Mint Julep Jazz Band
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Mint Julep Jazz Band

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"Swing dancing, with big band sound, alive in the Triangle"

She can feel it coming on, the way some people sense a cold or a case of spring fever about to hit. It happens when she’s in the room with a big band – or a smaller band that plays in a big band style – and she hears that swinging beat, ka-CHUNK, ka-CHUNK, ka-CHUNK.

Before she knows it, she’s running for the dance floor. “There’s something about this music that has a really defined pulse,” Windley said. “When you listen to this music, it makes you want to move. You have to bounce.”

Windley, 31, was born a half-century too late to enjoy the height of the big band era, loosely defined as the mid-1920s to the early 1940s. But she has a cropped bob, a smooth singing voice that fronts the Mint Julep Jazz Band, a closetful of vintage dresses and the soul of a swinger.

She may have been born in the wrong time, but she lives in the right place: the Triangle, where the big band sound and the moves that go with it anachronistically thrive.

Windley’s husband, Luke Cobb, a 30-year-old video-game designer, plays trombone for the Mint Juleps, which organized last fall and began playing dances, weddings and other events in February. Even with at least a dozen local bands competing for gigs – the Casablanca Orchestra, the N.C. Jazz Repertory Orchestra, the N.C. Revelers Orchestra, the Moonlighters Orchestra, the Tune Swingers Orchestra, the Continentals Dance Band, the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars and more – the Mint Juleps have been busy, with five dates in four weeks through March and at least one a month already booked through the end of the year.

Some of the bands are true to the original form, with at least 17 musicians, traditionally five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones and four rhythm pieces – plus drums, bass, piano and guitar. That’s the way Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Jack Teagarden and scores of others did it, making a living traveling the country and playing for crowds that sometimes numbered in the thousands.

Not all the local groups play swing music; some play Dixieland jazz or a more sedate style better suited to the ballroom moves of 80- and 90-year-olds who stepped to this music in their youth and relish the chance to hear it again live.

Some current groups, including the Mint Julep Jazz Band, have pared down to a smaller configuration that has the flavor of the big band with a smaller price tag; the Mint Juleps have seven instruments plus Windley, the vocalist and sometime glockenspiel-player. Her husband studied jazz in college and is conversant in the history of the 1940s transition from swing to the more improvisational but less danceable bebop. But Windley came to the music through the dancing, which she knew she had to learn when she saw it in a 1998 TV commercial for the Gap’s khaki pants (www.youtube.com/watch?v=knW1hGwmEXQ).

She was a student then at East Carolina University, where a Methodist campus minister taught swing dance lessons. She took a few. Eventually she and a friend took over the instruction. Much of the music was familiar to her, since her grandfather had played it on records for her when she was growing up. After graduation, she enrolled in law school at UNC, which put her in proximity to the nonprofit Triangle Swing Dance Society’s regular events.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/05/21/2077923/swing-dancing-with-big-band-sound.html#storylink=cpy - News & Observer


"Finalist for Best Jazz Artist or Band in the Independent Weekly’s 2012 Best of the Triangle Reader’s Choice poll"

Finalist for Best Jazz Artist or Band in the Independent Weekly’s 2012 Best of the Triangle Reader’s Choice poll - The Independent Weekly


Discography

Coming in spring 2013...

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Bio

The Mint Julep Jazz Band was created by Lucian Cobb and Laura Windley of Durham, NC, who have worked diligently to create a songbook that will swing your socks off. The two conceptualized the band in October, 2011, hunted down the best jazz musicians in the area for the job, and put the band together in January, 2012. The response for this music has been overwhelming and we've been blessed with gig offers from day one.

We are a dance band, first and foremost, with swing dancers in mind when we select our songs and tempos. Lucian grew up listening to his grandfather's records and learned early on what could truly swing. He is able to apply this knowledge and his technical jazz training to both transcribe and create original arrangements of swing era tunes. Laura is an experienced dancer and swing DJ who knows what dancers want to hear and formulates our set lists with expertise.

Influences include Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, Artie Shaw, Jimmie Lunceford, the Boswell Sisters, Annette Hanshaw, Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Fletcher Henderson, Jack Teagarden, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, and many other wonderful and talented jazz artists of the 1920's and 1930's.

Above all, we love this music and and love performing it!