We love traveling around our home state of North Carolina to perform at cool and unique venues, so we are delighted to be included in the roster for this year’s Duck Jazz Festival on the outer banks of North Carolina! The Duck Jazz Festival, now in its 9th year, presents a free day-long festival of regional, national, and international jazz artists with two stages on the Duck Town Green.
The music starts at 11:00 a.m. – join us on October 11, 2015 in Duck! For more information, visit the Duck Jazz Festival website.
On Friday, September 25, 2015, we’ll head west, over the mountains to Tennessee for the Knoxville Lindy Exchange! This weekend’s live music lineup features some great swing bands based in the Southeast, including the Gamble Wilson Swing Orchestra (Asheville/Hendersonville), Michael Gamble and his Rhythm Serenaders (Asheville), Knoxville’s own Scruffy City Syncopators, and yours truly representing Durham, NC. This promises to be a great swing dance event, come one come all from the corners of the southeast and beyond!
Thanks so much to Michael Steinman of the Jazz Lives blog for this detailed and wonderful review of Battle Axe! We are delighted to be included on his blog, with his thoughtful research and review of the many jazz giants performing traditional jazz of yesteryear and of today.
If you love traditional jazz and swing, I would recommend following Michael’s blog – it is comprehensive, updated regularly, and features wonderful artists, both new and old. Michael’s dedication to the research, review, and enjoyment of this music and the artists definitely shows in his writing.
We are excited to be a part of Richmond, Virginia’s inaugural I Heart Balboa, a mini-workshop weekend occurring September 4-5, 2015. The weekend features Balboa instructors Kate Hedin, David Rehm, Chelsea Lee, and David Lee, and the Mint Julep Jazz Band is performing at the Saturday night dance at The Dance Space in Richmond. We hear they are close to selling out, so get your weekend pass or your dance pass soon!
Battle Axe is featured in the August, 2015 episode of the Hey Mister Jesse Podcast on Yehoodi.com – check it out! If you aren’t hip to the Hey Mister Jesse podcast, you might like it if you like swinging jazz and blues, music to dance to, emerging and established swing/jazz/blues artists, and the classic swing era artists we still love so dearly.
With our new album out and not a lot of information that we’re able to fit on one side of a CD sleeve, we get questions about Battle Axe logistics, so here are some behind the scenes tidbits about the conception and creation of Battle Axe, accompanied by fantastic photos from our Sunday recording session taken by our documentarian in residence, Alexandrea Thomsen (aka dtownperspective).
Conceptually, it is difficult to come up with a direction for a second album – we wanted to deliver a solid album of dance music, take some creative liberties, showcase a range of tempos, and keep everything fun. With the idea that there are many jazz albums whose cover art verges on lackluster or isn’t eye-catching, we wanted to do something cool. And when I say cool, I probably mean nerdy. Would I buy this album and/or be intrigued by the title/cover art?
One of our local Triangle area dancers, Skyler Hinkel, is an avid video gamer and metal fan – death metal, pirate metal, folk metal, everything. He suggested that Mint Julep Jazz Band be a battle swing band and forge a new genre of swing music where all of our songs had something to do with battles. While the execution of a battle swing band would have been out of our reach in time for an album, the idea stuck and we decided, based on the Jimmie Lunceford tune in our book by the same name, to call the album Battle Axe and include some other conflict-oriented tunes.
With this concept in mind and prior to recording, we announced the title of the album on our Facebook wall, which garnered a great response, including one from Ryan Lemar, a swing dancer and instructor in Richmond, VA, who suggested that all of our albums should be named after weapons and rattled off a list, including a trebuchet. Our tenor player, Keenan McKenzie, who is also a whiz on the soprano sax, took this idea and ran with it, writing an original tune called “Trebuchet” that is very much in the vein of something Sidney Bechet might have scribbled down – très Bechet, even!
Keenan also wrote the original tune “The Dwindling Light by the Sea” and arranged “Say It Isn’t So,” “You Can’t Live in Harlem,” and Mussogsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” (which he initially put together for a Halloween gig in 2014). The remainder of the tunes on the album were arranged by co-bandleader and trombonist Lucian Cobb.
Going back to that cool cover art idea, once we had the Battle Axe concept, vocalist Laura Windley approached graphic designer and electronic music artist Judson Cowan (aka Tettix) about fleshing out a concept for the cover art. Judson attended East Carolina University with half of the band, and went on to do graphic design work, like designing a blimp for Conan O’Brien and print ads for the Atlanta Braves, electronic music recordings as the artist Tettix, and soundtracks for video games like Rogue Legacy. Judson was perfect for the job because of his knowledge of the nerdy, the cool, the funny, and the music. We think that his instru-weapons are the perfect visual compliment to the pun of our album title.
When we met with our recording engineer, Jason Richmond, who recorded and mastered our first album, he made two suggestions that affected the quality of the sound on the recordings and distinguished it from our first album: 1) that we record at Mitch Easter‘s studio, The Fidelitorium, in Kernersville because he thought the studio would be complimentary to our sound as an acoustic band and 2) that we record to analog tape, which would give our recordings that warmer tone of older recordings. At one of his jobs, Jason happened upon a closet full of unused analog tape that a university was going to throw away and gave to him, so he was excited to work with it in the recording studio and we are very pleased with the results.
We recorded Battle Axe over a weekend in April at the Fidelitorium and Alexandrea Thomsen, who did our wonderful Kickstarter video and happens to be our guitar player Ben Lassiter’s wife, came out for the Sunday recording session to take photographs. At this point we had recorded most of the tracks for the album and we were doing re-takes on some songs we thought we could do better. The Fidelitorium was a great studio for us, tucked away behind the owner’s home and a “guest house,” which was essentially a little ranch house where the bands stay when they record there. The studio had an open lounge, dining, and kitchen area separate from the recording area and having that space to decompress and take breaks was great. The common area was also full of great artwork, oddities, knick-knacks, and interesting books. Here are some photos of the recording session for Battle Axe – enjoy!
We are delighted that international swing dance instructor and author of the Swungover blog Bobby White, along with the fantastic Annabel Quisao, decided to use the title track from Battle Axe in their video on floorcraft, a very important topic for dancers of all skill levels on a crowded dance floor. Check it out!
The Mint Julep Jazz Band’s newest album, Battle Axe, is now available online for digital download and for purchase of physical copies of the album! We know for certain that you can find Battle Axe on CD Baby, iTunes, and we suspect that Amazon.com, Spotify, and eMusic will have it as well, maybe even some other sources we don’t suspect! You can purchase physical CDs at CD Baby.com and have them shipped to you or, as always, you can purchase CDs at any of our shows.
Some of you have asked which service gives the band the most money per song/copy and that answer is definitely CD Baby, who is our primary distributor.
Thanks again to all of our Kickstarter backers for making this dream a reality!
The official release date for digital copies of the Mint Julep Jazz Band’s new album, Battle Axe, is July 14! Digital copies will be available on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, just about anywhere digital copies are sold. Physical CD copies should be available for purchase online shortly thereafter. Our Kickstarter digital backers will receive theirs slightly before this date and our Kickstarter physical backers should start to receive their copies around this date. Huzzah!
Also, check out our fantastic album cover art, thanks to graphic designer and electronic music artist extraordinaire Judson Cowan (aka Tettix)!