If there is something that goes together with the Swing dance and especially Lindy Hop it’s the big bands. It is in its moment of greatest splendor when music and dance merged and reached the peak of popular culture between the 30s and 50s. For that reason, we are lucky and proud to have a big band like El Molino in our parties.
And since we can’t talk to all of its members, we keep the testimonies of three of them: Marcos Ortega Martín, trumpeter; Diego, drums; and Marina Ferrer, the vocalist of the band.
Where does your interest for jazz music, and more specifically for swing, come from?
M.O .: As a child, my mom used to put a Louis Armstrong’s album, although I must admit that my true devotion to swing and jazz in general came when I played it for the first time. It was a kind of challenge, I was not so surprised by listening to it, but by the very act of interpreting it.
D: I started listening to jazz when I was 20 years old, when I started to study Carlos Carli, and little by little I got into this wide world.
M.F .: Everyone has its own reasons, but in my case, jazz has been heard in my house as far as I remember. For me it is a very familiar music and very associated with my childhood. The swing traps me and fascinates me because of the tremendous joy and good energy that it releases.
Who are your idols?
M.O .: Armstrong himself, of course, Louis Prima, Benny Goodman … As for jazz in general, no doubt Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard …
D: Tony Williams, Max Roach, Peter Erskine, Elvin Jones, Brian Blade, Mel Lewis or Jeff Ballard, among others.
M.F .: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Anita O’day, Count Basie …
What songs are always a must in your repertoire?
M.O .: Well, whenever a musician plays with a “swing” big band they rarely miss “C. Colombus”,”Cheek to cheek”, “Shiny Stockings”… Although one of my favorite classics has always been “On the sunny side of the street”.
D: We have played many arrangements and many types of repertoires, but arrangers like Samy Nestico or Oliver Nelson, or composers and performers like Duke Ellington or Count Basie are always present in our concerts.
What tunes, or players, are the greater challenges for you?
M.O .: Any piece or solo from Armstrong or Miles don’t require great effort, If we are only talking about transcribing the notes. However, it takes a lifetime to get closer to the way they used to interpret music.
D: Playing in a big band is really a challenge in itself. It is true that there are degrees of difficulty between one repertoire and another or between one piece or another, but the challenge is the handling of language and the dynamics required to play in the band.
M.F .: Any of them are a challenge if you want them to sound good. In the band we take every song we play very seriously.
What’s the difference between playing for dancers and just for regular audiences?
M.O .: Playing for a dancing audience carries a higher level of demand when it comes to respecting especially the tempo and “swinging”. If people stop dancing means you are doing something wrong …
D: I would say that playing with a dance body, or for people dancing, gives a more festive and playful touch to the event, and the connection generated between the band and the audience is bigger, you feel closer to the audience. When we play, for example, for people who are sitting at a table, it is colder and perhaps more “serious”. Both things are fine, but the character is different. I think you are heard in a different way and you play in a more casual way when there are people dancing.
M.F .: It is very motivating and rewarding to see in such a direct way people enjoying music. In addition, the swing was always been danced, it is something that is part of this music.
When you see the dancefloor from the stage, what crosses your mind? What does it make you feel?
M.O .: It’s an extra motivation, of course. It’s your responsibility that no one stops dancing. Visually is very grateful and encourages the musician to give his best.
D: I usually think “I wish I could dance”, hehe. I feel integrated into something interdisciplinary and that is very motivating and makes me feel fulfilled, as part of something even bigger. I would say that it gives me joy, I smile when I observe the show as a whole.
M.F .: It gives me a lot of energy when it comes to singing, it makes me feel that what we do makes a lot of sense, that everything is part of a great puzzle where all the pieces fit together.
What do you think dance schools and associations such as MAD for Swing can do to help people understand the value of live music? We know that many a time, when a song is finished, dancers don’t even applaud…
M.O .: I think that in that aspect, the work of the musician should be valued a little more. The energy that live music transmits is not comparable to the recorded one, in this I think we agree. It is true that when you are dancing on the dance floor you feel part of “the scene”, of the “artistic” exercise of the moment. Personally, I have applauded several dancers during some of my beats waiting to masterfully execute some pirouette or similar. I think there must be a bit more symbiosis; nothing happens if you stop dancing for 3 seconds to applaud a good solo, or of course, the end of a song.
D: Try to raise awareness and talk about the work behind that hour and a half or 2 hours of concert, because it really is a lot. I think that if people had that in mind, they would be more grateful.
M.F .: I think that, even if they don’t applaud, everyone can feel the energy of live music. Nothing compares to the atmosphere that is achieved when the musicians are playing for you, the magic of live music is irreplaceable. I think dance groups should try to hire musicians at all the events possible. In addition, in Madrid we are lucky to have excellent swing musicians available.
You have surely played at numerous festivals, so can you tell us any anecdote that you remember dearly?
M.O .: Well, I will always remember the faces of Bob in the first “swing night” at the new café Berlin, when he was overwhelmed and literally stomped by the avalanche of dancers that came to enjoy that night, hehe.
D: Well, I remember once in a concert in Toledo in which the dancers were behind us and it took me like 2 or 3 songs to be aware of it. I was very excited and, when I noticed it, I wanted to be looking back continuously, but of course, I couldn’t because I had to play. It was very funny to me. Then I saw videos and the image was super cool.
M.F. I always have a terrible time when, at the end of the concert, some dancer asks me to dance with all his good intentions assuming that I know how to dance swing. And even if I knew, it would be impossible between the heels and the long dresses I usually wear! haha.
What are your expectations for the 6th Madrid Lindy Exchange? How were your previous experiences? What would you like to live again?
D: Have a great time and enjoy the experience with my colleagues and the people who attend in general.
M.F. We hope it is an excellent party, full of magic, good energy and much, much swing.
And at MAD for Swing, we are sure that, thanks to your music, it will be!
Thank you very much and see you on Saturday 27th.