The Track - 024 - Gordon Webster

 Gordon Webster performs at the CD release party for "This." at  Frim Fram Jam .

Gordon Webster performs at the CD release party for "This." at Frim Fram Jam.

This month, I am joined by pianist and bandleader Gordon Webster.  A piano player since age four, Gordon had his first gig playing for swing dancers in 2001 and he caught the Lindy Hop bug soon after.  His passion, diversity, and musicianship have made him one of the most sought-after musicians in the Lindy hop world, becoming a fixture at events like The Snowball, Lindy Shock, Swing Camp Oz, and Beantown Camp.  His seventh album, entitled “This.” was released this month, and he is currently wrapping up an ambitious Indiegogo campaign supporting that album and an upcoming digital single-of-the-month club.

Gordon and I sat down at his home in New Jersey to talk about his development as a musician, the moment at Swing Out New Hampshire when he realized playing for dancers is what he was meant to do, and how his approach to band leading is different than some other swing bands today.

We also discussed what goes into recording an album, how Mona’s Tuesday night jam session has become the go-to late night destination for early jazz musicians in NYC, and why he finds the ever-changing tastes of the Lindy Hop scene the greatest inspiration for him as an artist today.

Gordon also speaks candidly about Steven Mitchell, the allegations against him, and how that news impacted him personally and professionally.
 

The Track - 023 - Todd Yannacone

 Todd Yannacone with Alice Mei at  ILHC 2014

Todd Yannacone with Alice Mei at ILHC 2014

This month, I am joined by international instructor and award-winning swing dancer, Todd Yannacone.

Todd has been a traveling instructor since the age of 16 and has won numerous titles at major national and international events. He is a member of the California Swing Dance Hall of Fame and has taught, performed, or judged in 30 countries around the world.  When at home in New Orleans, Todd can be found performing on guitar or piano with a number of different bands, including his own, Hot Toddy & His Fully Dressed Po' Boys.

Todd and I sat down at Lindyfest 2017 to talk about being dragged to swing dance classes as a teen by his mom, how Hop the Millennium completely changed his perspective on swing dance, finding inspiration in drastically different dancers (and dances), and why he still considers himself a social dancer above all else.

We also discussed what drew him to New Orleans, his custom guitar and clothing, and even though it sometimes gets lost among all of the posture, counterbalance, and footwork, at the end of the day it's the simple act of holding hands and connecting with a partner that really matters when dancing.

The Track - 022 - LaTasha Barnes

 LaTasha Barnes at the Dawn Hampton Celebration

LaTasha Barnes at the Dawn Hampton Celebration

This month, I am thrilled to be joined by Juste Debout World House Dance champion, and relative newcomer to swing and solo jazz dance, LaTasha Barnes.   

Tasha and I sat down at Lindy Focus XV to talk about the many twists and turns of her life’s journey - from growing up as a young African-American in the capital of the Confederacy, to 10-year Army veteran, powerlifiting champion & fitness competitor, and an artistic director & educator with Urban Artistry dance company.

We discussed her experience working at the White House under both the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, recovering from two debilitating injuries through dance therapy, performing at the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, how a chance encounter led to her introduction to Lindy Hop, and the complex topic of representation and appropriation in the largely-monochromatic modern swing dance community.

The Track - 021 - Josh Collazo

 Josh Collazo at Lindy Focus XV

Josh Collazo at Lindy Focus XV

This month, I am joined by one of the top swing drummers in the world, and bonafide rock star, Josh Collazo.

Josh is known to most swing dancers through his work behind the drum kit with bands such as Jonathan Stout’s Orchestra and Campus Five, Dave Stuckey & his Hot House Gang, or perhaps his first band, The Feetwarmers.  But Josh may be better known to more mainstream music fans as the drummer for the Grammy-winning and platinum-selling band, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.

Josh and I sat down after Lindy Focus XV and talked about how he balances those two musical worlds, how his passion for swing dancing in the late 90s influenced his development as a drummer, and what it’s like to fill the shoes of drum legends like Gene Krupa and Chick Webb at the Lindy Focus tribute nights.

We also discussed his early experiences as a bandleader, the technique and music theory of what provides an authentic swing era sound, and how he has gained enough confidence as a swing musician to take the torch and start creating original swing music with his new group, the Candy Jacket Jazz Band.

The Track - 020 - Nathan Bugh

 Nathan Bugh at  ILHC  2014

Nathan Bugh at ILHC 2014

For December's (slightly delayed) episode, I am joined by instructor, performer, and fellow New Yorker, Nathan Bugh.

Most dancers I’ve talked to on the show are professional Lindy Hoppers in the sense that they make their living traveling from city to city as dance instructors.  While that description definitely applies to Nathan - he has taught with partners Evita Arce and Gaby Cook around the world - he’s also a professional Lindy Hopper of a different type: one who is regularly hired to perform at corporate and commercial events.

We sat down in New York City at the end of 2016 and talked about his experience performing at those commercial gigs, how his education in music composition at Juilliard does (or doesn’t) influence his approach to Lindy Hop, and weighed the relevance of vintage jazz dance in modern popular culture.

Nathan also explained why his unconventional approach to class structure may not necessarily be the best business model, what he means when he refers to the "academic Lindy Hop community,” and how the hot trend of “Gastby” entertainment at commercial dance gigs is in some ways more “real” than what’s found in the dedicated Lindy Hop community.