Fletcherising in Cairo

I’ve been thinking a lot about a 20s – early 30s themed dance night at MLX this year. The main reason of course is the continuing evidence that Peter Milley’s 10 piece Cairo Club Orchestra is one of the most engaging and talented swing era bands playing in Melbourne. On top of that, we have never actually heard CCO play at MLX, and there is an increasing interest in big band music from an earlier era — particularly that of the early 1930s. The downsides of such an idea are few, but one of them is that many dancers find the tempos of the hotter stomps and charlestons to be too difficult, and the durges are too slow for some people. So it’s this feeling that the night could be frustrating for some dancers.

My first thoughts are to try to talk to Milley about the idea of tailoring a song list for Lindy Hoppers. We usually do that anyway when hiring a band for MLX. But then I got to thinking about the idea of asking if he would consider looking for arrangements of particular tunes that I know the dancers would go for. The trick is that the line up CCO uses is very consistent and almost always includes a banjo, giving the band that very particular Charleston/dixie feel that only a banjo can. I know that they use a guitar sometimes though. And maybe their banjo player can also play guitar, or they can use another guitarist on certain arrangements.

Anyway in my fantasy world they would transcribe or find arrangements for the Fletcher Henderson classics like Big John’s Special, Christopher Columbus, Wrappin It Up (The Lindy Glide), The Sugarfoot Stomp, The Henderson Stomp, and The Moten Stomp. These are all particular favourites of mine. I’d also be interested in talking to him about some Chick Webb and Jimmie Lunceford stuff of course, but I don’t know if they would go for it. Webb’s Strictly Life, Go Harlem and (oh my) Harlem Congo, and Lunceford’s Four or Five Times, Lunceford Special, Tain’t What You Do, Harlem Shout and For Dancers Only would all be great. Food for thought.

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