Durhamites, be sure to pick up a copy of the April, 2016 issue of Durham Magazine for a feature on the Mint Julep Jazz Band! Durham Magazine writer Sophia Lucente interviewed Laura Windley, Lucian Cobb, and Keenan McKenzie to put together this snapshot of the band’s history and life in Durham. You can read the article (as well as the entire issue) online here or read just the article in an online-friendly format here.
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!
Mint Julep Jazz Band bandleaders Lucian Cobb and Laura Windley are featured in the June, 2013 episode of Yehoodi’s Hey Mister Jesse podcast! The show features an interview with Lucian and Laura and clips from several of the songs off the Mint Julep Jazz Band’s new release, “Durham on Saturday Night.” Click here to listen to the show.
For those not familiar with the Hey Mister Jesse podcast, “DJ Jesse Miner will serve up a platter of swingin’ music that matters to dancers. Check out the show every month to hear music, interviews, listener feedback and news about the music swing dancers love.”
In addition to the feature, it’s a great podcast, full of amazing jazz artists (new and old) and a format that invites listeners to engage in and be a part of the show. Highly recommended if you are a fan of trad jazz, swing, and blues and are looking for new listening material.
If you missed the interview with Laura Windley and Lucian Cobb on WXDU from May 19, 2013, talking with Divaville Lounge host Sarah Ovenall about the band, the making of “Durham on Saturday Night,” and background on tracks from the album, you can listen to the hour-long broadcast (interview and tracks from the album) by clicking here. Enjoy!
We’d like to thank the Queen City Lindy Exchange in Charlotte, NC for hosting us on March 10, 2012 for the Saturday night swing dance! We had a great time playing for all the dancers and anyone else who came out to hear us play. Our vocalist, Laura Windley, captured some videos from the railing near the stage, here are a couple that turned out well:
The Mint Julep Jazz Band is looking forward to playing the Saturday night dance of the Queen City Lindy Exchange on March 10, 2012 in Charlotte, NC! The Queen City Lindy Exchange is a weekend-long Lindy Hop event offering almost non-stop DJ’ed and live music for swing dancing, showcasing the dance community and venues in Charlotte. The Saturday night dance details:
2101 Shenandoah Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28205
7:00 p.m. – Beginner Balboa lesson with Chris & Holly Owens
8:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. – Open dancing, with a Jack and Jill swing dance competition to occur during one of the band breaks
A la carte price – $25 at the door
Weekend pass – $60.00 until March 7, $65.00 at the door
For more information, visit http://www.qclx.org.
Thanks to everyone who either came out last night to hear the band at the RDU Rent Party/Hot Club of Durham swing dance or tuned in for the show via live stream on Ustream – we had a great time playing for everyone! If you missed the show and the live stream, vocalist Laura Windley managed to video a few songs from the show, which are posted below – enjoy!
“Main Stem,” performed by the Mint Julep Jazz Band at the RDU Rent Party/Hot Club of Durham swing dance, February 23, 2012, Durham, NC.
“Deed I Do,” performed by the Mint Julep Jazz Band at the RDU Rent Party/Hot Club of Durham swing dance, February 23, 2012, Durham, NC.
“Front and Center,” performed by the Mint Julep Jazz Band at the RDU Rent Party/Hot Club of Durham swing dance, February 23, 2012, Durham, NC.
“Jive at Five,” performed by the Mint Julep Jazz Band at the RDU Rent Party/Hot Club of Durham swing dance, February 23, 2012, Durham, NC.
We are excited to announce that we will be live streaming the Mint Julep Jazz Band show this Thursday, February 23, 2012, through our Ustream channel. Tune in from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. to catch our debut performance!
It’s easy to do – simply click on this link – http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mint-julep-jazz-band – and watch the show from the comfort of your own home. We’ll be broadcasting the show via Laura’s iPhone. Technology is amazing!
This live stream of the show is the special request of our friend Elizabeth Tietgen, who has been very ill and in the ICU for the past two weeks. She is overcoming almost insurmountable odds to recover and is making great strides, but is not well enough to attend the show. She asked that we do the live stream so that she wouldn’t miss our first performance, and it was such a great idea that we thought we’d open the live stream up for everyone to see!
Elizabeth is the founder and organizer of the Triangle Tap Project, the Triangle chapter of “a nationwide campaign by the US fund for UNICEF to raise funds to provide clean water and sanitation in developing countries.” We would encourage everyone who attends the show or tunes in via Ustream to donate to this cause that is near and dear to Elizabeth’s heart. You can make a donation to the Triangle Tap Project fundraiser via the Triangle Tap Project website.
Several events have requested promotional photos, so we decided to put together a photo shoot. This proved to be a more difficult task than we imagined, coordinating schedules with 8 band members, a photographer, and various venues as possible backdrops. When all else failed, we decided to meet after a rehearsal at a public building. When we got to the location we realized it was locked, but we made the best of the situation by doing the shoot outside, in the dark, doing our best to stay warm in the freezing January weather. Special thanks to Richard and Katherine Springs of A Captured Image for braving the cold with us to take these photos!
Check out the frozen fruits of our labor, which are also available on the “Photos” page of this website. From left to right in the photo below: Peter Lamb (tenor saxophone), Jared Wofford (guitar/banjo), Aaron Tucker (drums), Aaron Hill (alto saxophone/clarinet), Jason Foureman (bass), Al Strong (trumpet), Lucian Cobb (trombone), and Laura Windley (vocals).
We are excited to have Russ Wilson making an appearance as our drummer at the Queen City Lindy Exchange‘s Saturday night dance on March 10, 2012! Russ Wilson is an esteemed bandleader in his own right, leading the Nouveau-Passe Orchestra, Russ Wilson and his Mighty Mighty Men, and the Russ Wilson Swingtette, and appears with many other great bands in the Asheville/Hendersonville area, like the Firecracker Jazz Band.
We love to play with Russ because he’s got some serious early jazz drumming chops and has so much experience playing for dancers – it’s going to be an amazing night of dancing in Charlotte!