May 19, 2014

Why I love being a DJ

kylePromoThere are so many possible answers to the question why I love being a DJ, I can only hope to address as many as possible.

Benny Goodman

Number one on the charts and number one in my heart, Benny Goodman and his magical clarinet is always “right.” Even as I write this I am listening to Benny Goodman live in Bangkok, 1956 (thanks DJ “Beef Brisket” David Bradford, TX). Benny offers the full range of classic swing music. He is one of the very few, yes few, artists to have such a long and successful career while staying within the focused realm of classic swing, and yet, was continually progressing his sound.

And the talent pool!  Holy crap!  Krupa, Elman, James, Charlie, Teddy, Lionel, just to name those guys. He played with the best swing musicians of any era!  AND AND AND He had Fletcher Henderson writing for him.  Jeebus!

But that isn’t the best part. The best part is how friggin hard his band swung!  Slow to fast, doesn’t matter. Benny Goodman was swingin!

If only I could have been there for Benny vs. Chick.  WOW

Hey, you got that?

Despite DJing since the late nineties, there are still vintage and classic tunes that I come across when hearing fellow DJs play that I go, WTF! Do I have that?  And much to my surprise I have it, but didn’t know it, or even more surprise, I don’t have it! And we aren’t talking about alt-versions or rare live cuts recorded with a potato. These are killer tracks that somehow I don’t play/have…even after almost 20 years.

My most recent “where the hell has that been?” Stanley Black – A Sultan Goes to Harlem (DJ Mitya, Russia), Artie Shaw Just Kiddin’ Around (DJ Dumpy Doo Marc D’Olimpio, Austria), and even a version of Woodchoppers Ball by Woody Herman (DJ Marmalade, Kate Hedin, USA) I never heard before.

I love it how even after this long I can still be surprised by the music.

Glenn Fucking Miller

Glenn has such a bad rap. Just like Les Brown, Ozzie Nelson, Harry James, and even Benny Goodman.  They were marked for death either in their time, or in our time just for a specific song. Sing Sing Sing by Benny, In the Mood for Glenn, Leap Frog for Les, Ozzie Nelson for, well being Ozzie Nelson, and Harry James and his Phil Spector wall of sound (later James recordings).  BUT each of those artists has surprised me every time.

Glenn Miller has a great band, when you hear the proper tracks. Sure, his “popular” stuff is square, but listen to his live broadcasts. I can’t tell you how many times people ask “who was that?” and I say Glenn Miller, and they look at me like I’m lying to them. (Read…talk to DJ K-Pop Matt Lam, Canada)

Harry James has some killer live tracks, just like Glenn, that will blow you away. Roll’Em Pete (the Marge Takkier version), Woodchopper’s Ball, any version, King Porter Stomp, One and Two O’clock Jump.

Les Brown might be known best for his band of renown, but his Duke Blue Devils band has some killer tracks.

And then the Benny Goodman sing sing sing. If it wasn’t for Swing Kids destroying all desire for that song, I think that it could rival JATW for best (desired) insta-jam song.

Hey, we need _____

I love having over 20,000 songs at my disposal.  Oh, you want to run a competition right now and need something high energy, 5 minutes long, familiar and something to make the dancers go?  I got that. (Roll ‘Em Pete, Harry James)

Oh, you need someone to play some dinner music for you, that will start the evening chill and slowly ramp up the energy? But you just have to hear both male AND female vocals? I got you. (Frank Sinatra, Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald)

Oh, you want some music that beginners and advanced dancers alike will love? I got that. (Mora’s Modern Rhythmists, Benny Goodman, Count Basie)

Oh, a jam just keeps going and I need to play 30 minutes of high energy, up tempo, fast, killer dillers? Without taking a break to breath? I got you. (See late night jam, Camp Hollywood 2002)

I got Benny, Chick, Artie, Basie, Duke, Django and Krupa, just to name a few.

This is my favorite part about being a DJ. I have, at my disposal, at any time, the best musicians in history. From early Jazz to Classic Big Band swing, small combos, Nola and Trad. I can play it all, and I can play the best representation of each of those sounds, every song, night in and night out. I can even play the same track twice in a row to resounding applause (yes dancers applaud DJs).

I can play an 8 minute song where you can see some of the best dancing evar (Lionel Hampton Flying Home, Live at Newport)  I can even play a 14 minute song (Diminuendo in Blue, Crescendo in Blue, Duke Ellington, Live at Newport) and while the dancers are trepid at first, by the end of the song, they are gleaming with pride, joy and sheer happiness at the 14 minutes they just spent dancing the best dance of their life.

While there are many favorite parts about being a DJ. There is only one best part of being a DJ: Being the person who gets to create 3 minutes of dancing bliss, expressly for people to show their passions, love, joy, energies, enthusiasm, and happiness for the dance and music we all love.

And in the end, that is why I love being a DJ.


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Music and Dance