Two upcoming events in New York City highlight the growing public appetite for swing dancing and how creativity can be used to draw crowds to hear good jazz.
On May 26th, for the third year running, Prohibition Productions will fill the aircraft carrier Intrepid with dancers for a Battle of the Big Bands. This sellout event has become an official part of Fleet Week. It features music on two decks as well as surprises to be found in The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum below.
A 3,200 square foot wood dance floor will be set up on the flight deck where three 17 piece bands will each play an hour set before battling it out. The bands are the Artie Shaw Orchestra, the Eyal Vilner Big Band, with guest vocalist Brianna Thomas, and the George Gee Swing Orchestra, with guest vocalist John Dokes.
The hanger deck will feature smaller hot jazz ensembles, dance competitions, vintage fashion shows and even a barbershop quartet. May 26th also happens to be World Lindy Hop Day so the professional dancers will be out in force offering choreographed performances.
Prohibition Productions is behind a variety of weekly and seasonal events, including a Valentines/Mardi Gras Ball and the Gotham Jazz Festival. There events draw in a fashionable younger crowd who want good music to be part of a fun night out.
The second event I’d like to highlight is part of the annual Midsummer Nights Swing series at Lincoln Center. The series features 15 consecutive nights of dancing and swing bands at the Guggenheim Bandshell in Damrosch Park. It’s the New York City equivalent of polka on the village green.
This year opening night features an all star ensemble of female jazz musicians you are unlikely to find in one place again, led by our cover girl from the May issue of the paper, Bria Skonberg. The event is being billed as the Sisterhood of Swing and the band will include, in addition to Bria and her trumpet:
Regina Carter, Violin
Anat Cohen, Clarinet
Emily Asher, trombone
Linda Briceño and Jami Dauber, trumpets
Endea Owens, bass
Savannah Harris, drums
Michela Lerman, tap dancer
Champian Fulton, piano
The Sisterhood of Swing is modeled on The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first integrated, all-female swing band Earl Hines praised as “the first Freedom Riders” That there are enough marquis women playing traditional jazz to fill a big band makes a statement of its own. This band promises to produce some mighty swing.
This isn’t the first all women band for Bria Skonberg. Before she hit the bigtime in New York she played with the Mighty Aphrodite Jazz Band in her native British Columbia and the American North West.
Actually, Chloe Feoranzo is currently in another all female group playing exceptionally hot jazz out of New Orleans. That she is the only member of The Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band on this roster tells you what an important force female instrumentalist have become in recent years.
On June 30th The Glenn Crytzer Orchestra will be taking the bandstand at Midsummer Night Swing for another can’t miss show.
What these events have in common is that their organizers got creative in engaging with the local community, including civic organizations, to find venues that were their own attraction. They also welcomed the young, the professional dancers, and never doubted that the music continues to have broad appeal to anyone seeking a healthy good time.