pianists including Lil Hardin Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams, and Marian McPartland. Continue reading

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