TL/DR: The Mint Julep Jazz Band is recording our third album, Watch the Birdie, and the Kickstarter launched today for pre-orders and swag!

Our album artwork was lovingly painted by the incredible Durham-based artist Darius Quarles.

(From our vocalist Laura Windley)

When I was young, I wondered why each subsequent band album seemed to have more and more years between albums, but now I understand. When a band does well, they are busy, then the members are busy contributing to other endeavors, and then people need a break after being so busy, so the thought of a new album is definitely lower on the priority list, particularly when other work is steady.

In 2020, we decided that 5 years was enough time gone by since the release of Battle Axe and that we should record another album. You know how the rest of this story goes with the global COVID-19 pandemic essentially putting a halt to life as we knew it.

We scheduled this recording a couple of times during the pandemic and had to keep pushing it back, but we believe it’s for real this time, so we are launching a Kickstarter today for album pre-orders and swag. I know some of you have told me that you need a new tee shirt, so we got you! I’m also excited to add enamel pins, Burt’s Bees, a sponsorship option, and some quality time noshing with yours truly as rewards, in addition to some of our recurring rewards.

What will this album be? It’s a dance album, of course, but it’s also the culmination of efforts aggregated just prior to the pandemic that still feel new to us, plus some new-to-us arrangements created during the pandemic, and some old favorites that should be put on tape. The project feels fresh to us, so we hope you enjoy it as we slowly re-open our jazz dance and music community.

It’s also a celebration of our 10th anniversary as a band! Our first gig was in February of 2012 at the (now defunct) Hot Club of Durham weekly swing dance in the Trotter Building in Durham’s DIY district. I look at videos of that night and think about how far we’ve come, but also how we did a respectable job for a very first gig. It’s been a wild ride and we thank you for all the wonderful musical experiences we’ve shared since then.

Visit our Kickstarter page for more information about the tracks on the album, swag, and how to get your copy/copies of our recordings – we’re offering digital, CD, and vinyl this time! You have 58 days to get your order in, the countdown begins…

Photographs from the 2021 Orchard Park Jazz Picnic, courtesy of Tom Lassiter

We are excited to announce that the Orchard Park Jazz Picnic will be happening again on June 4, 2022 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at historic Orchard Park near downtown Durham. The first OPJP in June of 2021 was a huge success, in that small, hopeful period of time between vaccinations and the rise of the Delta variant. For many, it was their first outing amongst a gathering of people and/or their first social dances since the beginning of the pandemic.

We were able to crowd fund our basic expenses for permits, port-a-potties, and band pay in order to make this event happen once again – thanks so much to our swing jazz community for supporting this event, which is free and open to the public. Our donors/sponsors are the following:

Raleigh Rolfing (official sponsor)

Sarah Price

Michael Steinman Jazz Lives

Lauren Gibson

Valerie Glassman

Laura Stamm Paye

Lindsley Bowen

Elizabeth A Watkins

Allison Meeks

Jennifer Andrews

Micki McCarthy

Dee Mathews

Eliza Biehl

Audrey Fowler MacInnes

Michelle Long

Gretchen Midgley

Natalie Gabriel

Sue Carson

Gemma Odena

Anne Marie Warren Nolan

Eris Discordia

Jackie O’Neil Plys

Ken Hanson

Alina Kerov

Saira Jane

Abbey Berkebile

Theresa-Marie Rhyne

Mary Lou Mazzara

James Posedel

Alison Matney

Andrew Wilson

Brian Green

Lily Shaw

Andrew Selzer

Cassie Stoa

Andy Nishida

Summerlin Page Webb

Gary A. Miller

Jack Mitchell

Tom Lassiter

For more information and updates, please RSVP or check in with the Facebook event.

I guess it’s about time we got stickers, right?  You can get them at our shows or you can email us at mintjulepjazzband@gmail.com to arrange for us to snail mail you a sticker or two – $1 each at shows or $1.50 by mail in the continental U.S.

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23659509_10103419847799641_1131617545580786145_nIf you love Keenan McKenzie’s original tunes and arrangements on the Mint Julep Jazz Band albums, you can now get even more of this great music in your life – Keenan is releasing a brand new album of original swing music written by the maestro himself called Forged in Rhythm, available now for preview and pre-order on Bandcamp and full release coming December 5!

Here’s Keenan’s post about the album release:

“If you’d asked me a few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined my first album would be 15 radio-length songs, all in 4/4 time. I now owe so much to the dance community that it’s hard to imagine it going any other way. Swing music has provided some unforgettable experiences and introduced me to a world of wonderful people, including Allison Meeks (you make my heart go thump thump thump!)

I’m thrilled to announce the upcoming release of FORGED IN RHYTHM. This album of original tunes is a celebration of my favorite ‘30s/‘40s musicians and a love letter to the swing dance scene. I got to work with some phenomenal players and great friends, and we had a blast making this record. I can’t wait for you to hear it!

Keenan McKenzie……………reeds
Gordon Au…………………..trumpet
Lucian Cobb……………..trombone
Jonathan Stout……………….guitar
Chris Dawson………………….piano
Seth Ford-Young………………bass
Josh Collazo………………….drums
Laura Windley………………..vocals
Miles Senzaki……………..engineer

Artwork and design by Ryan Calloway Art

Available December 5th on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and more!”

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Photograph by Brad Nathanson Photography

a2618128978_16In December of 2016 we announced that a Mint Julep Jazz Band song would be a part of a compilation album called That New Old Sound, organized by our friend and bandleader Glenn Crytzer, where 100% of the proceeds would go to the American Civil Liberties Union.  As of this July 4, 2017, the album has raised over $6,000 for the ACLU!  If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of this great album, with 17 tracks from musicians all over the United States playing traditional jazz and swing music, and celebrate your right to listen and our right to perform this wonderful music.

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MJJB DOSN CD Cover

If you’ve got a family member who would really enjoy our music or maybe you’d like to get a little gift for yourself, you can take advantage of CD Baby’s 1 cent shipping offer – from November 30 through December 4, 2015, CD Baby will ship all physical copies of albums they sell for 1 cent, no matter how many CDs you buy no matter where you live in the world! CD Baby is the only place you can buy physical copies of our albums outside of our shows, so this is definitely the place to do your MJJB holiday shopping. 🙂

The fierce support staff at the Fidelitorium.
The fierce support staff at the Fidelitorium.

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.

Have you seen this?  Seriously.
Have you seen this? Seriously.

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!

Jason Richmond manning the ground control.
Jason Richmond manning the ground control.

Through the looking glass...
Through the looking glass…

Guitarist Ben Lassiter chunking out that swing rhythm on his axe.
Guitarist Ben Lassiter chunking out that swing rhythm on his axe.

Jason Foureman in the isolation booth
Jason Foureman in the isolation booth

Aaron Hill, Lucian Cobb, and Aaron Tucker taking a break to listen to takes.
Aaron Hill, Lucian Cobb, and Aaron Tucker taking a break to listen to takes.

Take one or take two?  Or re-do?
Take one or take two? Or re-do?

Toys at the studio!
Toys at the studio!

Keenan and Lucian listening to takes of Night on Bald Mountain.
Aaron, Keenan, and Lucian listening to takes of Night on Bald Mountain.

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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!

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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)!