The Dudes of Swing
It was Saturday night and the word on the street was that the jive would be jumping at a joint called ‘Port-O-Swing’. My best gal got all dolled up and I donned my hippest duds before driving to the corner of Duplessis and Chemin Sainte- Foy. We pulled off the snow swept streets and parked our jalopy behind the nondescript building on the corner. A small sign above the door cued us that this was the place so we ankled it down the stairs and forked over the dough.
Warm coloured stage lights illuminated the dance floor already crowded with anxious participants for Port-O-Swing’s initiation to Swing. MJ and I had gone mostly to hear the ‘The Dudes of Swing’ perform, but we still had an hour to kill and the music already had our toes tapping. We were soon bouncing to the beat thanks to our instructors: William Mauvais and Maéva Truntzer. Originally from France, they are the current World Champions in European Boogie-Woogie and are ranked number one in the world. (I’m sure that my natural ability impressed them…)
It was soon our turn to be impressed because the initiation was over and ‘The Dudes of Swing’ took to the stage. There was David Parker (tenor sax, vocals), Paul Hinton (guitar, vocals), Jacques Bourget (trombone), Pierre Côté (bass) and Raynald Drouin (drums). Dancers stood to the side in anticipation of the first performance by a live band at Port-O-Swing. “Who’s ready to swing to some music that doesn’t come out of computer?” was their only introduction and judging by the people tearing up the dance floor, they were more than ready and the ‘Dudes’ didn’t disappoint.
They started with a Big Joe Turner tune called “Flip, Flop and Fly”, a song which has been performed by the Downchild Blues Band and was also heard in the movie “The Blues Brothers”. David did a great job on vocals and that was followed by Paul doing just as well singing “High Heeled Sneakers” by Leon Russell. All the while the band provided a solid groove with each member holding their own during solos. From then on it was just one great tune after another and no matter what they played the dance floor was packed.
Being a bit of a heeler, I decided to stay out of the way because everyone seemed to know what they were doing and it wasn’t difficult to understand why it’s called ‘Swing’. There were people of all ages, all shapes, all styles, some wearing fedoras, some wearing pointy Wing-Cap shoes but all them twisting, turning, spinning, stomping and smiling. I felt as though I was in a time warp, only nobody seemed out of place and every dame and daddy posilutely thought the music was the cat’s meow.
I had a chance to talk to David and I asked him a few questions about ‘The Dudes of Swing’:
1. The crowd really seemed to dig what you were doing, how did you select the tunes?
I like the fact that the dancer’s liked us. The Dudes’ repertoire is geared towards dancers with a good mix of Swing, Rock & Roll and early R&B. We found a list of about 200 swing dance tunes on the internet and narrowed it down to about 150 that we liked and thought we could play without too much work. We cut that list again by 130, added in a few classic Rock & Roll tunes that Paul or I had always wanted to sing, and that was about it! Most of these songs I heard growing up in Windsor, Nova Scotia. I had a very hip band teacher (Brian Johnston). He had our high school band playing dances around Windsor and down the valley.
2. How long have you been playing together and how did you all meet?
Paul and I came up with the idea about a year ago. Our first gig was in April 2010. Actually that gig turned into an hour of cocktail music followed by a wild jam session with some high school musicians from New Jersey. We basically funked out in G for the final set!
3. Why are you all doing this? What are you getting out of it?
Honestly, I probably do it as much for the adventure as for the music. It’s fun creating a new project and seeing where it takes you, I’ve always loved that side of music. The Shuffle Demons was like that and Sax-O-Matic as well. At the same time, it has to be musically rewarding. That means that the project has to different than what other groups are doing and also that I work with musicians that I enjoy both musically and personally.
4. What advice can you give to other musicians?
You have to embrace the adventure as much as the music. If you strongly believe in your project, and it’s sincere…go for it. I kick myself often when I think about the fact that I’m a professional musician. I’ve practiced enough (and still practice), that people pay me to play music. It’s a humbling feeling!
‘The Dudes of Swing’ perform every couple of months, but they’d be hip to have a house gig somewhere, so if you’d like to book them or be on ‘The Dudes of Swing’ mailing list, you can contact David at email@example.com.
Article: Jason Enlow
Photo: Dudes of Swing
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