The annual Midsummer Night Swing in Lincoln Center starts tonight with three weeks of top bands and orchestras for dancing or just listening. As always, the bands rotate nightly among classic ballroom and swing to Latin, jazz, blues and Afro-Caribbean. Tonight, the opening event is The Nelson Riddle Orchestra, playing a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Midsummer Night Swing is Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., in Damrosch Park. Tickets are $17, or you can purchase a bulk pack at discount, and a free lesson at 6:30 p.m. precedes the live music, because dancing is not a spectator sport. Here’s the schedule for this week — find the full schedule on the Midsummer Night Swing website.
Tuesday, June 26 –The Nelson Riddle Orchestra: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Nelson Riddle was a famous music arranger for top performers, and his band plays easy listening favs from the 50s and 60s. Dance lesson is foxtrot.
Wednesday, June 27 — Celso Piña– The popular Mexican singer/songwriter/arranger/accordionist is making a rare New York appearance. Kknown as “El Rebelde del Acordeón,” he is credited with creating the popular cumbia scene in Latin America. Dance lesson is Cumbia.
Thursday, June 28 — The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie — Charlie Watts, drummer for The Rolling Stones, is the “C” in this group which includes Germany’s modern boogie woogie pianist Azel Zwingenberger (“A”), the raunch vocalist and pianist Ben Waters (B), and Watts’ best friend since childhood, UK jazz bassist Dave Green (D). Dance lesson is lindy hop.
Friday, June 29– Meschiya Lake & Dem Little Big Horns – From the Big Easy to the Big Apple, this is a night of New Orleans swing and jazz. Dance lesson is lindy hop.
Saturday, June 30– Orquesta Broadway — Cuban charanga is the specialty of New York City’s own Orquesta Broadway, a group that is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Return to the golden days of 1950s Cuba, when the warm breezes off El Malecon drifted into the dance halls of Havana. Dance lesson is salsa and mambo. Want to know more about Cuba? US travel to Cuba is easier than you think. Read my article on my recent visit to Havana, including the fabled and original Tropicana nightclub, on ecoXplorer.
See who’s playing next week —
Monday, July 2 –Crytzer’s Blue Rhythm Band – This is the NYC debut of one of the biggest bands on the national lindy hop scene. Glenn Crytzer and his orchestra specializes in the popular music of the 1920s through early 40s, and they count Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton among their many musical influences. They perform new arrangements of classic tunes plus original compositions, all great for dancing. Dance lesson is Swing and lindy hop.
Tuesday, July 3 — Johnny Colon & his Orchestra – A legend in the world of boogaloo, Johnny Colon is a product of New York’s El Barrio who has played guitar since the age of three, and added piano, trombone, vocals, acoustic bass and all the Latin rhythm instruments by his teens. He’s the man behind the sound of Latin boogaloo, which mixes salsa with cha cha and r&b, started here in NYC. Colon also started the East Harlem Music School in 1972 to specifically teach Latin music, and the school has produced 14 orchestras over the years. Dance lesson is Boogaloo and salsa.
Thursday, July 5 — DCS — Straight from Birmingham, Great Britain – the center of the UK’s bhangra scene – DCS is one of the groups that launched the bhangra craze in the 1980s. Considered to be bhangra’s best live band, known for the sheer energy of their in-your-face performances, this is their first New York appearance since 1995. The evening is hosted by DJ Rekha, creator of New York’s longest-running bhangra dance party, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Dance lesson is bhangra-inspired Bollywood.
Friday, July 6 – Gene Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie — The Big Easy visits the Big Apple with this top Zydeco band. Born and raised in Eunice, Louisiana, Delafose played rubboard in his father, John Delafose’s, famous zydeco band, then formed his own band to showcase his accordion-playing and vocals. Their sound is rooted in traditional Creole music with influences from both Cajun and country & western, as well as R&B and the blues. Delafose has been nominated for a Grammy Award and is considered a zydeco master. Dance lesson is Creole waltz and zydeco.
Saturday, July 7 – JD McPherson – Rib-stickin’ rock ‘n’ roll is back and JD McPherson is the messenger. Named as “an artist you should know” by NPR in 2011, singer-songwriter McPherson plays bluesy, forward-thinking rock that has layers of retro soul and rockabilly. This marks only his third visit to New York. Dance lesson is jitterbug. Note — after 10 p.m., you can continue dancing in a so-called ‘silent disco’, with music available through your headphones only.
See who is playing during the final week of Midsummer Night Swing —
Tuesday, July 10 — Las Reinas de la Salsa: Mambo Legends Orchestra featuring Cita Rodriguez, Yoko la Japonesa Salsera, and Nayibe la Gitana paying tribute to Celia, Graciela, and La Lupe –Three longtime members of the Tito Puente Orchestra came together as the Mambo Legends Orchestra with the goal of bringing the sound of the 1950s and 60s Palladium-era music to an international audience. The Mambo Legends Orchestra keeps the sound of the Big 3 – Machito, Tito Rodriguez, and Tito Puente – thriving and moving forward, integrating new performers into their classic sound. Tonight the vocalists honor three great female salsa singers – Celia, Graciela, and La Lupe. Dance lesson is salsa.
Wednesday, July 11 –Cristian Zárate Sextet featuring Leonardo Suarez Paz – Argentine Tango with composer, arranger, and pianist Cristian Zárate, winner of Argentina’s prestigious Clarin Award leading musicians through the music of tango’s Golden Age, the 1940s and ’50s. Buenos Aires and New York collide as Zárate is reunited with his longtime collaborator, the virtuoso violinist, vocalist, and dancer Leonardo Suarez Paz. Zárete was music director for Tango Argentino on Broadway, and Paz played in the group on stage. Few can match the extraordinary talent and passion of this dynamic ensemble of tango sensualists. Dance lesson is tango, of course.
Thursday, July 12– The Losers Lounge: The King of Pop vs. Prince — This is a collective of some of New York’s best musicians and singers performing great songs of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Started by session keyboardist Joe McGinty in 1993, Loser’s Lounge has performed nearly 300 shows honoring 50 different artists. With a song list that pits the music of the Jacksons, from Motown classics of the Jackson 5, to favorites from Prince, Sheila E., and Morris Day & the Time. Dance lesson is West Coast Swing.
- On the 12th there will be a costume contest for those wearing the best Jackson or Prince-inspired ensembles. So get out the sequined gloves, the red military jackets, the purple satin pants, and the Janet Jackson bustiers and compete for prizes during the intermission between sets. There’s also a Silent Disco following the live music, so you can continue dancing via music heard only on your headphones.
Friday, July 13– Mestres do Forró Nordestino: A Tribute to Luiz Gonzaga — Northeastern Brazil dance party featuring Maciel Melo, Biliu de Campina, & Walmir Silva with Quarteto Olinda, making their US debut. Forró music, and its earlier style called baião, originated in the northeastern province of Brazil called Pernambuco. The music is lively, accordion-driven, danceable – “music for all the people” – and it is danced at the Feast of St. João every year in June. Campina, Melo, Silva, and Claudio Rabeca (of Quarteto Olinda) are four of the finest forró musicians from the region. They are making a rare visit to New York, including Melo’s very first performance outside of Brazil. Dance lesson is Forró.
Saturday, July 14 from 3:00 to 4:30pm — special FREE Kids’ Dance — Kids get in on the act with a special afternoon session (ideal for the entire family) with teacher Rodney Lopez from Dancing Classrooms – seen in Mad Hot Ballroom, the 2005 documentary about teaching ballroom dance in NYC public schools. He’ll get youngsters off on the right foot, teaching them the basics of ballroom, tango and swing.
Saturday, July 14– Harlem Renaissance Orchestra: A Tribute to Illinois Jacquet — Jump to the classic, big band sound of the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, formed more than twenty years ago to revive the great sounds from the big band era, including Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton. Take the A train, or the 1 train, and join the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, which traditionally closes the annual Midsummer Night Swing outdoor music and dance festival. Dance lesson is swing, of course.
- On the 14th there will also be the 4th Annual Ambassador’s Prize Dance Contest, honoring the late Frankie Manning, lindy hopper extraordinaire.
For a full listing of free and cheap outdoor events and festivals in NYC this summer, check the NYC Summer Events Calendar page.