Song(s) of the Term in Zaragoza

Not so much song of the week , but songs of the term from Zaragoza….

Well, well, well…. As always the end of term has been lots of tying up loose ends and laying the foundations for what we’re aiming for after the summer in our semi regular swing-dance classes in Zaragoza.

During this term´s courses of Lindy Hop, Balboa, Blues and Jazz Steps we’ve had lots of questions about the music we use in class (and especially at parties such as our monthly Viva El VierneSwing at Viva La Vida!!!) and so we’ve made a small selection of a few of our favourite tracks that we have used during the term (and to make up for not publishing for a month!)

Lindy Hop, Balboa, Blues, Jazz Steps and Rock&Roll

(in no particular order! – T’aint what you do, it’s THE WAY that you do it…)

C Jam Blues – Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra

 

Man From Mars by Artie Shaw, a man who started out on the clarinet when he was 16 (after 3 years on the saxophone).  He was one of the greats for keeping dancers on their toes (while staying dancing on the balls of their feet!!!) with lots of unpredictable changes in the music during a song.  We used Man from Mars in Balboa classes as it comes in at around 224 bpm and is a lovely song to dance to, improvise and play around with.

Now that we’ve finally got into June and the sun is shining for these lazy early summer days…Summertime by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (Although if the truth be told… it was a song that we used during a snowstorm in Pamplona earlier on in the year….)

Heavenly Thing – Carsie Blanton (We used this track in the Jazz Steps classes for a choreography that we created especially for the group. There are some nice moments to play with in the melody and breaks to mark out)

Umbrella – The Baseballs (cheesy but good fun rock ad roll tune to mess around with growing energy in the rhythms as you get to the chorus!)

Now, we don’t want to spoil you, so we’ll leave it there for the time being.. and hopefully not leave it so long till next time!!!

 

Song of the Week 20

Tell me, how Blue can you get…?

This week we said goodbye to Lucille and to the great who sat with her as he played the Blues.  Riley B. King, better known as B. B., passed away peacefully in his sleep on 14th May, leaving behind a wealth of music as he defined the Blues for more than half a century.

Since he first started recording in the 1940s, B. B. King released over 50 albums and his every-note-counts phrasing and economy as a guitarist has influenced many artists from Eric Clapton to Jeff Beck and beyond. Sometimes it’s what you don’t play that counts.

We have chosen this version of DownHearted, filmed at Sing Sing Prison in 1972 by David Hoffman as this week’s song because of the different sides that we can see from B. B, King.  The humour at the beginning is great, but when he switches on the Blues you can really feel it pouring out… until he suddenly introduces more comic lines that have the inmates almost rolling in the aisles…

Riley B. King, September 16th 1925, Itta Bena, Mississippi – May 14th 2015, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Song of the Week 19

Blues from a weekend in Vitoria

One of the many wonderful things about working with other Blues, Balboa and Lindy Hop dance teachers who have years of experience is the advice that they can give you.  This advice can be wide ranging from “don’t accept anything eatable that he gives you” (!) to tips on how to improve or adapt classes or suggestions for songs to use in classes or parties.

Last weekend we were invited to give Lindy Hop and Blues classes at the SAVOY Swing Up in VItoria with Jaume Batlló and Maria Terré.  From Friday to Sunday (and on into Monday morning) we had an amazing time as we danced our hearts out with great people, ate great food, visited a great city and received some great advice.  After Blues classes on Sunday morning Maria told us about a song which, in her words, was for dancing with your partner, really feeling the music. She played the song during her Blues DJ set and here it is : “Come On In My Kitchen” by Porter Davies.

“Come On In My Kitchen” is an 8 bar blues Robert Johnson song, which he first recorded at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas on the 23rd November 1936 and was then released as two different takes in 1937.  It is not one of his most famous works, maybe due to the fact that it is an 8 bar, not a 12 bar blues – which became more popular during the second half of the 20th century, but it is a song which has been covered by a variety of artists, from Taj Mahal to Eric Clapton.

Maria’s recommmended version by Porter Davies is a live version recorded at Eddie’s Attic which opens with a wailing harmonica that gives the sensation of the storm raging outside as the singer waits in his house, offering shelter for the woman who had left him.  It builds and sways in intensity throughout its length and drags out the notes that make it such a great blues song to either listen to or dance to.

Song of the Week 18

The birthday boy this week was a jazz drummer, vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist and bandleader, born in Louisville, Kentucky on the 20th April 1908.

We think that it is fair to say that every Lindy Hopper in the world has enjoyed dancing to the music of Lionel Hampton at some time.  He first appeared on record alongside Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa towards the end of the 30s (there was a reunion in 1963) and in 1940 he left the Goodman Quartet and formed his own permanent big band while in New York.

There is a really wide choice of material and feelings within the Hampton book, from the frantic “Buzzin’ Around With The Bee” to his wonderfully laid back “Sunny Side of the Street” to his classic versions of “Flying Home” or “Take the A-Train”.  One thing that can be said for all of his music is that it really Swings.

After much deliberation this week we have decided to go for an easy choice for many, a song which appears on playlists throughout the world – Lavender Coffin.  Released in 1949 and hugely danceable at 134bpm, it gives a real lift to many dancers when the opening notes jump out of the speakers and the party atmosphere starts and, of course, hand clapping always makes the spirits rise with “swing bands playin’ the funeral march as they roll me into the holy ground ” 😉

Here is a wonderful list of links for more of Lionel Hampton’s music.

Lionel Hampton

 

Song of the Week 17

(Apologies for the delay, but we’ve been having some technical difficulties)

This (last) week marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the greats of Jazz. On 7th April 1915 Eleanora Fagan Gough, better known to most as Billie Holiday or Lady Day was born.

When she was first recorded in 1933 (almost two years before Ella Fitzgerald) Jazz singers were not really defined or developed. The clearest examples of influential artists – as mentioned by Billie herself –  were Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, whose trumpet and voice Billie used to listen to while cleaning Alice Dean’s brothel. During the 1930s Billie defined her role as another instrument in Jazz orchestras, moving away from the typical “men sing for girls and girls sing for men” attitude of the time.

Enough has been written about Billie Holiday – most notably in her biography “Lady Sings The Blues” (1956) – to fill several blogposts and more, so we’ll let each person read into her story what they would like. As you dig into the past you’ll discover truths and untruths (several “facts” are definitely not such), racism, prostitution, abuse, corruption, addiction to drugs and alcohol… The latest book to delve into the Billie Holiday story is by John Szwed – “Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth”. (But make sure to steer clear of the 1972 Diana Ross film 😉 )

There are so many wonderful recordings showing Billie’s way with a melody that we’ve really enjoyed listening and relistening to classics all week. Lazy day tunes such as “Summertime” or the haunting “Strange Fruitget under the skin. The melancholic happiness of her “Sunny Side of the Street” and her work with Sy Oliver & His Orchestra have made the last week one of the jazziest in recent times!

For this week’s Song of the Week we have chosen the Dublin/Warren written “How Could You?”, which Billie performed with Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra on March 31st, 1937. It might not be one of Lady Day’s most famous songs, but it was one of the first that we remember hearing while dancing, thanks to the wonderful Hector Artal.

It has a lovely playful bouncing rhythm and musicality and the overlapping instruments add to a relaxed urgency in the song – other songs which Billie performed with Teddy Wilson ( many can be found here) , also come highly recommended!

Billie Holiday passed away in a New York hospital at the age of 44, the third of the Jazz greats to die after Charlie Parker and Bix Biederbecke.

Billie Holiday performs at the Newport Jaszz festival, 1957

 

Song of the Week 16

It’s not often that you can fall in love with a song again.  In fact, it’s difficult (but not impossible!) to fall out of love with a song, but sometimes songs can slowly disappear down a playlist as new found gems take their place higher up and they slowly find themselves under a layer of dust…  Luckily this last weekend a song came right back to hit us between the eyes with its bouncy smooth playability.

We were (for once!) in Barcelona for the weekend and we took advantage of this by going to Davis and Claudia‘s Lindy Hop Workshop at Lindyhop.cat and the DioClub on Sunday for some Balboa and Lindy Hop social dancing.

We really enjoyed our class with Davis and Claudia – the time flew by and it was great to have teachers who showed socially leadable moves at an advanced level and also worked on connection with the partner.

The key song from the weekend workshop with Davis and Claudia was Splanky, from the Count Basie classic album “Atomic Basie“, written by Neal Hefti (who also, rather surprisingly, composed the music for the Batman TV series of the 60s!)  The album was recorded on 21st and 22nd October 1957 and released in 1958.  It really is a swinging album and this may surprise many who think that the “Swing Era” is only condensed into the 30s and 40s, but the album can genuinely be described as a classic and, possibly, Basie’s best.  Big bands certainly didn’t die at the end of the 30’s… they just made more select recordings 😉

Splanky is everything that you need from a song to dance to: highs, lows, breaks and more rhythms than you can shake a stick at! Hefti managed to bring the best out of every section and musician of the band in his arrangements. Of the following album, Count Basie says “ All the tunes were very musical. That’s the way Neal’s things were, and those guys in that band always had something to put with whatever you laid in front of them”

So, ladies and gentlemen, we give you Splanky, a song to fall in love with (again)  <3

 

Song of the Week 15

Last weekend in Zaragoza we had a great time with classes, parties, films and food (not necesarily in that order!) and one of the talking points at the lunch with students from Pamplona after watching Ctrl+Alt+Dance was a trip to New Orleans next year.  That conversation got us thinking about our trip a couple of years ago and about what a great time we had there.

One of the highlights of our trip was The Spotted Cat Music Club on Frenchman Street and walking in on a concert by The Smoking Time Jazz Club.  After a few days travelling we were itching to dance and the group didn’t disappoint… it was such a good feeling to be able to really dance with a group and feel the flow and exchange of energy between dancers and musicians (Colin Myers` trombone really stood out here!).  I think it was the first time that we’d had THAT feeling of really interacting with a live group and that neither side was just going through the motions of “note-note-note” or “step-step-step”.

Between sets we got talking with the sweet singing Sarah (Peterson, vocals) and had a nice chat about life, music and travelling from Spain to Nola for a dance! In the end we left that night with two cds: Livin’ In A Great Big Way and Lina’s Blues – thanks for such a great present Sarah! Everytime we listen to them they bring back great memories of our time in New Orleans <3

It was difficult to pick just one song from the first two cds (so imagine if we’d included the rest of the bands collection to choose from!!!) and in the end we’ve gone for St. Louis Gal from Livin’ In A Great Big Way to dance those Blues away…..

Song of the Week 14

Hmmmmm… spoilt for choice AGAIN!!!!

Last night we got a link to a Kickstarter project reward that we’ve helped fund for Glenn Crytzer‘s Savoy Seven, a line up, with 1 trumpet, 2 reeds, and a 4 piece rhythm section.  Uptown Jump is an 18 track album full of wonderfully danceable tracks, from Blues to Balboa passing through the wide world of Lindy Hop.

The Road to Tallahassee” is a 95bpm song that would be equally at home dancing the blues or a nice smooth Fox.  There are touches of humour on songs like “Smokin’ That Weed” with a great call and response between Glenn and his Savoy Seven, which brings to mind songs like “The Grass Is Always Greener (if you’re high)” and this catches on when dancing to the song (albeit in the living room!) – we couldn’t get the smiles off our faces from such a boucy tune!

At about 212bpm, “Mrah!” is a comfortable speed for Balboa and has some lovely changes in energy that can mark the jump from PureBal to Bal-Swing and at 135bpm, “Downtown Slump” has everything you need for some smooth triple-stepping and breaks and rhythms to play with your musicality as well!!

All in all we’ve got to say that this is one of the most danceable albums we’ve heard in a looooong time, even if things do get a little crazy with the 320bpm “That Zombie Music“!!!  Our living room changed into the Savoy for a time while we were dancing through the tracks – they really do give you a feeling of being dragged back in time to the 30s and 40s amd a golden age of swing.

From such a wide selection it’s difficult to choose just one song… but we’ve decided on “Glenn’s Idea” (and haven’t ruled out using other tracks for future songs of the week!!!) for it’s pure bouncyness and playability on the dancefloor.  Unfortunately, because the album hasn’t been released yet we can’t add a link, but here you can find the Savoy Seven’s debut album, Focus Pocus, on Bandcamp…. just listen to “A Case of the Blues” and let your blues drift away <3

Focus Pocus cover art

 

Song of the Week 13

This year marks the 100th anniversary of musicologist, writer and producer Alan Lomax, who sadly passed away on 19th July 2002.  In 1934, along with his father, they made an effort to expand the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, gathering thousands of field recordings of folk musicians throughout the American South, Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast, as well as in Haiti and the Bahamas.

He once said that the main point of his activity was “to put sound technology at the disposal of The Folk, to bring channels of communication to all sorts of artists and areas.”

Centennial Logo

He interviewed Leadbelly, Jelly Roll Morton, Big Bill Broonzy and many others, including Muddy Waters (who made his first recordings with Alan).  In 1947 Lomax returned to Mississippi with the first portable tape recorder to make high-fidelity recordings of Delta church services and of the prisoners’ work songs at Parchman Farm, which he ranked among the world’s great music.  The haunting versions of worksongs from the Farm make time seem to grind to a halt and here we have selected a recording from 11th December 1947:  “John Henry“, a song which we regularly use in our Blues classes.

In 1960 he published the groundbreaking anthology Folk Songs of North America and in 1968 methodologies for the comparative analysis of song, dance, and speech were published in Folk Song Style and Culture.

The Cultural Equity Research Center, where we could happily spend hours, days or weeks browsing the content can be found here.

He worked throughout the 70s and 80s and in 1989, together with a team of developers he began compiling the Global Jukebox, a multimedia interactive database that looks at relationships between dance, song, and social organization.

“Neighborhood investigation shows him to be a very peculiar individual in that he is only interested in folk lore music, being very temperamental and ornery. …. He has no sense of money values, handling his own and Government property in a neglectful manner, and paying practically no attention to his personal appearance. … He has a tendency to neglect his work over a period of time and then just before a deadline he produces excellent results.” (from the FBI file on Alan Lomax, 1940–1980)

Song of the Week 12

This week’s song of the week is for birthday girl Eunice Waymon (21st Feb. 1933- 21st April 2003), more commonly known as Nina Simone, the subject of documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” at this year’s Sundance.

“Sometimes I sound like gravel and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream” gives a wonderful description of the voice of this High Priestess of Soul.

Yesterday we gave a Blues Workshop at Ball A La Carta, La Garriga and didn’t hesitate in using songs by Nina Simone.  Her voice transmits such a feeling that our students had no trouble interpreting their emotion through Blues dancing to songs that we used such as “I Put A Spell On You” or “Backlash Blues“.

Here there are several live songs recorded without an audience in 1961-62, including “I Loves You, Porgy”.

It’s difficult (if not impossible!) to just choose one song for this week by Nina Simone, but we’ve decided to try to describe our emotions in a song after such a great class in La Garriga… “Feeling Good