To celebrate the release of the Mint Julep Jazz Band’s new album Battle Axe, we are going to do a Front to Back concert, wherein we perform the entirety of Battle Axe from track 1 all the way through track 16 in order!
This is a free show at the wonderful new Blue Note Grill location near the old Durham Bulls field in the warehouse district – there will be much more room to dance! Join us for dinner at 8:00 p.m., show begins at 9:00 p.m. and runs until we finish!
If you still need to pick up a copy of the album, we’ll have plenty on hand at the show, or you can buy it just about anywhere digital music is sold – CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify…
See you Wednesday! Try the ribs!
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!
The Mint Julep Jazz Band is spending a day at the races! We will be performing at a bourbon festival and steeplechase on April 4 – Frontstretch Fest at the 64th running of the Stoneybrook Steeplechase at the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, North Carolina, to be exact! There will be bourbon and races, of course, but also local chefs, food trucks, local artists, horseshoes, cornhole, croquet, and even some hammocks for relaxing. We’ll be performing periodically from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Don your Derby best and come out! For more information and tickets, visit the Frontstretch Fest website.
We had such a great time performing for the 8th annual Orlando Lindy Exchange, and we’re excited to see that Jamie Lynn Photography was able to capture the fun and energy of this event, including some great shots of the band in action. Check out her photographs at the Jamie Lynn Photography Facebook page – here are two of our favorites:
Seriously, these people and organizations are the best, and are the reason the Mint Julep Jazz Band will record a second album! Thank you all so very much! 😀
Contributors (people who donated their time, products, and services as rewards):
Kim Clark of Time Machine Vintage
Jazz Dance Education Council of Richmond, VA
Jamie Sturdevant of Chatterblossom
Alexandrea Thomsen of Dtownperspective
Gayle Windley (our vocalist Laura Windley’s mom)
Backers (people who pre-ordered the album and opted for other delightful swag, in order of contribution; also, if we have somehow missed or misspelled your name, please email us at email@example.com and we will make it right!):
Michael Van Andel
Tyler de Caussin
Jacob Z. Price
Paul J. McLaurin
Scott M. Manson
Mary Lou Mazzara
Kevin M. Thoresen
Kenneth F. Hanson
Paul Pj Ryan
Douglas B. Matthews
Gena Bell Vargas
Douglas Spaceage Schumann
Jeff Meyer and Sarah Lapan
Mary Ann Carothers
Edwin C. Butterworth
Bradley J. Rogers
Sarah St. Ores
Morgan L. Williams
Cat Keen Hock
Lucie Q. Ewen
R Lynn Rea
Triangle Swing Dance Society
Mary Kyle Manson
Stina Dallons Isaksen
David Rohan de Silva
N. Joanne Foil
We are returning to Cleveland, Ohio, this time as the featured Saturday night band at All Balboa Weekend! Now in its 14th year, All Balboa Weekend is the longest running Balboa weekend in the world and we are excited and honored to be a part of this weekend, attended by people around the globe who love this dance called Balboa. Details about the weekend are available at http://www.allbalboa.com.
We’ll be joining the stellar lineup of musicians for the spring 2014 Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance, along with the Indigo Girls, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Del McCoury Band, and dozens of other great local, regional, and national acts. We’ll be performing Sunday, April 20 from 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. in the Dance Tent – they’ll have a wood floor in the tent so everyone can cut a rug and avoid the mud. 😉
For more information about the festival, the artists, the location, camping, tickets, schedule, and any questions you may have, visit Shakori Hills’ comprehensive website at http://shakorihillsgrassroots.org.
This is our first music festival, so we are really excited – see you there!