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.

The Mint Julep Jazz Band cordially invites you to a jazz picnic at historic Orchard Park! Join us on June 12, 2021 from noon to 3:00 p.m. for an afternoon of music under the trees, enjoy the provisions in your picnic basket, do a little dancing (pursuant to the current safety guidelines), and then recline on your picnic blanket six feet away from the nearest attendees. This event is all ages and open to the public.

Through crowd funding from our wonderful community, we were able to cover the bare minimum costs of this event, but we will continue to take donations toward musician compensation and any unforeseen expenses – please send your donation to me with a note for “picnic” or “jazz picnic” to Venmo @Laura-Windley or via PayPal at caab241@hotmail.com (select friends and family so there is no fee). We will also have a virtual tip jar at the show and hope that you will support this live music endeavor.

Orchard Park is a park owned by the City of Durham and we want to be sure that the event is enjoyed by everyone and hope that we could potentially do this again. The city’s guidelines are applicable to attendees as follows:

  • Please wear a mask when you are not eating.
  • If you are feeling sick, please stay at home.
  • Please make sure your picnic area is 6 feet away from the nearest groupings of people. If we reach attendance of 100 people, we may ask newcomers to set up in an adjacent section of the park.
  • At this time (4/23/21), the city’s guidelines say “no shaking of hands,” so this means no social dancing. I hope this changes, but make plans to do solo dancing.
  • Hand sanitizer is encouraged, please bring some with you, as we will have port-a-potties and no facilities for hand washing.
  • There is a water fountain at the park, but you should also plan on bringing enough water for the afternoon.
  • Please pick up your trash and dispose of it appropriately; otherwise, Lucian Cobb and Laura Windley will be picking up your trash and that makes for a long day. 

To RSVP to the Orchard Park Jazz Picnic, ask questions, and for more information and updates, please visit our Facebook invite for this event.

Orchard Park is located at 1000 S. Duke Street in Durham, North Carolina.

This past weekend the Mint Julep Jazz Band premiered three new music videos as part of the California Balboa Classic’s virtual event, CalBal Live! The event reached out to 5 bands/bandleaders to create brand new recordings for the event, compiled remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, Gordon Au’s Grand Street Stompers, the Jen Hodge All-Stars, Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers, and the Mint Julep Jazz Band. We hope you enjoy these new-to-us tunes, here’s the scoop on each song, the sponsors, and the musicians for each recording:

COWBELL SERENADE

If you say CalBal three times fast it might come out sounding like cowbell at the end – hence this tune is a pun on the event’s nickname. We’d been looking for pitched cowbells for years, online an at music stores, and it took a pandemic Zoom cocktail hangout for the topic of almglocken to come out. Thanks to Jonathan Stout for the suggestion, we think they worked out great! Here’s our rendition of Johnny Blowers’ Cowbell Serenade, sponsored by Gary Chyi.

Lucian Cobb – trombone, Matt Fattal – trumpet, Keenan McKenzie – tenor saxophone, Aaron Hill – alto saxophone, Chip Newton – guitar, Jason Foureman – bass, Kobie Watkins – drums, Laura Windley – glockenspiel

I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER

This is an original arrangement of I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, written by Lucian Cobb, with vocals inspired by the Boswell Sisters. Thanks so much to Kevin Wang, Lian Tarhay, Ursula Hicks, Kevin Nguyen, Matt Mitchell, and Jennifer Reed, all swing dancers in Austin and Dallas, Texas, who joined forces to sponsor this song for CalBal Live.

Laura Windley – vocals, Lucian Cobb – trombone, Paul Rogers – trumpet, Keenan McKenzie – tenor saxophone, Aaron Hill – alto saxophone, Ben Lassiter – guitar, Peter Kimosh – bass, Aaron Tucker – drums

RAGGIN’ THE SCALE

When we started talking to the CalBal Live organizers it became clear that they were excited about everything the bandleaders proposed and were up for funding big band charts. While the Mint Julep Jazz Band isn’t a big band, Lucian really wanted to do a big band song because it would be fun to put together. He had already transcribed Raggin’ the Scale (from an Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra live recording from the Savoy Ballroom) for Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra and Michael gave his blessing for us to record Lucian’s transcription, so here we are! Thanks so much to Pasadena Balboa and Jam for sponsoring Raggin’ the Scale, this song is an absolute blast.

Trumpet – Renee McGee, Jay Meachum, and Jim Ketch; Trombone – Lucian Cobb and Evan Ringel; Alto Saxophone – Brian Miller and Aaron Hill; Tenor Saxophone – Keenan McKenzie and Annalise Stalls; Drums – Dan Faust; Bass – William Ledbetter; Guitar – Ben Lassiter; Piano – Clark Stern; Glockenspiel – Laura Windley

In non-COVID times, the Mint Julep Jazz Band would have performed over Labor Day weekend at Camp Hollywood, but this year Camp Hollywood put on a four day virtual event that was as close to the real thing as we can get right now.  We decided to put together a remote recording with video and audio of the band performing “Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet” to premiere at Virtual Camp Hollywood and now you can watch it on YouTube.  Enjoy!

Fellow swing bandleader Glenn Crytzer has put out the call to action for musicians to donate this week’s Bandcamp proceeds to an organization that will help uplift the black community – the Mint Julep Jazz Band is joining in. We will donate all proceeds of this week’s Bandcamp sales to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is an organization that litigates against white supremacist groups, classifies and monitors hate groups, and promotes tolerance education programs. If you have not already purchased both of our albums, now is a great time – we’ll be donating all proceeds from June 1-7, 2020. 
 
Please also see the call on Glenn’s Facebook post if you are a musician and to see the bands joining in – maybe you own both of our albums, but there’s other great jazz music in the list that will also benefit the black community.

UPDATE: In light of the pandemic, the Mint Julep Jazz Band concert on March 22, 2020 at Galloway Ridge for Fearrington Cares has been canceled. We are hoping to reschedule this concert for the fall.  Stay healthy and safe, everyone!

We’ll be performing a concert on March 22, 2020 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Chapin Auditorium at Galloway Ridge as a fundraiser for Fearrington Cares, which provides “information and services to all residents of the Fearrington Community that will facilitate the health, safety and independent living activities of those residents on a non-profit basis.”  Tickets are $40 and you can purchase advance tickets and get more information by visiting the Fearrington Cares website or by visiting the Fearrington Cares Center located at 26 Swim and Croquet, Pittsboro, NC on any weekday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. prior to March 18, 2020.  See you soon!

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We are excited to announce a double-nighter on the southern coast/Cape Fear area of North Carolina, which is a new area for us and I know some people are very excited to have us in their town for a little hot jazz listening and rug-cutting!

On Friday, January 10, 2020 we’ll be at the Hannah Block Historic USO in Wilmington, NC for a swing dance hosted by the Cape Fear Swing Dance Society – join us from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for dancing in this historic venue.  Admission is $15.00.  For more information visit the CFSDS website.

On Saturday, January 11, 2020 we will do a rare sit-down concert for Brunswick Community College’s Odell Williamson Auditorium in Bolivia, NC.  We’ll plan a program of interesting tidbits and tasty tunes for your listening ears.  For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit the auditorium’s concert series website.

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While the Mint Julep Jazz Band may not have any public shows in December, there are many Mint Juleps involved in the album release show for A Bull City Holiday on December 3 at Motorco – most notably, our reed man, arranger, and songwriter Keenan McKenzie, who wrote and arranged 12 original holiday tunes and invited 30 Triangle musicians to appear on this album.  We hope you will join us, the show will feature almost all of the musicians on the album, performing Keenan’s originals and some holiday classics in groupings ranging from trad jazz combo to big band.  Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8:00 p.m.  You can get advance tickets on the Motorco website for $12 (plus a parking option), or pay $15 at the door.

The album is officially available for download on November 25 on Bandcamp, but you can preview 2 tracks already – or, if you happen to see Keenan at ILHC, around town, at the December 3 show, or otherwise, pick up a copy from the artist directly.  Albums will be available at Dolly’s Vintage in downtown Durham very soon.

He’s already received a delightful review, courtesy of Joe Bebco of The Syncopated Times, if you’d like to read some love for the album.