Blog Archives

Nashville Dance Congress – May 5-6, 2017

We don’t see a lot of arts grant money going to social dance events, so it’s rare and wonderful that organizers of the Nashville Dance Congress have been the beneficiaries of a grant allowing them to provide a weekend of FREE dance classes from renowned instructors and social dances to live and DJ’ed music!  Featured dance genres are Salsa, Bachata, Ballroom Cabaret, West Coast Swing, Kizomba, Tango, Zouk, Lindy Hop, Balboa, and more!  We’re excited to be invited to be a part of this inaugural event as the swing band – we’ll be performing three sets over the weekend, Friday and Saturday nights from 11:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., and a Saturday afternoon set TBA

If you are staying at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel, this event is free!  For more information or if you are not staying at the hotel, visit the Nashville Dance Congress website.

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That New Old Sound – A Compilation Album to Benefit the ACLU

a2618128978_16Swing bandleader Glenn Crytzer wanted to do something to make a difference, so he had this idea of a compilation album of modern day swing and traditional jazz bands coming together to contribute music to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union.  After reaching out to 16 bands (including the Mint Julep Jazz Band!), fundraising, organizing the production of this album, and getting the blessing of the ACLU, the album is ready for purchase!  Pick up a copy of That New Old Sound on Bandcamp, either digital or physical, and if you order by December 17, he’ll ship it to you in time for Christmas – an extra $2.00 and he’ll even gift wrap it for you.  All the proceeds from the sale of this album go to the ACLU to support the defense and preservation of civil liberties

Who’s on this album?  Lots of swing and early jazz goodness from all over the United States, including, of course, Glenn Crytzer (New York), Tuba Skinny (New Orleans), Greg Ruby and the Rhythm Runners (Seattle), Dandy Wellington and his Band (New York), the Boilermaker Jazz Band (Pittsburgh), Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five (Los Angeles), Dan Levinson and his Canary Cottage Dance Orchestra (New York), Gordon Webster (New York), Mint Julep Jazz Band (Durham, NC), Mona’s Hot Four (New York), Solomon Douglas (Seattle/New York/a boat somewhere off the coast of Australia), the Grand Street Stompers (New York), Jonathan Doyle Swingtet (Austin/Chicago), Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns (New Orleans), George Gee Swing Orchestra (New York), and Baby Soda (New York).

We are excited to be a part of this compilation album, a great gift idea for any jazz lover or to give someone as a sampler of what’s going on with early jazz today, and to do a small part to contribute to the greater good.

Hot Rhythm Holiday 2016 – Austin, Texas

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On January 30, 2016, we return to the Lone Star State capital to perform at Hot Rhythm Holiday, a weekend of workshops and dances focusing on Balboa and Collegiate Shag and there’s a music track for people who want to learn more about performing jazz!  The events take place at the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs (“the Fed”), a mansion built in 1931 with a gorgeous historic ballroom.  We are excited to return to Hot Rhythm Holiday for our second year!  And bring on the brisket!

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The ballroom at The Fed, taken at Hot Rhythm Holiday 2015

 

Audio: Mint Julep Jazz Band on The State of Things, December 11, 2015

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If you missed our interview with Frank Stasio and Mint Julep Quintet’s live performance on WUNC’s The State of Things on Friday, December 11, 2015, you can listen to the 17 minute segment on The State of Things’ website – scroll down to the middle of the page for the audio player and press play. http://wunc.org/post/mint-julep-jazz-band-recreates-early-jazz-battle-axe#stream/0

Also, as we noted on the show, please stay tuned for a very special announcement in April, 2016!

Photos from Duck Jazz Festival

The Duck Jazz Festival is one of the best experiences we have had as a band – this community cares about jazz and puts on a thoughtful and perfectly executed event that draws jazz fans and music lovers from the outer banks of North Carolina and beyond. Thanks so much to the Town of Duck for creating such a fantastic music festival and inviting us to be a part of it!

Thanks to Alexandrea Lassiter of Dtownperspective for taking almost all of these photos and documenting our trip!

The jam session on Saturday night of the festival.

The jam session on Saturday night of the festival at The Blue Point.

There are wild horses statues throughout Duck, in honor of the wild horses that roam the dunes on the outer banks.

There are wild horses statues throughout Duck, in honor of the wild horses that roam the dunes on the outer banks.

Duck Donuts across from our hotel!

Duck Donuts across from our hotel!

Setting up at the Duck Jazz Festival main stage.

Setting up at the Duck Jazz Festival main stage.

Performing Ducky Wucky at the Duck Jazz Festival!

Performing Ducky Wucky at the Duck Jazz Festival!

A full band shot.

A full band shot.

The crowded lawn at the Duck Jazz Festival.

The crowded lawn at the Duck Jazz Festival.

Signing autographs at the merch table after our performance.

Signing autographs at the merch table after our performance.

Our trumpeter Paul Rogers signs a Duck Jazz Festival poster, featuring the silhouette of Maceo Parker, the festival headliner.

Our trumpeter Paul Rogers signs a Duck Jazz Festival poster, featuring the silhouette of Maceo Parker, the festival headliner.

That's a wrap - love you, Duck!

That’s a wrap – love you, Duck!

Duck Jazz Festival – October 11, 2015

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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.

This year’s festival artists include Maceo Parker, the Bria Skonberg Quintet, the Mint Julep Jazz Band, The Monitors, Joe Mapp and the Coordinates, and the First Flight High School Honors Jazz Band.

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.

Battle Axe Review on Jazz Lives Blog

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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.

The Making of Battle Axe

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.

MJJB at Glen Echo’s Spanish Ballroom!

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The Mint Julep Jazz Band hits the road this Saturday, September 6, 2014 for the DC metro area, to perform at the Jam Cellar‘s swing dance at Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, MD! The gorgeous Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo was built in 1933 in the Spanish Art Deco Style and played host to the great bands of the swing era and beyond – we are always excited to perform at this venue!

Dance runs 9:00 p.m. to midnight, $18.00 gets you a free beginner lesson at 8:00 p.m. and admission to the dance – see you soon, DC!

Jazz, Swing, and the Mint Julep Jazz Band

The terms “jazz” and “swing” can conjure very different imagery and sounds, depending on who you ask. With that in mind, it can be difficult to describe the music we perform in the Mint Julep Jazz Band. When most people think of “jazz,” what usually comes to mind is smaller combos playing bebop, modern jazz, straight ahead jazz, or standards. The term “swing” tends to bring up thoughts of Glenn Miller’s recording of “In the Mood,” Benny Goodman’s recording of “Sing Sing Sing,” or even Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive, and Wail.” While the understanding of these terms may be more of a pop culture reference to most, it’s kind of like saying all music from the 1970’s is disco, or all music from the 1980’s is new wave – the terms jazz and swing have a much broader definition, with jazz as the umbrella term and swing as a subset of jazz.

A packed Casino Ballroom at Catlina Island, CA, circa 1940, swing band in the distance, beyond the sea of people...

So where does the Mint Julep Jazz Band fit into swing and jazz?

Jazz, in its earliest form, originated in the early 20th century. In terms of a timeline, the Mint Julep Jazz Band doesn’t go all the way back to the beginning of jazz, but does pick up jazz shortly thereafter. In the 1920’s, jazz grew to prominence and began to gain mass appeal, thanks to the popularity of radio and enhancements in recording technology. The Mint Julep Jazz Band plays several arrangements of jazz tunes from this era, primarily from the late 1920’s.

Jazz continued to gain popularity into the 1930’s, and began to take on the name “swing.” Most of the music we play is from the 1930’s and early 1940’s, which was the height of the swing era. This music is still jazz and, at the time, was America’s pop music – it was the music that filled the dance halls and airwaves, it was trendy and was associated with youth culture. We believe this music was popular because it is so much fun – it’s toe-tapping music, has a great energy, and is a joy to perform.

Thus, it’s possible for us to be both a jazz band and a swing band because the terms overlap. We hope you’ll come to one of our shows and hear some of this music firsthand – even within early jazz and swing, there are different sounds and subsets to keep things interesting, and we think you’ll like what you hear!