TORONTO Swing Dance Bands

Toronto has some excellent musicians, and a growing number of fine bands.
Since 1994, some of the Lindy Hoppers have been scouring the city for
musicians who might be willing and able to play swing jazz dance music.  

Over several years, we have been supporting and nurturing the promising
musicians, and Toronto now has a very good selection of musicians who play
our kind of music.

Chris Whitely, Professor Piano, Gentleman (pretending to be "rude") Jake,
where among the first.  And of course there were the traditional jazz
bands -- Hot Five, Tishomingo, Silverleaf, Freeway, and Kid Bastien.

Yes, there were several smaller and larger bands, that played at various
dance functions.  But they mostly played nostalgia listening music and
all sorts of music other than swing.

The big bands were mostly concert bands with 60's arrangements, and the
dance bands played mostly elevator arrangements.

And some other dancers, who called themselves swing dancers were not crazy
about swing music.  They preferred rockabilly, C&W, Rock&Roll, Jump Blues,
and other modern music.  Pop, Rock, R&B.

By now, there are several bands that play authentic swing jazz dance music.
And there are several dancers who understand that music and who can dance it,
just as the instrumentalists play it.

under construction ...

Here are my favourite dance Bands. And some popular bar bands. I plan to publish the bands' self-descriptions. Band leaders, please provide your own descriptions. Also, musicians and dancers, please feel free to comment on what you read here. I'll be happy to incorporate any comments. What I will not do is *only* copy advertising hype. I insist on giving honest, real information, being frank, and calling a spade a spade!

*** The Hot Five Jazzmakers Brian Towers Snail Mail : 6839 Montevideo Rd, Mississauga, Ontario, L5N 1N7, Canada Phone: 905-821-1728, Fax: 905-826-6339
Authentic Jazz. This band has a strong foundation in 20's and 30's Jazz. They understand dance music. They know that Swing is Jazz music. They are very highly regarded by the dancers. Three CD's and several cassette tapes.

*** Alex Pangman & her Alleycats swing-era-jazz!
Alex is an authentic Jazz singer who assembles equally authentic Jazz musicians around her. Her focus is on early Swing, and her music is a pleasure to dance! First CD released May 11, 1999.

*** Rexation Swing Dance Band
This band actually came into being as a direct result of the resurgence of authentic Swing dancing in Toronto. It is composed of some of the finest musicians, with a solid foundation in genuine Jazz. Just as the band can tell when the dancers dance the music expertly, the dancers know that this band is the real thing, when it comes to playing Swing Jazz for dancers. Reide Kaiser 686-5545

** Janice Hagan Swing Dance Band
Janice is no canary. She is an authentic Jazz singer with a strong voice. Janice embodies Duke Ellington's observation that good dance musicians must be dancers. She is highly respected by the dancers, whom she inspires to understand the music better. One track of a CD "Significant Sunday Series" Janice Hagan

** Swing Machine
This is a professional band, confidently proficient, who play the music for the dancers. They shine through excellence, with no need for antics. A very solid Swing Jazz Dance Band. Bryan Livett 1-905 579-8095 (John: 1 905 668-3260)

* Swing Gang
This sizable ensemble, with frequent guests, is a collective, rather than a band. However, when performing under this name, they are a band. Are they a Jazz band? Are they a Swing band? Are they a dance band? They certainly can be, when they want to be. They can also be a show band, that plays hard and fast and loud. (I wrote that last sentence back in 1999. This band has become very dance-friendly since! Today (almost 2002) it is the most popular band among the dancers.) Tyler Yarema, Jake Chisholm, and Tory Cassis are frequently featured. Terry Wilkins 260-0709
Here is what they say about themselves:
The Swing Gang is led by Maple Blues Award winning bassist Terry Wilkins, and features key players in Toronto's swing, jump blues and jazz scene, including guitarist Jesse Barksdale, pianist Tyler Yarema, saxophonist Chris Gale, and drummer Davide Direnzo. The band's regular Wednesday night residency at Bar Code set the standard for authentic swing music, and continues to attract throngs of music lovers, long after the trend-seekers have moved on.

Tyler Yarema and his Rhythm
Related to the Swing Gang. Boogie Woogie, Stride piano, Hot Jazz, Blues, Jump Blues and more. This band does not (usually) claim to be a Swing Jazz Dance band. Very popular with bar audiences. Tyler is a very talented pianist, who can certainly play for dancers. But Toronto has few dancers whom Tyler respects as musician peers. (This too, has changed between 1998 and 2002. There are now plenty of dancer who love to dance to Tyler's music.) Tyler also plays the trumpet, the coronet and he is a fine singer. CD: "Gotta Bran' New Suit" Tyler Yarema

Killin' Jive -- Kevin Philips 905-828-5515
30's through 50's. Classic Blues, Swing, Jump, Rockabilly.
Solid, swinging, danceable, good rapport with the dancers.

Jake and the Blue Midnights
Related to the Swing Gang. A Jump Blues band. Now Swing is trendy. Jake says he led the way. This band rocks with a hard-driving, hard-hitting back beat. Very nice show band. This is the closest that Toronto has to the famous Neoswinq bands -- CPD, BBVD, BSO, Colin James, and JFO. But this one swings better than those. Recently, this band has begun to swing more and rock less! CD is out -- it's *very* good. Better than live at the Cameron House, which does not bring out the best in a band (or a dancer) :-) JABTM Self-description: "Jake and the Blue Midnights are one of Toronto's premier swing bands. Winners of the Toronto Blues Society's 1998 New Talent Search, the band captures the authentic sound of swing and jump blues epitomized by Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Louis Prima and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson."
"Jake and the Blue Midnights Frontman Jake Chisholm has helped lead the local swing revival."

That's what they say about themselves.

Whitney Smith's Small Swing Dance Band 338-0338
Whitney now realises that his Big Steam Band is not a dance band. (Or maybe not -- see for yourself: Big Steam Band) He wants the little one to be a dance band. There is good potential. The little band is getting better. They've dropped the extreme tempos and many of the undanceable arrangements. They still need to work at dropping the be-bop feeling ... and so long as the band takes up a full 50% of the *dance* floor, it's hard to think of them as a dance band. When the musicians start watching the dancers rather than their charts, they'll be there. Perhaps by then they will attract dancers worth watching :-)
This band, as well, as advertised itself as having brought swing to Toronto.
Their music speaks for itself.

Blue Devils
This band is from Ithaca. It's the best Swing Jazz Dance band within an 8 hour drive. Ithaca has truly excellent dancers. Not only as dancers, but as people as well. The Blue Devils first CD release date is May 20, 1999. Joe Salzano & the Blue Devils

Raoul and The Big Time

Modern blues. Pretty loud, hard, and rocky, but can be swingy if/when they want. Raoul is dancer-friendly! This band is worth nurturing by the dancers.

We do a mixture of Chicago, Jump and West Coast Swing Blues. Good for people who want to do a little of the bump and grind as well as jumpin' from six to six...

Swing Shift Big Band Jim: Oshawa, 1 905 576-9228

Club Django

Canadian Bands Index

Dancing.Org Peter Renzland Toronto (416) 323-1300 Peter@Dancing.Org