I love working a show where I can feel the energy seeping out of the performance space and filling the entire building. That's how I felt this past May, the last time Butterfly Swing Band performed at GCA. Between the band to the enthusiastic crowd, it was clear that Swing was in each of their hearts. In addition to music that got the whole room grooving, I had never seen dancers at one of our shows like I did that night! People were throwing their partners around and were fully committed to a communication that can only be shared through a passion for dance. On August 31st Butterfly Swing Band returns. Recently their drummer Joe LoMonaco took some time to chat with us before their upcoming show.
GCA: You perform Swing Music and you usually have a dance instructor join you prior to the performance to help teach the audience! Can you tell us a bit about the dance instructor you will have with you this time and what folks can expect?
BSB: You don’t need to be a pro to dance and have fun! We can teach you!
Our dance instructor Emily is a hit, I'd like to share a quote that one her past clients left after taking a class: “Emily is not only an amazing teacher, but inspires students to find themselves and each other in dance. We will never forget the large role she played in our lives.”
GCA: What do you feel is special about Swing Music and the Swing Era?
BSB: One of the things I love about Swing Music and the Swing Era is that it is so uplifting and has such wonderful energy. Also, the instrumentation, arrangements, and improvisations are off the charts. You can hear a great pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, trombone, clarinet, drummers, and trumpet player. Where else can you hear all that instrumentation and improvisation in today's popular music in such a melodic way? The music is so joyful that people love it. Often times they can't help but dance and tap their feet.
It can be like going on vacation, when you go on vacation you leave all your troubles behind, that's swing music.
GCA: How did The Butterfly Swing Band get together?
BSB: This is an interesting story. I was walking home from my straight job one day and thought I would stop into "Metropolis" a local wine bar in downtown Brattleboro, as it had just changed hands and I heard that they were possibly interested in having music. So I walked in and asked, "How would you like to have a swing band?"
Well, they did want one and they gave me a date about two weeks out. Only trouble was I didn't have a swing band (I never even started a band). I didn't even have a complete set of drums, as I was just focusing on playing a snare drum and hi-hat because I didn't pick up the drums until I was 63.
Often times, I would go for a walk outside of town and walk one of my favorite loops. I had remembered hearing some great saxophone coming from one of the houses I walked by, so I contacted the fellow (Walter) and asked him if he want to play a gig. We met and he agreed to do it. We both knew a trumpet player, Scott, who we asked to join us. I knew a bassist in Northampton, Lynn, who also said she was game. I then contacted the Vermont Jazz Center to ask about a vocalist and guitar player and came up with Mark. We rehearsed one time, played the gig (it was packed) and have been playing together for the last 8 years! Obviously all the players could read charts and were very familiar with the tunes so it came together just fine for opening night.
GCA: If there was one thing that you would hope your audience would leave one of your shows with, what would that be?
BSB: The feeling that they had a wonderful experience and felt a bit more light hearted or joyful. The brief feeling that they can forget the day to day events, obligations, and challenges that we all face.
GCA: What record has been the most inspiring to you in your growth as a musician?
BSB: Perhaps Rock around the Clock and some old Benny Goodman tunes. More than a single tune it was other influences that lead to my growth as a musician. My parents loved to dance whether it was in places like the Cotton Club or the kitchen. Sometime they would just get up and dance around the kitchen before the dishes were done, even into their 80's. I also took guitar lessons while growing up with my cousin who was significantly older than I. He was a swing musician who played in a navy swing band during WWll. When I was about 12 years old he was teaching me tunes like "How High the Moon", "Perdido", and other standards- the same tunes I am now playing as a drummer! The singer Mario Lanza was a friend of my uncle and used to come my grandmother's house in South Philly, and my mom tells stories about chasing Frank Sinatra down Broad Street. It is rather amazing that Don Baldini who often plays bass in the my band, also played bass with Mr. Sinatra and many other singers of that era. He takes me to the cleaners every time we play together. Such fun.
GCA: What's next for Butterfly Swing Band?
BSB: Well, I just created a new website, www.butterflyswingband.com If you take a peak at it, you will see that we are expanding our venues. Not only are we playing many of our favorite dance venues, but we are doing weddings, benefits, and even have an education program we offer to schools. They can actually choose what they would like us to present as an educational experience. We also offer dance lesson prior to weddings, and we can give dance lessons at a wedding just to get people more comfortable. Our dance instructors get involved to the point that when we are performing, they are getting people on to the dance floor. We also have been invited to play at various festivals, including The Northampton Jazz Festival on October 4th. We are so excited and I think our music reflects our excitement.
Butterfly Swing Band comes to Gateway City Arts on Saturday, August 31st.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here.
RSVP to the Facebook event here.
Learn more about the band by visiting their website.
See what else is coming up at Gateway City Arts here.