The time to do this project is now. We haven't a moment to lose, because the people who knew and listened to Mildred Bailey when she was at her peak in the 1930s and 1940s are becoming more scarce. It's important to understand that this is an album of dance music, curated for the newest generations of swing dancers and lindy hoppers, who will receive, with this album, an on-ramp to Mildred Bailey's music. While the appeal of the album will be broader than the dance community alone, the dancers across the country are an active, thriving group of people hungry for the music and history of the swing era, and they're constantly recruiting more people to dance. By making an album with them in mind, we have the best chance to help extend Mildred Bailey's legacy for decades to come.
MILDRED BAILEY: The best jazz singer that most people probably don't know about.
She was the first woman to front a national touring and broadcasting big band. She won the Esquire Jazz Award in 1946, and Billie Holiday took second place that year. Songs she sang topped the pop charts three times in the late 1930s and early 1940, with dozens of other hit songs in her catalog. She influenced countless singers along the way, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, and Bing Crosby - the most recorded voice in history. But today, Mildred Bailey is still relatively unknown in mainstream music circles.
For the last eight years, the Zonky Jazz Band has been working in our local music scene to preserve Mildred Bailey's legacy, and to bring her music back into public recognition and appreciation.
FEATURED GUESTS on the album include:
Julia Rinker performed for decades as a Hollywood session singer. You've likely heard her voice countless times because she sang the "Three's Company" theme song. She also appeared as a regular singer and dancer on shows like the Dean Martin Show, the Carol Burnette Show, and the Sonny and Cher Show. She also just happens to be Mildred Bailey's niece.
Zonky bandleader, Garrin Hertel, met Julia in 2014, and the two of them collaborated on an article about Julia's father, Alton Rinker, for Nostalgia Magazine. Since that time, Julia has joined Zonky for several projects, including a Covid-19 "stay at home"-style video in June 2020, featuring "Swingin' A Dream", a 1939 Jimmy Van Heussen/Eddie DeLange song that Mildred Bailey recorded with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. "Swingin' A Dream" is among the songs we'll be recording for this album project. Find the YouTube video of "Swingin' A Dream" here:
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World
In 2017, Julia and Garrin appeared in the Rezolution Pictures documentary film, "RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World." RUMBLE documents the untold stories of Native Americans who helped shape American music, including Charley Patton, Jimi Hendrix, Link Wray, and others, including a full vignette on Mildred Bailey. In the film, Tony Bennett tells how, as a young singer, he listened to Mildred Bailey exclusively from age 16 to 20. Watch the RUMBLE Trailer here, and find the film on most streaming services including Amazon Prime, iTunes, and more.
Ken Peplowski is one of the world's most accomplished reed players, and he is soloing on three tracks on our Mildred Bailey album. Russell Davies wrote of Ken that he is "...arguably the greatest living clarinetist." The litany of musicians Ken has collaborated with includes: Mel Torme, Leon Redbone, Charlie Byrd, Peggy Lee, George Shearing, Madonna, Hank Jones, Dave Frishberg, Rosemary Clooney, Tom Harrell, James Moody, Cedar Walton, Houston Person, Steve Allen, Bill Charlap, Woody Allen, Marianne Faithfull, Isaac Delgado & Erich Kunzel. (“Although not necessarily in that order,” says Ken).
Video: Ken Peplowski with Frank Vignola
We’re especially excited because many of the songs we’re recording were collaborations between Mildred Bailey and the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. Back in the 1980s, when Benny Goodman came out of retirement, he hired Ken Peplowski to play in his reed section.
Also, Ken has staged his own interpretations of several of the songs we’re recording from the Swing-era musical, “Swingin’ The Dream” including the title track, “Swingin’ A Dream” and “Peace, Brother.” Ken is a huge fan of Mildred Bailey, and has long felt she deserves more attention and admiration.
So this is a perfect fit!
Jake Sanders joins the Zonky Jazz Band on this album as a guest arranger, providing arrangements for about half of our album. Jake also arranges and plays guitar with Naomi and Her Handsome Devils, one of the most popular bands on the international swing dancing scene. Jake's musical career began in New York City and has since brought him around the world. Jake Sanders became a Jalopy Records recording artist in 2018 with his first solo release entitled Estrellas de Radio. Jake has performed at The Chicago Jazz Festival, The Detroit Jazz Festival, The Brooklyn Folk Festival and at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Shanghai House of Blues and Jazz in China and is a regular teacher and performer at Cracovia 32, home to the emerging swing scene in Mexico City. Learn more about Jake online at jakesandersmusic.info.
ZONKY JAZZ BAND: The best in hot jazz and swing from Spokane, Washington
"Zonky" is a Fats Waller tune about a dance and a party. The Zonky Jazz Band brings both to every occasion. We've been playing clubs, dances, festivals, and weddings in the Spokane area for years. As part of our local mission to raise awareness of Spokane's jazz history, we've been adding dozens of songs from the repertoires of local jazz icons, including the Crosbys (Bing and Bob), Al Rinker, and of course, Mildred Bailey.
In 2015, we staged a "live music, documentary film experience" called "Now You Has Jazz", which combined documentary film vignettes on screen, and live music on stage at the Bing Crosby Theater. The show celebrates the lives of Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, and Mildred Bailey, and the documentary film vignettes were produced locally by our bandleader, Garrin Hertel. Featured interviews in the documentary included local historians, Jim Price and Bill Stimson; ethnomusicologist, Chad Hamill, PhD; jazz singer, Julia Keefe; and members of the Crosby and Rinker families - Howard Crosby, Bing's nephew, and Julia Rinker, Mildred's niece. A sample from this show, detailing Mildred Bailey's connection to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, is below:
In a world that streams music more than anything else, traditional, curated albums like ours are more and more important for doing the work of preservation we're attempting. For Mildred Bailey, we wanted to put together a collection of songs that fit together under a meaningful theme.
Since we're a working jazz band from her hometown, Spokane, Washington, our debut album is entitled "Home: A Swingin' Tribute to Mildred Bailey." All of the songs on the album more or less recall some sense of home, or at least a perception that home may have been on Mildred's mind when she recorded these songs.
Also, we decided to focus on Mildred's dance repertoire, much of which was recorded with her husband, Red Norvo, when the two of them were known as Mr. and Mrs. Swing. All of our arrangements will be created with dancers in mind.
Songs on the album will likely include:
Title Track: Home (When Shadows Fall)
2: Love is Here to Stay
3: Jump Jumps Here
4: Peace, Brother
5: Swingin' A Dream
6: Don't Be That Way
7: Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid
8: Make With the Kisses
9: I Go For That
10: Gulf Coast Blues
11: Smoke Dreams
12: My Little Cousin
Bonus instrumental track: Finiculi, Finicula
Use of Funds:
What does your funding pay for? It's a great question. Here are the main line items in the album budget:
This is by far the largest expense, and keep in mind Julia Rinker lives in southern California. About 50% of our budget goes to studio time.
This is our second largest expense. Arranging music requires a lot of listening, studying, and of course, writing. But then, after an arrangement is completed, it needs to be rehearsed, and adjustments are made. An arrangement can take anywhere from 8 to 20 hours, and we have 13. So even a conservative estimate puts this at one month's full time work for a single arranger.
Mixing and Mastering
This is the work that gets done after the recording is done to make the tracks sound consistent and, well, album-like. Mixing, like arranging, is time-consuming, and requires a producer to listen to tracks repeatedly for days and weeks to get the mix just right.
Naturally, if you're going to record an album, it has to be made into a physical product. We'll start with compact discs, and who knows? Maybe we'll do some vinyl, too. Let us know if you have a strong preference. It helps to know!
Your donations will help us cover most of these kinds of expenses, and your donations will only go to expenses relevant to the album. We've already made investments in some of these expenses, arrangements in particular. Your donations mean that we can complete this work faster, and with higher quality results. Your generosity means the world to us.
Estimated Completion Date:
We're already recording, but we're also going to be very patient with this project. It's our plan to rehearse and perform arrangements as they're written, and then record them after working with each one for a few months. We estimate we'll be ready to send albums to donors by the holiday season, 2022. However, we'll be posting updates and short videos all along the way.
Our roster for "Home: A Swingin' Tribute to Mildred Bailey" includes:
Olivia Brownlee sings lead in the Zonky Jazz Band, and occasionally, in an emergency, plays the bass, too. She has a Masters degree in Theatre for Social Change, and she has taught music without using words in three different countries. Olivia has recorded and released original singles in a different studio every month for seven years.
Liv Tracy sings lead in the Zonky Jazz Band, and has only just begun her professional music career. In high school, her jazz choir was the only public school selected to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival, where she solo'ed, and her choir won third place overall. She also won her high school's Louis Armstrong Jazz Award. Liv played drums, piano, and trumpet at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival with her high school jazz ensemble, and she is an in-demand national anthem singer at large events in Spokane.
David Larsen is the Zonky Jazz Band lead arranger, and plays tenor sax and clarinet. He's also an international recording artist with 6 solo albums released. David holds a PhD in music and is an in-demand educator and clinician. He has played with and studied with such great musicians as Dave Glenn, Ken Peplowski, Francisco Torres, Greg Yasinitsky, Bill Mays, and Steve Owen.
Dayan Kai is a multi-instrumentalist, focusing mainly on piano on this album. However, Dayan plays just about every instrument known to human kind, including trumpet and trombone, sax, flute, clarinet, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, harmonica, accordion, drums, and more. He has played at many notable festivals, including the Kate Wolf Memorial Festival (Laytonville, CA), the Sisters Folk Festival (Sisters OR), the Cobargo Folk Festival (NSW, Australia), Sandpoint Music Festival (Sandpoint, ID), the Folklife Festival (Seattle, WA), the Bumbershoot Festival (Seattle, WA), the Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey, CA) and many more.
Michael Harrison plays trumpet, and he currently serves as Director of Instrumental Music at the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy. He has played trumpet in numerous musical settings including Disney College All-Star Band, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Jazz Orchestra, Arizona Theatre Company, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Michael has performed on-stage with such musical legends as Jerry Lewis, Linda Rondstadt, Art Garfunkel, Wayne Newton, Bernadette Peters, Doc Severinson, Marvin Hamlisch, The Smothers Brothers, The Lettermen, and The Temptations.
Robert Folie is the Zonky Jazz Band co-founder, and plays alto, bari, and soprano sax. After graduating from the University of Washington, Robert played lead alto in various big bands in upstate New York before returning to the Pacific Northwest. In Seattle, WA, Robert played in big bands at Jazz Alley, most notably with Al Vizzuti.
Steve Bauer plays lead guitar, and studied theory and composition at Ohio State University. Steve toured with various bands as a lead guitarist for ten years, opening for Emmy Lou Harris, Doc Watson, New Grass Revival, and Roy Clark. More recently, Steve was lead guitar player for Spokane band 6 Foot Swing, winner of Inland Northwest Best Band award five years in a row. Steve won the Inland Northwest Regional flat picking competition in 2013. Steve is also a recently retired Spokane-area veterinarian.
Andy Bennett plays drums when he's not sending monkeys and goats to space. Seriously though, Andy is an electrical engineer with designs and apparatus currently at work on the International Space Station. He's wicked smart, and someone around here has to do some real work. <ahem>
Cole Rosaia plays bass, and currently studies music at Spokane Falls Community College. Cole is an in-demand bassist and guitarist on the local music scene, and he aims to teach high school or college music in the next few years.
Garrin Hertel is the bandleader of Zonky Jazz Band, and plays rhythm guitar. He is also a local freelance historian, and the former publisher of Nostalgia Magazine. In 2006, Garrin founded the Think Swing Jazz and Blues Festival with Zonky co-founder Robert Folie, which initially brought five bands to Spokane from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The festival continued for four years, bringing notable acts to town such as Matt Munisteri, Casey MacGill, Bria Skonberg, Hot Club of Cowtown, the Solomon Douglas Swingtet, Andreas Oberg, Washboard Chaz, Hot Club of New Orleans, The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, and more.
Help us preserve and celebrate the legacy of Mildred Bailey
As you can see, we've been at this for awhile now. For nearly a decade, the Zonky Jazz Band has been studying, performing, and educating our community about Mildred Bailey, and her unique contributions to the world of jazz. The reality is, the number of people who have first hand knowledge of Mildred Bailey is dwindling. The time for this project is now - we haven't a moment to lose. Thank you for your kindness, and your generosity. Please find more info on the Zonky Jazz Band online here: ZONKY