There was a time in my life (the first few years of swing dancing, in fact), when I liked swing dancing despite the music. Before you gasp aloud, let me remind you that this was a mix of neo-swing, non-swing, and- most insidious of all- "Top Hits of the Big Band" type music. Oh yes- "In the Mood," "Sing Sing Sing," "Begin the Beguine"... songs that, as far as I'm concerned, suck. Now, in case you weren't at the Eastern Balboa Championships, or you were, but you missed Kyle Smith's fantastic lecture, let it be known that there may be non-sucking recorded versions of these so called sucky-songs. But these were not those versions.
Now, whether my distaste for big band music comes from early swinghood trauma, or from the fact that I grew up listening to the music of New Orleans, or from a natural inclination to move in ways that are stretchy and gushy and imprecise, I never learned to love the big band stuff, only the dance. But in 2005, my dance life changed forever, when I went to Herrang (giant month-long dance camp in Sweden)- because that's where I met Sidney Bechet, and his version of "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me." That song, for many of us, is magic. That was the first legitimately jazz song to make me feel desperate to dance IN
the music, instead of just dancing during the music.
My love of New Orleans jazz, and the many, many bands who make me swoon, is a story for another day, but this past weekend, I really appreciated the aural aesthetic of the classic big band sound. Not the sucky recordings mentioned above, but the good stuff. So what changed? My movement, for the most part. Many, many people disagree with me on this (that's the joy of personal preference), but songs like Jubilee Swing don't make me want to swing out. They do, however, inspire me to balboa. In fact, they inspire me enough that today, I went looking for big band music, which brings me to today's gem. Before I tell you the title of the album, you have to promise not to write it off before you listen (or read on.)
No really, promise me...
Ok. The album is by Chick Webb, and it's called (yes, really) Strictly Jive. For me, at least, this brings two images to mind:
-There Are No New Steps! [Strictly Ballroom]
- Jive: This dance.
But wait! The album is neither of those things. Remember Jubilee Swing, above? That tune is on there. In fact, there are 26 tracks on the album, and at least 12 made me want to do bal. (After hearing 12 songs I wanted, I went ahead and bought the album. Chances are good there are many more than 12).
Obviously, if you're looking to build a library of awesome bal songs, and someday aspire towards DJing bal, you need to read Kyle's blog, go to a bunch of bal events, and do your research. But if you're looking for one album to be a good starting place, this is a great one to pick up.
And, because I adore Emusic, I have to point out that on Emusic, you can get the 26 tracks for 12 credits... which is pretty darned cheap. [If you don't use emusic yet, you should send me an email, and I'll send you a referral email. I highly encourage everyone you to use them- they're cheap, but still legal.]
If you want to take a look and and a listen, you can preview the album on allmusic.com: Strictly Jive by Chick Webb.
Much love and many toss-outs,
ps- yes, I wasted a lot of time looking for Strictly Ballroom and Jive clips. And yes, I enjoyed it.
pps- for those of you who aren't into balboa yet, and you want to see a good clip, check out the battle between Jeremy and Laura and Adam and Nelle- epic goodness.