Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The New Cotton Mouth Kings CD!

The self titled CD "the New Orleans Cotton Mouth Kings" has been a couple weeks now, and for many reason's I continue listening to it, if not for pure pleasure, then to take notes on the concept of this amazing band.

The style of music alone is something to ponder, taste, digest and yes, relish in the after taste. I've heard the members claim the style as being "New Orleans Swing", a description which I have thought a lot about, and drawing the only possibly conclusion...I couldn't agree more!

Before I get into the CD,  Let me share just a tad of history. This  band goes back about 10 years and was originally called the "New Orleans Jazz Vipers".  Last summer the band reformed under it's new name 'New Orleans Cotton Mouth Kings'.

This is their first CD under this name and I'm really excited about the tracks they selected, so I'm going to mention a few of vocal tracks just so you can get the idea of music in store for you...

On Guitar we have John Rodli, known to many as the voice behind the "Blue Drag" on the Vipers recording. John's Vocal fans will be pleased to hear him once again on "I wished Upon a Moon" and "Pennies from Heaven".

No doubt one of my favorites from this band for awhile now is their rendition of "Nagasaki". A song that features Matt Rhody, who not only swings the group with his vocals but also sends the room on his Violin solos. Thanks for including this track fella's!

The big surprise for me on this CD was the Harlem Hamfats song "Delta Bound" , sung by Tom Saunders, a Jazz 78 collector who plays the Bass Saxophone. This version is a bit faster giving it a new fresh feeling that certainly will bring a smile to anyone who likes a new twist on old things.

Charlie Fardella's Vocal's on songs like "Corrina Corrina" is a great example, the band takes a new sound with the band backing the vocals with Matt's Violin leading the way before Charlie finally punches through with his Trumpet.

On another vocal, Bruce Brackman singing their "Gospel Medly" which is actually 3 New Orleans standards, combined perfectly, the band is obviously having fun recording these as you can hear on this track.

Bruce's Clarinet playing is most powerful and exciting sound I've ever witnessed, Charlie packs more then just a punch with his trumpet, I only wish everyone could stand in front of them at DBA or the Cat on one of their regular gigs and witness this group of players who truly enjoy playing first and foremost.

None of this could not happen without bass man Robert Snow, perhaps best described as a swinging time machine….if your dancer, he is the one that is driving your feet.

The groove Robert lays down is infectious and from there the layers of each instruments fit like a puzzle propelling the rhythm in amazing time.

As it says on the CD, it's Smoking Swing from New Orleans….no doubt a must have for any Jazz and Swing enthusiast…

Peter Loggins Feb, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

anon comments

Aside from being difficult responding to multiple users named anonymous, if i'm to take the time to share or respond to someone. i'd at least like to know the person is real, or at least has real intentions.

so I'm laying down some type of comment security, logging in, or something....thanks to everyone that reads! 

So again, feel free to post or comment, however...use your darn name, so we can have some normal communication between us...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dancing Hot and Sweet: New Orleans Jazz in the 1920s

 I came across this article in the special collections
at Tulane University which I've linked at the bottom.
I met Bruce a few years back in Moscow, Idaho at the
Lionel Hampton archive.

His knowledge is amazing, and this article along with
many others has helped me to further research specially
on the history of dance.

So, I hope you enjoy it...without people like Bruce,
reseaching, putting the peices together and writting,
it disappears...

Dancing Hot and Sweet: New Orleans Jazz in the 1920s
 by Bruce Boyd Raeburn

"The story of music in New Orleans must begin
with dancing:
Henry A. Kmen, Music in New Orleans: The
Fomlative Years, 1791-1841.

New Orleans has always been a dancing
town, and it is no wonder that jazz entered the
local scene -feet first-, as a dance music.
Whether on the streets in the -second line, at
neighborhood dance halls, on the riverboats, or
for "script" dances at Tulane University, jazz
musicians sought to move an audience in the
most direct sense, making dancers part of the
action and feeding on the energy.

This dynamic came early, as trombonist Bill
Matthews affirmed in his recollections of Buddy Bolden for the
Hogan Jazz Archive: -Everybody was crazy about
Bolden when he'd blow a waltz, schottische or
old low down blues. He was the sweetest
trumpet player in the world... Bunk Johnson got
his style following Buddy with his sweetness, but
could never play rough and -loud like Bolden:
Unlike later jazz critic') who praised -hOT- and
scorned -sweet-, New Orleans musicians valued
the difference because the dancers wanted

In a given night at Odd Fellow'S Hall,
Bolden might offer waltzes, polkas, and
quadrilles to his early crowd; upon their
departure (usually around midnight), the music
would turn rough and rowdy for the nightpeople
who preferred slow drags, shags, and belly

The mixed fare performed by Bolden's proto-jazz band
and the less than legitimate style in which it was
rendered were characteristic of the New Orleans
musician's desire to give the public what it
wanted. Also apparent, however,
was a divergence of taste between young and old
as a new generation demanded greater freedom
and excitement in music and dance. The
formalism of the nineteenth century was yielding
10 a vigorous vernacular sensibility, evident in
the demand for novelty and a Willingness to
experiment in order to achieve it.

When the popular dance learn of Vernon
and Irene Castle published Modem Dancing in
1914, they could scarcely have foreseen what the
Fates held in store for Terpsichore in the years
to come. As notable dance authorities, their
intention was to provide a 'state of the art"
manual of dance etiquette for the average
American as a means of 'preserving youth,
prolonging life, and acquiring grace, elegance,
and beauty" If the Tango, the Castle's newest
sensation, degenerated into "acrobatic display or
"salacious suggestion" it would be "the fault of
the dancers and not of the dance..

A decade later, the "naming youth" of the Jazz Age had
much to answer for as they flaunted the Shimmy,
the Charleston, and the Black Bottom, choosing
unrestricted self.expression over propriety.
In this transition, New Orleans jazz bands
played a major role. But music suited to local
dance styles did not necessarily translate readily
in other towns.

Cornetist Ray Lopez, with Tom
Brown's Band from Dixieland at Lambs Cafe in
Chicago in May 1915, remembered some
awkward moments: "Our debut was pitiful.
Those Yankees wouldn't listen or dance. We
look turns talking to the customers. 'Folks this is
New Orleans music, HOT music People down
South dance, Come on and try "Have fun".

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band was more
successful in January 1917 at Reisenwebers in
New York, but as Nick LaRocca recalled, the
response to the band's opening number was "Tell
those farmers to go home!" Only after the
proprietor had explained to the customers that
the music was for dancing did the situation
improve. Gradually, the ODJB succeeded
because they worked to adapt their "rough and
ready" style of playing to the fox trot rhythms
which appealed to dancers in places like Chicago
and New York.

Another New Orleans outfit, the Original Creole Orchestra,
had been the first to leave the city in 1914 but sought fame on the
vaudeville stage, thus eliminating a dancing
audience. The ODJB's draw as a dance band led
to their famous recordings for Victor in 1917,
which heralded the dawn of the Jazz Age and
rejuvenated a boom in record sates which had
begun four years earlier with the popularity of
the Tango.

Between 1914 and 1921 annual production of records jumped from 25 to 100
million, owing largely to the desire of Americans
to test new dance steps in the privacy of their
living rooms before venturing out in public.
Whereas the dances of the nineteenth century
had required certain minimums of deportment
and training, utilitarian steps like the fox trot
were comparatively more versatile and accessible.
One did not necessarily have to be svelte to fox
trot, and it was not by coincidence that the dance
came to be known as "the businessman's bounce."
From the fox trot to the Charleston, jazz dancing
had something for everybody, and the dance mania
which swept the nation in the 19205, with
attendence, record sales, seemed to prove it.

New Orleans jazzmen factored dance into
their repertoires in various ways. On the
Streckfus steamers, members of Fate Marable's
bands were actually tested by company officials
on their ability to execute dance tempos
precisely; "Captain Joe Streckfus was very
particular about music on the excursion boats.
He would attend rehearsals, tap his feet with his
watch in his hands, and if the band failed to keep
the proper tempo (70 beats per minute for fox
trots and 90 for one steps) somebody got hell.

The New Orleans Owls took a more relaxed
approach. As leader and saxophonist Benjie
White explained, during rehearsals at the West
End Roof Garden half the band would rehearse
while the other half danced with college girls.

Albert Nicholas joined King Oliver's Dixie
Syncopators in Chicago in 1926, a band made up
mostly of New Orleans men. In his interview
with Richard B. Allen for the Hogan Jazz
Archive in 1972, Nicholas described how Oliver
would instruct the band to play softly in certain
passages to incorporate the sounds of dancer's
feet for percussive effect.

Each in its own way, these bands sought to cater
to the dancing public for fun and profit
Demand for "hot" and "sweet" dance bands
did much to improve economic conditions for
New Orleans musicians, especially when
debutante balls on Charles Avenue began 10
rely heavily on the services of AJ PiTon's New
Orleans orchestra, the New Orleans Owls, and
Celestin's Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra.

Piron's reputation as a dance band leader was
such that he received an offer to accompany the
Castles (which he declined). After two trips to
New York to record for Victor in 1923 and 1924,
the band returned to become one of New
Orleans' favorite society dance orchestras at
venues like the Pythian Temple Roof Garden
(which Piron bought with royalties from his
compositions and recordings) and Suburban

In a similar vein, trombonist William
~Baba" Ridgley of the Original Tuxedo Jazz
Orchestra remembered how his income increased
from $1.50 per night in Storyville to $25 for a
debutante ball, another indication of how social
acceptance of jazz as a dance music helped it to
rise above earlier connotations of vice and

Ironically, it was the road to broad social
acceptance that ultimately spelled the end of the
dance connection for jazz. By the late 1930's jazz
critics were organizing concerts, such as John
Hammond's Spirituals to Swing" extravaganzas
in 1938 and 1939 at Carnegie Hall, in an effort
to place jazz on an equal footing with classical
music. The advent of bebop and progressive jazz
in the mid-1940s accelerated the trend toward
"jazz as an," and when Bunk Johnson's New
Orleans Band debuted at the Stuyvesant Casino
in New York in the fall of 1945, its musicians
wondered what they were doing wrong when the
assembled jazz intelligentsia just sat and listened.
Today, from Lincoln Center to Preservation Hall,
jazz is regarded primarily as a concert music, but
its history as a dance music reminds us that even
an art form can be fun when invested with the
right spirit and rhythm... by Bruce Boyd Raeburn

Monday, February 8, 2010

So You wanna dance fast?

One question that always comes up when teaching, is how to dance fast.
Dancing fast was never an issue, or a problem for me, because the simple fact is I dance for fun, first and foremost. In my early days of dancing as a "beginner" , i got up from my chair when the music moved me to do so, regardless of tempo. We never thought in terms of tempo, we just stepped on the floor with our Partner and "went for it" and had so much fun, night after night. I know we were not good in the eyes of a dance critic, however we had no "problem" having fun.

With that all said, my generation of dancers got good dancing fast by doing it over and over, night after night socially. practicing for speed was something we would have never really thought about, and it wasn't until many years later, teaching a class with Sugar Sullivan who mind you was around 76. Sugar is a Savoy Ballroom Dancer and winner of the Harvest Moon Ball in Madison Square Garden in 1955, and in class we were dancing at very fast tempo's, such as Chick Webb's Harlem Congo.

We were teaching a Lindy Hop routine, when one of the students asked to slow it down because she couldn't get the steps. Sugar immediately told her No! That's not how to learn to dance fast, and went on to explain that back in the Savoy Ballroom you never "slowed it down" to practice.

The routine we were teaching as called "Stops" which is not too long, and Sugar basically taught the way they learned back in "her day".  which was having everyone line up, and she would tell everyone what the pattern is, then she would say "Watch!" and she would demonstrate it a couple times, both alone and with me, and with the music...

In some cases she would have the front of the class sitting so the back could see as well, but then it was everyone to their feet, and she count everyone in. It didn't take long before the class was getting the entire routine, and those few students that were having problems she would move forward next her, to make sure they got it as well. We had fun, and at the end of the week we even took our students and invaded another class for a on the spot Battle...Keep in mind this was the first time Sugar had ever taught at the Herrang Dance Camp in Sweden which, which is the largest camp in the world of it's kind. It became common to hear Sugar exclaim "I've haven't done this since...."

Getting back to our students, we eventually discovered was that in many cases it's not a matter of the student learning a piece of choreography, it's the fact they can't dance and move fast enough. One of the great aspects of having routines besides the fact they are something wonderful to improvise on is that they are something you can do to show off your fast dancing. However you want to look at it, when you break into a routine at sizzlin' tempo's it's your muscles you want to explode and take over, allowing your mind to break away and free it's.

The last thing you want to do, is trying to remember steps, with your legs failing to keep up with your thoughts. In Sugars world, it's the opposite, the legs are fast, they think ahead of the mind in rhythm with the music and having already stepped, and kicked before you even thought of stepping or kicking.

Which reminds me of the first time we really danced together. It was in London, and we had been invited, among other teachers as well to teach at a Dance Festival, I remember Chazz Young being another teacher as well as Vicki Diaz, another Savoy Ballroom legend.

One night all the teachers ended up going along with a crowd to the historic 101 club. I don't recall the band but at some point I asked Sugar to dance and it was a slow number, by that I mean uncomfortable to Swing out and start Lindy Hopping. So I kept it simple and rocked in rhythm until the song ended and asked to do another, which she accepted.

When the band kicked back up it was a fast one and immediately a jam session broke out with the dancers making a circle, and one couple entered at a time trying to show off and one up each other in a friendly competition. Sugar in the front of that wall of of people in the circle, with a glowing smile on her face turns over her shoulder to me and says "lets show them how to do it.!!"

Mind you, I had never danced with her until that previous slow blues, and was terrified that she wanted to Swing out and basically Show Off! At this point of my life i was in fact dancing all the time with ladies well in their 80's in Los Angeles, many of which were legends who i could dance very fast with.
However, in Los Angeles we did a dance called the Balboa, which is a very conservative shuffling step in place. The smoother and more conservative the better a Balboa dancer you are, these older masters would always compliment when done right, and correct when done wrong.

Here for the first time in my life, I had a legend asking me to dance Big....and fast! well, to make a long story short we did what we did, and unlike anyone I've dance with, Sugar was killing every step, and each time we whipped out in open, she would kick out a different variation of improvised steps.
Then at the end of a phrase she kept her feet planted and swiveled her knees and and hips, hard from side to side with a swivel motion and the room went crazy.

Sugar was showing us, how she did it, a Savoy Ballroom veteran that was among a group of Lindy Hoppers who localized the Ballroom, and would represent the Ballroom when competing at such major events as the Harvest Moon Ball, which pitted Ballrooms around New York. Ballroom's such as Roseland, and Glen Island Casino would sent their top 5 finalist to the Harvest Moon Ball, and Savoy Ballroom was no different, however taking pride as Home to the Lindy Hop.

Sugar first entered the Harvest Moon Ball representing Roseland Ballroom. She exclaimed she missed the deadline to the Savoy Ballroom's preliminary contest, so headed downtown to Roseland and was able to Win.

She explain at Madison Square Garden the Ballroom teams would first meet with the bandleader to go over the music. Sugar didn't remember specially what song it was the Roseland dancers used, other then a standard popular dance number, but the next thing she remembers changed her life, she remembers watching the Savoy Ballroom Lindy Hoppers hitting the floor dancing twice as fast as the other Ballrooms, throwing airsteps and dancing in and out of routines bringing the Garden to heightened applause.

She told me it was that moment she knew were she needed to be dancing, practicing and spending her time. So from her house, near 125th and 7th ave, she would head to the Savoy and it was not long before she was representing the Savoy Ballroom. The day came in 1955 when she finally won the Harvest Moon Ball with her Husband George Sullivan.

One time I asked Sugar, what does Savoy Style Lindy Hop mean to you? she thought for a second and said, "Speed, what makes Savoy dancers different is they can dance so much faster then any other dancers. It natural, it is what we worked on to be the best...and we had the bands to do it!"

Then she did probably single best exercise I've ever seen.

She had everyone stand up, she motioned for me to put on a fast song, I can't remember what song it was but it was pretty fast like "Clap Hands here comes Charlie", she told every to get up on their toes and run in place to tempo.

Once everyone seemed to be doing this, the class looked around at each other in approval, but then Sugar said, ok good that's your time, now lift your KNEES!!!

She exclaimed this is easy to keep time, with little steps on your toes, but now she made everyone put their hands out front palms face down about waist high, and made them lift their knees and hit the hand, meaning high enough that your thigh is parallel to the floor.

I tried it, and found it very difficult...although, i could dance these tempos this exercise helped a lot, not only in building the proper muscles but also being aware of consistency and control in movement. Lindy Hop as done by the best performers was in fact most incredible to see how extended the body can get and yet, still contract fast and get your feet back under you quick enough to stay on tempo.

Yes, it's a workout...that's what dancing fast is, especially if your trying to Lindy Hop or Shag.

So I recommend making a CD to practice dancing too, with Fast music and dance to it every day by yourself for 10 to 20 minutes.

As one old timers used to tell me, "if you can't dance it alone, what on earth makes you think you can do it with someone else.."

Those words couldn't be more true...jassdancer