Glenn Crytzer – It Don’t Mean a Thing IF….

I ran into Glenn a few months ago while hanging out in Seattle and he’s a super interesting guy. He knows his music backwards, forwards, and upside down and he speaks passionately and eloquently about it.
When I first started dancing, I could dance long enough or hard enough. I would dance to anything just so I could keep moving and practice this new “thing” I found and needed. It was like I was starving constantly and it didn’t matter what nourished me. Now years later, I have been well feed and have developed a better palate for music. I’ve become more of a music snob and will no longer dance lindy hop to just anything. In fact, I really only want to lindy hop to swing music, not rock & roll, boogie woogie, soul, r&b, bluegrass, hip hop, etc. I will dance other forms of movement to them, but I won’t lindy hop to them.
Thank you Glenn for writing about why music swings! Click here to read it on his blog
Hi Jazz Fans,

When I wanted to progress past being an intermediate level dancer, I realized that the next step in dancing was to understand the music, and through this process I started to discover why it was that the really good dancers didn’t dance to certain songs or go out to hear certain bands. There’s a certain feeling in swing music that doesn’t exist in bop or jump blues or 50’s Basie or groovy jazz. It’s really hard to describe in a sentence, but when you discover it, you’ve got it forever and it’s one of the most exciting revelations that life has to offer (IMHO anyway).

Whenever I dance to or listen to a live band, I judge it with a critical ear – I pick apart what I’m hearing and judge what each player’s style is doing to add to or take away from the swing of the band. Over the next several days, I’m going to write about some of the things that I listen for in dance music. If you’re just learning to dance or are looking to step up to the next level, I hope this will help you in your quest as you search for the holy grail of “swing;” if you’re reading this and you’ve already discovered swing, I hope this will help you understand more about what you’re hearing so that when you do or don’t like a band, you’ll have a better idea of why.

#1 Rhythm of the Train

It’s really hard to find good rhythm players and I’ve been blessed to play with guys who really get the style. The goal of the rhythm section should be to form a really tight unit that, in a way, emulates the rhythm of a train. Here are a couple great examples. The first is Duke Ellington’s Orchestra from 1930 playing Old Man Blues:

Now THAT sounds like a train! Here’s a another example, this time from Count Basie’s Orchestra in 1938. Listen to how the Rhythm Section creates the drive and energy of a locomotive, even though they are less expressly trying to copy the exact sound of a train in this one.

Now let’s listen to Count Basie from 1959 to hear how the music changed away from being dance music.

The drums in this tune focus on the back beats like one TWO three FOUR, instead of that nice even chug-chug-chug-chug from the 1930’s, and the extended drum solo at the end just doesn’t swing at all, and there are many other places where the whole band syncopates together, breaking the steady 4 rhythm. The focuses of this tune are the crazy ensemble riffs and Lockjaw Davis’s solo. The ensemble riffs now float overtop of the rhythm instead of being a PART of the rhythm like in the last Basie tune.

Now let’s try some more Ellington and we’ll hear that even the infamous “Take the A-Train” didn’t sound much like a train anymore by the 1960’s.

You can hear that the 1930’s music has that chugga chugga sound like a train, while the later music is more about the horns. This is, in my opinion, due to the fact that American culture changed from a railroad driven culture in the 1930’s to an automobile driven culture after WW2.

Let’s listen to a couple modern examples.

First, something that doesn’t swing!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling it bad music – I think Diana Krall and her musicians are fantastic players. I am however calling it indisputably NOT swing music.

Let’s close out with something that DOES swing. Here’s my buddy Jonathan Stout’s big band from LA. Note how Jon on guitar and Josh on drums create that locomotive rhythm. (check out Jonathan’s blog here: HERE)

I hope this gets you started thinking about what makes music swing!!

Next time: The Drum Set



Museum Acquires Storied Trove of Performances by Jazz Greats

Here’s a great article you should check out. It was posted on the NYT August 16, 2010 by LARRY ROHTER.

For decades jazz cognoscenti have talked reverently of “the Savory Collection.” Recorded from radio broadcasts in the late 1930s by an audio engineer named William Savory, it was known to include extended live performances by some of the most honored names in jazz — but only a handful of people had ever heard even the smallest fraction of that music, adding to its mystique.

After 70 years that wait has now ended. This year the National Jazz Museum in Harlem acquired the entire set of nearly 1,000 discs, made at the height of the swing era, and has begun digitizing recordings of inspired performances by Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Bunny Berigan, Harry James and others that had been thought to be lost forever. Some of these remarkable long-form performances simply could not fit on the standard discs of the time, forcing Mr. Savory to find alternatives. The Savory Collection also contains examples of underappreciated musicians playing at peak creative levels not heard anywhere else, putting them in a new light for music fans and scholars.

“Some of us were aware Savory had recorded all this stuff, and we were really waiting with bated breath to see what would be there,” said Dan Morgenstern, the Grammy-winning jazz historian and critic who is also director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. “Even though I’ve heard only a small sampling, it’s turning out to be the treasure trove we had hoped it would be, with some truly wonderful, remarkable sessions. None of what I’ve heard has been heard before. It’s all new.”

After making the recordings, Mr. Savory, who had an eccentric, secretive streak, zealously guarded access to his collection, allowing only a few select tracks by his friend Benny Goodman to be released commercially. When he died in 2004, Eugene Desavouret, a son who lives in Illinois, salvaged the discs, which were moldering in crates; this year he sold the collection to the museum, whose executive director, Loren Schoenberg, transported the boxes to New York City in a rental truck.

Part of what makes the Savory collection so alluring and historically important is its unusual format. At the time Savory was recording radio broadcasts for his own pleasure, which was before the introduction of tape, most studio performances were issued on 10-inch 78-r.p.m. shellac discs, which, with their limited capacity, could capture only about three minutes of music.

But Mr. Savory had access to 12- or even 16-inch discs, made of aluminum or acetate, and sometimes recorded at speeds of 33 1/3 r.p.m. That combination of bigger discs, slower speeds and more durable material allowed Mr. Savory to record longer performances in their entirety, including jam sessions at which musicians could stretch out and play extended solos that tested their creative mettle.

“Most of what exists from this era was done at home by young musicians or fans, and so you get really bad-sounding recordings,” Mr. Schoenberg said. “The difference with Bill Savory is that he was both a musician and a technical genius. You hear some of this stuff and you say, ‘This can’t be 70 years old.’ ”

As a result, many of the broadcasts from nightclubs and ballrooms that Mr. Savory recorded contain more relaxed and free-flowing versions of hit songs originally recorded in the studio. One notable example is a stunning six-minute Coleman Hawkins performance of “Body and Soul” from the spring of 1940; in it this saxophonist plays a five-chorus solo even more adventurous than the renowned two-chorus foray on his original version of the song, recorded in the fall of 1939. By the last chorus, he has drifted into uncharted territory, playing in a modal style that would become popular only when Miles Davis recorded “Kind of Blue” in 1959.

Glimpsing the Jazz Hierarchy

Asked if the Savory recordings were likely to prompt a critical reassessment of some jazz musicians or a reordering of the informal hierarchy by which fans rank instrumentalists, Mr. Morgenstern responded by citing the case of Herschel Evans, a saxophonist who played in the Count Basie Orchestra but who died early in 1939, just before his 30th birthday. Evans played alongside Lester Young, who was one of the giants of the saxophone and constantly overshadowed Evans on the Basie group’s studio recordings.

“There can never be too much Lester Young, and there is some wonderful new Lester Young on these discs,” Mr. Morgenstern said. “But there are also some things where you can really hear Herschel, who is woefully under-represented on record and who, until now, we hardly ever got to hear stretched out. What I’ve heard really gives us a much better picture of what he was all about.”

The collection has already shed new light on what is considered the first outdoor jazz festival, the 1938 Carnival of Swing on Randalls Island. More than 20 groups played at the event, including the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras, and though newsreel footage exists, no audio of the festival was believed to have survived — until part of performances by Count Basie and Stuff Smith turned up on Mr. Savory’s discs.

Other material consists of some of the most acclaimed names in jazz playing in unusual settings or impromptu ensembles. Goodman, for example, performs a duet version of the Gershwins’ “Oh, Lady Be Good!” with Teddy Wilson on harpsichord (instead of his usual piano), while Billie Holiday is heard, accompanied only by a piano, singing a rubato version of her anti-lynching anthem, “Strange Fruit,” barely a month after her original recording was released.

“The record is more like a dance tempo, whereas this version is how she would have done it in clubs,” Mr. Schoenberg, a saxophonist and pianist who is also the author of “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Jazz,” said of the live Holiday recording. “You have the most inane scripted introduction ever, but then Billie comes in, and she drives a stake right through your heart.”

Please click here to read the rest of the article.



The Plan – Sunday

Kevin and I finally decided that we are staying in Gotenborg, Sweden until next week and will fly to Kiev, Ukraine on Friday.

Currently we are staying at Jane’s house (she is one of the organizers of Swingin’ in Spring which is the event Kevin and I came for) and it’s quite cozy. Kevin and I are still going to the studio to train and we’re still eating out. In someways it feels like a very plain existence, but in other ways I almost feel “normal.”

On a side note, I am rather proud of myself. I very rarely have the opportunity to train the way I have been, for this many days in a row, and you know what? It feels great! ARRRR (*shaking fist in the air)….if my travel schedule was different I could train more…..hehe, or I’d have to come up with better excuses =) Nonetheless, It’d been great to regularly have access to the type of facility I currently do.


On a differnet note, Kevin and I went to the Liseberg Amusement Park yesterday and had a blast!! We saw rode all the roller coasters, got slightly sick, ate a bunch of candy, and then danced to a 15 piece big band on a real dance floor. Fun fact for you: apparently Sweden has the largest per capita consumption of sugar. Young or old, they love their sweets.

I jumped in two of these pictures so it wasn’t weird that Kevo was taking pictures of people with ginormous candy. Wow, right? Here are some other fun pictures from our adventure:

“Captain Morgan” Jo outside Liseberg.

Finally, here is our “commercial” for the best ride at the park. The Kanonen Roller Coaster goes from 0-70km in 2 seconds! Wow-ee-wow-wow.

The Kanonen Roller Coaster