Ann Arbor Friday Night Swing, June 1, 2018

For my last DJ gig before I leave Michigan to move to California, I went up to Ann Arbor and spent an evening with the dear friends I’ve come to know over the past few years.

A2FNS 2018-06-01

The first song in this set was actually the one I chose when the organizers decided, spur-of-the-moment, to do a farewell jam for me. As I noted in my last post, Maxine Sullivan does my favorite version of “Exactly Like You,” and it was so much fun to dance with all my friends to a song that I love.

I spent the rest of the set playing with songs that are new to my library, including some pieces I featured in my Lionel Hampton roundup – “Loose Wig” and “Royal Family.” I also tried out “Jacquet Bounce” and “Lean Baby” by Illinois Jacquet, which people seemed to like, and I got a great response when I played “Loch Lomond” by Maxine Sullivan. “Charlie Was A Sailor” by Lionel Hampton, at 192 BPM, got some balboa happening!

It’s sad to be leaving Michigan and all the wonderful dancers I know around the Midwest, but I’m looking forward to lots of new dancing adventures up and down the West Coast! Check in here to keep up with my travels, and if you’re an organizer on the West Coast looking for a DJ to add some delightful tunes to your event, get in touch!

 

This Is Why You Should Be Listening to More Maxine Sullivan

I love Maxine Sullivan.

FROM THE VAULTS: Maxine Sullivan born 13 May 1911

I know everyone loves Ella, and I’m a big fan of Sarah Vaughan myself, but Maxine Sullivan is solidly tied with both of them in my book. Her vocals are energetic and always beautifully in rhythm, and dancing to her recordings is so much fun! I have a few concert videos down below where she’s well into her fifties and sixties, and her voice ages so well – it still carries the vitality of her early recordings, while possessing infinitely more character and charm.

The Aline Gubbay Fonds - Jewish Montreal of Yesterday

This 1968 concert in Japan features Maxine Sullivan singing with Scott Hamilton’s quintet. Some great swing tunes in this concert include “As Long as I Live,” “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,” “You Were Meant For Me,” and “Crazy ‘Bout My Baby.”

Hot take – Maxine Sullivan’s version of “Exactly Like You” is my favorite one. I have four versions in my library – Carmen McRae (probably the one you’ll hear most in the Lindy scene), Eddy Howard, Helen Humes, and Maxine Sullivan – and I like Maxine’s the most. The horns have a swanky energy to them, and her vocals are understated, but they have a rich, full sound – unlike Helen Humes, whose voice has more energy, but is thinner and more reedy by comparison.

In 1985, Maxine Sullivan appeared on a TV show hosted by Johnny Desmond, where she performed four songs, including two swingers – “Loch Lomond,” which is the song she’s most famous for recording, and “Ev’ry Time (I Fall In Love).”

If you haven’t heard Maxine’s rendition of “Loch Lomond,” by the way, you should listen to it. It was the song that originally made her famous, and she sang it in the 1939 film St. Louis Blues. You can see that recording in the clip below:

For dancing, I prefer this hard-swinging rendition from her album We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye, with Bob Wilber.

In this 1958 clip from Art Ford’s Jazz Party, a forty-seven-year-old Maxine sings “Ace In The Hole,” which starts out as a slow ballad and then builds into a really easy, bluesy swinger. I found this video while doing research for this post, and it makes me want to add this song to my library!

At the 1975 Manassas Jazz Festival, Maxine Sullivan did a beautiful rendition of “You Turned the Tables On Me.” I think this clip is a really great example of how you can hear the swung rhythm in her vocals – her voice has this lilting quality that perfectly mirrors what the rhythm section is doing.

For comparison, watch this clip of Maxine singing “Some of These Days.” I couldn’t find a date for the clip, but it’s clear that she’s much younger – I would guess no older than thirty-five. Her voice still has that beautiful, alluring quality, but it lacks the character of some of her later concerts. (Bonus: there’s some sweet jazz dancing in this clip!)

I have a lot of other favorite Maxine Sullivan songs, too. Here is a list of some more for you to check out:

  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, 135 BPM, 2:56
  • Blue Turning Grey Over You, 148 BPM, 2:32
  • Honeysuckle Rose, 176 BPM, 3:24
  • Ain’t Misbehavin’, 127 BPM, 3:20
  • As Long As You Live, 145 BPM, 2:38

Maxine Sullivan - Pittsburgh Music History

Your First Lindy Hop Event: A Detailed Guide

First off, if you’re new to Lindy Hop and you’re getting ready to travel to your very first dance event, congratulations! Fair warning: you might get hooked and start traveling a lot. Also fair warning: there is absolutely no problem with that situation.

There are some things I wish I had known before my first dance event. I usually try to give these tips in some form to any new dancers I’m traveling with, and I thought compiling them into a blog post might be a handy reference for the future!

PACKING

Remember your dance shoes! It may seem obvious, but I once had a new dancer traveling with me forget theirs. Just…double check that they’re in your bag. You won’t regret checking. (If you are able, bring dance shoes that are different from your everyday shoes. This is because many dance venues require “clean shoes” to keep their floor nice.)

If you’re not sure what to wear, my favorite rule is: comfy during the day, classy at night. Jeans, leggings, and soft T-shirts are all welcome in class. But do dress up for the evening dances – it shows that you care about the live band (if there is one) and all the other dancers there. Trousers, formal shirts and tops, skirts, dresses, pretty ties, fun socks, and hair accessories are all great.

Be courteous to your fellow dancers by packing deodorant, extra shirts (I like to pack extra tank tops to wear under my formal tops for evening dances), mint gum or breath mints, and a small hand towel to wipe your sweat. Body wash to use in the shower is also important.

Pro tip: If you don’t want to lug your suitcase around all weekend, pack a smaller dance bag that you can bring to classes and evening dances. My dance bag includes dance shoes, a water bottle, deodorant, chapstick, and other essentials.

HOUSING

Communicate with your host ahead of time regarding what you’ll need. I always prefer to bring my own towel and pillow, and I usually bring a blanket as well, as I get cold easily and like an extra even if my host is providing bedding. Sometimes you’ll need to bring an air mattress or something else to sleep on – ask ahead and be prepared!

Get in touch with other people staying with your host, and ask what classes they’re taking, if any – carpooling with them is a good idea!

Bring a small gift for your host – they are inconveniencing themselves to host you for free, and that’s something to be grateful for. A handwritten note and some baked goods to share are my go-to!

SELF-CARE

You don’t have to experience everything at an event to have a great time. Please, if you signed up for classes, be on time to those classes – this shows respect for your instructors – but otherwise, take your time, and enjoy the people around you and the things you do attend.

Dance events are extremely taxing on your body, no matter how flexible or in shape you are. Get plenty of sleep, take time to really stretch out, stay hydrated, and eat real food that fuels your body. I always a bring a bag with some carrots, bananas, and trail mix to eat between classes.

If you have health concerns, take care of them. Bring your ankle brace, your meds, and whatever else you need. Never apologize to anyone for taking time to care for yourself.

If you’re an introvert, take active steps to keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed or burned out. Know that it’s okay to split from your friends and eat lunch alone, or leave the late night early. Taking time to recharge will help you get the most out of the event.

CLASSES

Be attentive and engaged in class, and please stand the whole time – your instructors have to stand and talk to you, and it shows respect to them to remain standing as well. The only exception to this is if your class space means that some people are standing behind others, in which case, getting low while the instructors are demonstrating something can help make sure that everyone sees what is happening.

You may have heard that many instructors will allow you to film them doing a class recap at the end of class. Some do, and some don’t. If it’s unclear, vocally ask the instructors’ permission before filming them doing anything. (Michael Jagger has a great discussion of this issue, if you’re interested.)

As an alternative to filming a recap, take notes in class! Keeping a small notebook and pen in your back pocket is perfectly fine, and writing things down can help keep you engaged during those periods in class where your instructors are talking for a while. You do have to ask permission to film, but you never have to ask permission before taking notes!

Dance with every person in rotation. This might seem obvious, but sometimes you may encounter something you weren’t expecting. I’ve danced with people who use wheelchairs or hearing aids, people who are significantly older or younger than the average age of the class, people who are dancing a different role than what you might expect based on how they look, and people who have dance styles that are very different from mine. In my opinion, the only acceptable reason to not dance with someone in a class is if something they are doing is painful, or if they are making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe – in which case, it is more polite and proactive to either communicate with them verbally about it, or step out of class to go find an organizer and report the issue (more on this below).

DANCES

Please do ask people to dance! Even if you feel like you don’t have a lot of experience yet, you can still have a lot of fun on the dance floor and dance with many different people. If you’re not sure where to start, try finding someone you met in class and asking them to dance!

If you’re not sure which role someone would like to dance, it’s totally fine to say, “May I lead/follow you for a dance?” or “Would you prefer to lead or follow?”

It’s okay to say no to a dance! If someone asks you to dance, and for any reason, you’re not feeling it, just say, “No thanks.” If you’re tired, but you’d like to dance with them later, you can say, “I’m a little tired right now, but can you come find me later?” Otherwise, keep it short and sweet, so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

If there’s a live band, clap for them – even if you didn’t dance to a particular song! The band is working really hard to produce great music, and clapping and cheering is a great way to show your appreciation for them!

The same is true for DJs – when organizers announce a DJ, clap enthusiastically! As a DJ, I work hard to select each song I play to fit the floor in real time, and it means a lot to me to know that people enjoy and appreciate my music.

COMPETITIONS

If you choose to compete in a Mix and Match, maybe for the first time, congratulations – that’s exciting! Try to remember that you’re there to make sure you and your partners have a great time, and keep an upbeat, positive attitude.

Be on time to any competitors’ meetings and prelims, and pay attention to the organizers as they line you up and shuffle you around – this helps make sure everything runs smoothly!

If you’re not sure where to have someone pin your number, a good rule of thumb is that if you’re leading, the small of your back is a good spot. If you’re following, higher up on your back is better, or just below the small of your back (the “license plate,” as my friends who follow sometimes call it).

Remember that the judges need to see your number, so when you line up, be sure to turn around so the judges can see it!

Give each person you dance with a high five and tell them “Thank you” – no matter what dancing with them was like. I often find that, even if my partner is a little less experienced than I am, smiling and staying positive often brings out their best dancing!

If you make it to finals, stay calm and pay attention to instruction from the competition coordinators. If you have any questions, it’s okay to ask! There are lots of online resources and videos from Mix and Match competitions (they used to be called Jack and Jill competitions, so searching for that on YouTube can help you find them), if you want to see what finals are like ahead of time.

IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG

While almost everyone at a Lindy Hop event is there to have a great time and enjoy jazz music and dancing, it’s important to understand that social dancing is an activity that involves complex social and physical interactions, and you might experience something unwanted, uncomfortable, or unsafe. In this situation, the first priority is for you to feel safe, whatever that means for you. If you would like to stop dancing for a while, leave the event, or talk to someone, those are all perfectly fine things to do.

If you travel with more experienced dancers from your scene, you may feel more comfortable talking to them than to an organizer you’ve never met before. Starting out with, “Hey, something weird/uncomfortable/scary happened to me, and I’m not sure what to do about it,” can be a good way to open that conversation if you’re not sure.

Most events will post something like a “Safer Spaces” policy or “Code of Conduct” that tells you what to do and how to report an incident, if you would like to do that. Generally speaking, asking an organizer is a safe bet. Many events also provide online reporting forms or a number you can text or call, if you would prefer to report anonymously.

Remember, you are always allowed to say no to any dance for any reason – and that includes a dance you are currently involved in. If your dance partner does anything that makes you feel unsafe, you can disconnect from them, say, “Hey, I’m not okay with that, and I need a break,” and then walk off the dance floor. Your safety is your first priority.

It is unlikely that you will experience harassment or assault at a Lindy Hop event, but just in case you do, you should know that there are people and resources in place to help you and make sure that appropriate action is taken. If you choose to report an incident, know that you are helping to make the dance environment safer for others, as well as yourself, and that’s a good thing to do.

CONCLUSION

Traveling to Lindy Hop events is really fun, and a wonderful way to meet new friends and get better at swing dancing. I have many, many friends who describe traveling to events as one of their favorite things to do, and navigating each event does get easier with practice. I hope you have a great time at your first event! If you’re a more experienced dancer with any tips to add, drop them in the comments!

Lesser-Known Songs of Lionel Hampton

It now says on my about page that I go nuts for vibraphone solos. I added that to reflect my recently unearthed obsession with all things Lionel Hampton. I love his creativity and the way his vibes always fit perfectly into the songs where they feature. However, while everyone knows “Flying Home” and “Lavender Coffin,” I wanted to take a moment to feature some really swinging Lionel Hampton songs that I don’t hear as often.

By the way – I found all of these tunes for free at Classic Jazz Online, and with better sound quality than the clips in this post. Head over there and stock up!

I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me, 130 BPM, 3:16

I can’t get enough of this easy swinger. It starts out with a sweet saxophone solo and some excellent jazz electric guitar, almost certainly played by Charlie Christian. Then Hampton kicks in on the vibes, and they lend such an elegant sound to the rest of the song. I would love to play this after the floor was exhausted after a couple of high-tempo songs – it’s a great song for more relaxed dancing.

Open House, 132 BPM, 3:16

I love this song for its easily follow-able melody, and its beautiful solos – along with those vibes, you get to hear some saxophone, piano, clarinet, and electric guitar (Charlie Christian again!), and they all sound great. The mood is pretty chill, but the more upbeat feel of the main melody gives it a little more energy.

Loose Wig, 144 BPM, 3:03

This song starts out with some peppy hand-clapping, and then moves into a sax-trumpet call-response. The instrumentation is bold and features some pretty daring stuff on a soprano saxophone, and then the vibes hit and absolutely tear it up. Hampton is laid back and yet keeps perfectly on rhythm. (I think this is less surprising once you know that in his early career as a drummer, Hampton was famous for performing tricks like tossing and twirling his drumsticks and mallets, without ever missing a beat.)

Royal Family, 158 BPM, 3:09

love the melody of this song. The A chorus has an AAAB structure – super easy to swing out to – and the full chorus is AABA (just like they teach you in solo class!). Once the first chorus is through, you get beautiful soprano sax, piano, and that electric guitar! Throughout, Hampton holds it down on the vibes in the background, and his solo around 1:50 is understated but really funky and fun to listen to.

Wee Albert, 188 BPM, 3:20

This tune is rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorites. It swings along with a spiraling trumpet melody supported by a steady sax line, and it only gets more enthusiastic and upbeat as it moves along. There’s a pretty epic tenor sax solo starting around the 1:55 mark, and that wailing trumpet comes back and just does not stop. The vibes pop in right around the end for a big finish. Super fun!

When Lights Are Low, 200 BPM, 2:15

To me, this peppy rendition is an ideal demonstration of Lionel Hampton’s remarkable ability to carry the integrity of a melody while having all sorts of fun with rhythm and mood. The vibes start around :20 in and, supported by Charlie Christian holding down a steady beat on guitar, Hampton creates an artful portrait of the main melody of “When Lights Are Low” while somehow managing to move all over the vibraphone’s expressive range. I love this piece for solo jazz, and it would also get the balboa dancers hopping!

Flying Home: The Live Performance That Will Blow Your Mind

A post on Lionel Hampton would not be complete without a moment of appreciation for this eight minute long live rendition of “Flying Home” that pumps along at 256 BPM. Even if you don’t have time for the whole clip, at the very least watch the first few minutes and notice how much energy goes into Lionel Hampton playing on those vibes. This is clearly a man possessed by rhythm. His entire body bounces up and down with the beat, his hands bopping in time with the rhythm even when waiting to make his next move. I find this clip mesmerizing. Hope you enjoy!

Sarah Vaughan’s “Cheek to Cheek” + Magic Multigrain Pancakes

I live in Michigan, where magical things happen, like snow in April. (Well, that can be magical or obnoxious, depending on your point of view, and how far you have to walk to get to work.) When I woke up this morning and saw the snow falling outside, the first and only thing I wanted to do was make pancakes!

We’ll get to those soon, but first I need to tell you about this wonderful rendition of “Cheek to Cheek” by Sarah Vaughan. I think that Sarah Vaughan is incredibly underplayed in the Lindy Hop scene – while it’s true that she is known for her slow ballads, she also recorded quite a few swinging tunes (her first professional experience was with the Earl Hines big band, for cripes sake), and in my experience, her warm, rich vocals and expressive sound always fill the floor.

This particular rendition of “Cheek to Cheek” stands out for a few reasons. Vaughan has a wonderful range of expression that give the familiar lyrics an especially beautiful feeling, and it is an absolute delight to move to her vocals. The instrumentation on this recording is really great, too – soft saxophones pipe along underneath the melody, the brass section occasionally pokes its head in, and there is a gentle but persistent percussive sound that I think is soft brushes on a snare, although I could be wrong. When it goes instrumental around 2:30, a clarinet (or penny whistle? I can’t tell) trills over a stronger brass line, and the overall effect is rhythmic and inviting. If you don’t have much Sarah Vaughan in your library, at 135 BPM, this tune would be a great place to start!

All right, then – back to pancakes. When I was at LAFLX this past weekend, on Saturday morning our wonderful hosts made us pancakes. They were good, but they used all white flour and didn’t quite fuel me up for a long day of dancing.

I played with the recipe, adding some whole grains and seeds for a more filling breakfast that keeps me energized and ready to dance! They’re tender and fluffy, they rise and bubble beautifully on the pan, and they’ve got a rich, complex flavor from the blend of flours and variety of seeds. I’ll definitely be making these at the next event I visit!

I topped my pancakes with sliced bananas, walnuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and just the lightest drizzle of honey. One of the best things about these pancakes is that they make a great base for almost any topping – applesauce, strawberries, peaches, syrup, whipped cream, whatever you want!

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Magic Multigrain Pancakes

Author: Mary Blendermann | Total time: 45 minutes | Yield: 8-10 pancakes

These healthy multigrain pancakes are tender, fluffy, and packed with delicious seeds and whole grains! They use mostly pantry ingredients, and the seeds and rye flour are easy to find at any bulk food store or co-op. If you’re cooking for more than four people, double the recipe. 

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 cups milk

1 egg

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/6 cup rye flour (about half of a 1/3 cup measure – it’s OK if this isn’t super precise; the goal is to have all the flours total about 1 1/2 cups)

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar (I used organic cane sugar)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 tablespoon chia seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  2. Turn the heat down to low, add milk, egg, and vanilla to the saucepan, and whisk until combined. Let it sit and get warm while you work on the dry ingredients. (Be careful not to boil it or you’ll have scrambled eggs in your pancakes!)
  3. While the saucepan mixture is warming, sift the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. Add seeds and whisk to combine.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and slowly pour the wet ingredients from the saucepan into the well. Using a whisk, stir very gently until just barely combined – there should still be plenty of lumps. This will help make your pancakes fluffy!
  5. Allow pancake batter to sit undisturbed in the bowl for 5-10 minutes. You’ll see bubbles start to develop across the top – that means the baking powder is working! The more bubbles on top, the fluffier the pancakes – have patience!
  6. While you’re waiting, warm a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and add a little extra-virgin olive oil.
  7. Using about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake, fry pancakes until brown on both sides. Watch for bubbles on the first side before flipping to the second side.

NOTES + ADJUSTMENTS

*I love crispy pancakes, so I like to add just a half teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the pan in between pancakes, and swirl it around the freshly dropped batter to get those crispy edges!

**My mom’s old trick to keep the pancakes warm was to turn the oven on the lowest setting (180 F), and add each fresh pancake to a glass casserole dish in there. If you’re cooking for a crowd, hide the pancakes in the oven until you’re ready to eat, or they might mysteriously disappear!

Make it naturally sweetened: Replace the sugar with 1 tablespoon honey and reduce the amount of milk by 1 tablespoon to account for the extra liquid.

Make it vegan: I haven’t tried this, but you could certainly try swapping a plant milk of your choice for the milk, a flax egg or 1/4 cup applesauce for the egg, and vegan butter for the butter.

Make it gluten free: Substitute an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend for the flours. You could also try using oat flour for part of the flours (grind oats in your food processor to make your own!).

Adapted from this Good Old Fashioned Pancakes recipe. 

Print this recipe. 

 

How I Survive Lindy Hop Events as an Introvert

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, cat and indoor

Cats, as everyone knows, are the ideal social recharging tool.

I’m an introvert, which means that I am easily drained of energy by socially interacting with others. I think of my social energy like a gas tank that can be depleted, and when it’s empty, it needs to be refilled.

When I’m depleted of social energy, I feel physically and emotionally drained, like I just can’t handle another conversation with somebody. This depletion tends to make me feel tired, sad, upset, and anxious, and these feelings intensify if I continue to interact with others past the point where I have the energy to do so.

In this post, I want to talk about what depletes my social energy at dance events, and the specific strategies I use to recharge so that I can enjoy the event and, you know, not zone out or panic when people try to talk to me.

Classes. I love processing information and learning new things, but it tires me out when I have to do so while touching and/or talking to other people. Especially if classes are held on a hard concrete or tile floor, or if I’m doing four or more hours of classes in a single day.

Trying to talk to people while music is playing. I find it extremely difficult to hold a conversation if there’s loud background noise. Because of this, almost every conversation I have at a dance event is much more exhausting than a normal conversation would be.

Rushing to be somewhere. Anything that heightens my stress levels depletes my energy levels, like getting stuck in traffic when I’m trying to get to class on time. Having to deal with other people during or directly after a stressful event is a surefire way to make sure I don’t process the stress adequately, leaving me more exhausted later on.

Sensory overstimulation. Not all introverts experience this, but personally, I am extremely sensitive to sensory input, including light, sound, and touch. (This is part of the reason I actively request that people not touch me unless they have my attention first.) At a dance event, loud music, bright lights, disco balls, ambient conversation, and lots and lots of physical contact can leave me feeling completely overwhelmed.

Host housing. I love the fact that the Lindy Hop community is generous enough to provide out-of-town dancers with free housing, but sometimes that means that I get stuck in somebody’s living room with five or six other people and no way to get some alone time.

Change in schedule. As an introvert, I love routine – and at dance events, my daily routine gets completely destroyed. When I don’t have the structure of my usual schedule to rely on, I can feel depleted and overwhelmed much more easily.

So if dance events are essentially a minefield of anxiety-inducing events that make me want to crawl into a hole, how do I deal? Why do I keep growing my skills as a DJ, only to get booked at increasingly large and overwhelming events?

The main reason is that I am absolutely in love with jazz music and dancing, and it’s really important to me to continue to express my love for those things and stay involved with a community that values them as much as I do. So, here are the things I do to help myself recharge while I’m at a dance event.

Active self-monitoring. I pay close attention to how I’m feeling and how I’m reacting to others. Keeping track of how I’m responding to my environment is like a first line of defense – it lets me know when I need to use other coping strategies to protect myself and recharge.

Physical self-care. Feeling hungry, tired, sore, or sick only intensifies my aversion to social interaction when I’m exhausted. So, I try to eat healthy food, I always bring snacks with me, I take time to practice yoga and stretch out, and I prioritize getting enough sleep – at least eight hours a night, if possible, plus an afternoon nap if I have time.

Emotional self-care. If I’m stressed, or working through an emotional issue, feeling socially depleted can really bring out the nasty side of my anxiety – I’ll feel insecure about random things, or panic for no reason at all. I have a variety of emotional coping mechanisms that I use, but taking time to write in my notebook, or meditating, if a quiet space is available, are my go-to favorites.

Alone time – even if it’s pretend. If I’m taken care of physical and emotionally and I still feel depleted, it’s absolutely critical for me to feel socially isolated for an hour or two. Because dance events are generally crammed with people, my favorite strategy is to put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones, which I lug around for precisely this purpose (and also to, you know, listen to my swing music, because I work as a DJ and stuff), and listen to one of several calming Spotify playlists that I keep downloaded on my phone. Reading a book also works, particularly if I just need to refocus my mind on something other than the fact that I’m surrounded by people.

Sensory deprivation. Because I am extremely susceptible to sensory overstimulation, my ideal recharge environment is one that is mostly devoid of sensory stimulation: dark and quiet, with constant, even pressure across my skin (like being wrapped in a blanket, or lying on my stomach on an air mattress). The more depleted I feel, the more important an environment like this becomes for me to recover effectively.

Communicating what I need. This may sound like the most obvious suggestion of all, but there’s a reason I saved it for last. I am fortunate to have many intelligent and empathetic friends, who are quick to understand when I need to take a break and recharge. However, it wasn’t always this way. I have worked hard, and am still working hard, to explain to my friends what being introverted means for me, and how I often need to take time for myself so that I can enjoy socializing without shutting down. If you’re an introvert, and you struggle with feeling socially pressured into doing things you’re too exhausted for, I would encourage you to actively communicate when you need a break. Or a snack. Or a nap. Sometimes the solution is simple – it’s helping others to understand why you need it that’s hard.

Even as an introvert, swing dancing with other people is one of my all-time favorite things to do, and DJing is an extension of that desire to share an appreciation for good jazz music with others. I’m still learning how to best care for myself at dance events, but these are just some of the ideas I’ve discovered and experimented with so far. If you liked reading this, I would absolutely love it if you would leave me a comment and tell me what you think! Do you have coping strategies you use when you feel depleted? If you’re an extravert, what do you do when your introvert friends get exhausted?

Thank you so much for reading! We will return to your regularly scheduled set recaps soon!

LAFLX, April 13-15, 2018

I feel like maybe I should have asked this further ahead of time than, you know, one in the morning at the Saturday late night, but that was when I found out that LAFLX stands for Lafayette Lindy Exchange. Isn’t that delightful?

This was my first LAFLX, but I truly enjoyed every moment of it – I stayed with a great group of people, the dancers were responsive to my music, and best of all, they were interested in finding out more about what they heard! I think I had more people coming up to me this weekend and asking, “What song was that?” than I’ve ever had before! In light of all that interest, I wanted to go ahead and share my sets from yesterday, which was kind of a marathon day – I had an hour and a half set in the afternoon, and then band breaks all evening, a competition, and another set after that. Read on for more!

LAFLX 2018-04-14 AfternoonI started the afternoon off with “Shorty’s Got to Go,” which is one of my favorite tunes from Glenn Crytzer’s new album, Ain’t It Grand. After that, I played around with a mixture of vintage and modern pieces, hopping back and forth between Maxine Sullivan, Artie Shaw, and the Boilermaker Jazz Band, among others. I want to highlight one moment here in particular that was a huge success – just after I played the five minute version of “Surrey With the Fringe On Top” by Mary Stallings, I put on “Hit That Jive Jack” by Shout Sister Shout, which clocks in at 194 BPM. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t follow a long song with such a fast one, but it seemed to hit the floor in just the right way and people started moving to it! It probably helped that “Hit That Jive Jack” has a bold, distinct sound and it’s a lot of fun to dance to.

LAFLX 2018-04-14 EveningThis screenshot contains everything I DJed during the evening, with the exception of the LAFable competition, which is below, so this will take some explaining. I caught two band breaks for the Gaslight Squares. My first band break was pretty short, just the first four songs, including “Crazy About Lester,” which a tune by Michael Gamble that I don’t often hear and that I think I should hear more – it’s got a perky melody and a super tight rhythm.

My second band break got going with “Jump Children” by the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, which I’ve talked about on here before, and then I put on the “Dipsy Doodle” and let the floor rock out with the Tranky Doo! (I may or may not also have Tranky Done some dancing in the process.) That band break went on for longer, ending with “Blue Rhythm Be-Bop” by Van Alexander and His Orchestra.

Once the time for the competition rolled around, I played “Day-In, Day-Out” for a warm-up song, and then we dove into prelims. Because the LAFable competition at LAFLX is a really ridiculous competition, where the emcee yells out silly suggestions the crowd submits beforehand and then everyone has to dance like that or risk getting tapped out, I chose mid-tempo music with a very clear beat that would be easy to move to, and all instrumental so the emcee would be easier to hear.

LAFable 2018-04-14

Once it was narrowed down to two couples, finals took place, with the couples facing off to the prompt “wizard duel.” (Props to my friend Val for coming up with that amazing suggestion – she won the prize for best idea!) Funny story – on Saturday, I remember an organizer coming up to me and saying, “Hey, for the LAFable finals, do you have any music that would fit the prompt wizard duel?” And I was like, “Ahahaha…no…WAIT.” And I remembered that I had this delightful swinger by Ella Fitzgerald whose lyrics are all about the Wizard of Oz! It was a perfect choice for finals, as Ella’s elegant voice spun along and the competitors got very, very silly.

After the LAFable competition (you might need to scroll up to take another look at my evening set), I started back in with “If It Ain’t Love” by the Boilermaker Jazz Band, and I DJed all the way until the late night started at 12:15am. I got to play “The E and D Blues (E for Ella, D for Duke),” which is one of my all-time favorite songs – it’s infectiously swingy, kind of like “C Jam Blues,” but…it also has Ella scatting, so it’s even better. It was fun watching people on the floor as the song stretched out towards its 4:54 endpoint – at one point I was actually just cheering them on in my head. No, keep going! Two more minutes! You’re so close! 

LAFLX was a really enjoyable event, and a great way to spend a relaxing weekend. If you’ve never been, I would highly recommend attending!

FLEx, April 6-8, 2018

The very first dance event I ever DJed at outside of my home scene was FLEx 2017, so it was a lot of fun to be invited back to DJ this year! FLEx, or the Falcon Lindy Extravaganza, is a small workshop weekend at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH. I started with a set on Friday evening, and while the floor was not super crowded, I enjoyed the challenge of getting people out on it anyway.

FLEx 2018-04-06

I started with a tune that’s rapidly becoming a staple in my library, “Frankie and Johnny,” which is an instrumental Frank Sinatra tribute by Count Basie that really swings! I also featured the hard-swinging Brooks Prumo tune “Bolero At The Savoy” pretty early on. After that, I hung out with a mix of faster tunes (“Clementine,” “Paper Moon,” “That Old Black Magic”) and chiller ones (“In a Mellow Tone,” “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” “The Ugly Duckling”). I tried heating it up with the Louis Jordan version of “A Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But A Bird,” and people seemed to enjoy its peppy feeling!

My next set was midnight to 1am on Saturday night, so this one looked a little different. I knew we were heading into late night, so I dug deep into the slower end of my library and came up with some really nice slow stuff that was pleasant to listen and dance to at that hour (but was still Lindy-able).

FLEx 2018-04-07

Highlights from this set include Della Reese’s amazing rendition of “Goody, Goody” (seriously, go listen to it if you haven’t, it’s incredibly swanky and fun), “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York” by Ernestine Anderson – I feel like everyone only knows her for “I Love Being Here With You,” but she has some other delightful stuff as well – and (of course) Joe Williams and Harry “Sweets” Edison on “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket).” Even though it’s 112 BPM, I will never get tired of swinging out to that song. Williams’ vocals are so warm and inviting, and the instrumentation is light, but present in all the right places. I love it.

And speaking of the rich vocal abilities of Joe Williams, here’s an extra little treat for you that I dug up on YouTube:

I cannot believe the scatting abilities of these folks. Sarah Vaughan is one of my all-time favorite jazz vocalists, and she sounds just as good in 1981 as she does on some of the recordings I have of her in the 1940s. Watch all the way to the end and you might catch a glimpse of Sarah and Joe swinging out!

Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid

On the recent album release from the Brooks Prumo Orchestra, Pass The Bounce, there’s a phenomenal rendition of the tune “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid.” The team Southeast Scramble even used it to snag first place in the team choreography competition at Dayton Swing Smackdown this year! Check it out:

But long before Brooks Prumo made “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid” a song that could catapult Lindy Hop teams to victory, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins had created their own rocking version, and it swings just as hard as the Brooks Prumo cover. Check it out:

In this 1958 performance on Art Ford’s TV show “Jazz Party,” the piece starts with a pretty epic bass solo, which is then joined by an old-timey electric guitar. Then a clarinet comes on board, and after that, the familiar chorus kicks in, with Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins both in the front row on tenor saxophones. This clip also has a wonderful vibraphones player – I don’t know who he is, but he’s outstanding! After getting through the chorus once, the band proceeds to jam for eight more minutes. If you have time, let the clip play in the background and listen to the whole thing – it’s all so great!

Just for another point of comparison, here’s a studio recording version from Lester Young that you might hear at a dance, although I probably wouldn’t DJ it – the beat is not super swung, and it focuses more on Young’s solo improvisation. The tempo is a bit more mellow, and it features a lot of Young noodling around on that beautiful tenor sax, so it’s certainly lovely to listen to. Enjoy!

The Stomp in Lansing, March 24, 2018

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to feel “inspired” when I DJ. Like in this set, for instance. I sat down to DJ and felt like I was lacking some inspiration. Maybe it’s because the floor wasn’t very full at first, or because I didn’t know many of the people there that night.

Stomp 03-24-2018

I guess it’s unreasonable to expect myself to feel amazing about every single set I DJ…but still. What is it that makes me inspired to play a great set? I think some things would be if the floor is already really full, if I’m picking up breaks for a great band, or if I just got new music that I really like. Those all lend that indescribable energy that I need to help hit every moment with the right tune.

My favorite songs from this set were the last two, “Shorty’s Got to Go” from Glenn Crytzer’s new album, Ain’t It Grand, and Maxine Sullivan’s rendition of “Massachusetts.” Both alternative takes of more popular original versions, but I love Glenn’s perky vocals on “Shorty,” and Maxine’s sweet take of “Massachusetts.” The piano part on “Shorty” is one of the most recognizable parts of the original tune, and I think Glenn Crytzer’s pianist nails it.

I’m traveling a lot in April: see you at FLEx at Bowling Green State University this weekend, and LAFLX at Purdue University the following weekend!