Swingland and LindyCircle's club has settled in well to its new home in Balham south of the river in London.
C Jam Swing hosted its second live music night at The Bedford Arms in Balham on Tuesday 21 November 2000. Following the inaugural night at the venue with The Chris Walker Swingtet, the occasion this time was the birthday of Swingland supremo Martin Ellis.
Upstairs at The Bedford Arms is a delightful setting for a swing dance night. It has everything you could want to hand: a good wooden dancefloor, two side rooms to sit and chat (one equipped with a bar) and fully-flushing conveniences on the same floor. The decor is art deco in style, with sumptuous armchairs in the side rooms to sink into after a dance. The acoustics of the main room are helped by the luscious red curtains around the room. Entrance is via a wonderful winding stone staircase, with walls adorned with stars that have appeared at the venue. Sadly, they are mainly comedians which were never heard of again.
From smiles at the door..
...To a class on the floor
In the house tonight was the swaggering swing sound of 9.20 Deluxe, which, by ongoing verbal negotiation between Martin and bandleader Pete Long were presented as 'the best swing band in the land'. Certainly they did nothing during the evening to raise any doubts on that score.
Winston Rollins slides into the song
Jane Eliot joined Martin to take the evening's class, which ran until it was time to bring on the band at ... 9.20pm. Then the lights hit the mirrorball and gave some dancers the uneasy feeling that the floor was moving and they were not. But the music was enough to overcome any anxieties on that score, and the familiar 9.20 repertoire proved as popular as ever. Intermission Riff, Interlude, The Late Late Show and Here We Go Again were all there, but no Soul Bossa Nova or I Feel Good as at The 100 Club.
Chanteuse d'habitude Patti Revell was "elsewhere earning real money" according to Pete Long, and in her place was Jacqui Hicks, who had scored such a hit at The 100 Club recently. The Revell clan was represented by Patti's hubby Adrian on saxophone. Also absent was Tom Gordon on drums, being played here by Ray Gelato regular Steve Rushton. Steve, Jim Richardson (bass) and Clive Dunstall (piano) kept the rhythm going, while Pete, Adrian, Winston Rollins (trombone) and trumpeters Mark Armstrong and NYJO recruit Tom Rees-Roberts blew all over it like kids on a birthday cake.
Adrian Revell and Pete Long
The two sets kept the floor filled, before the encore-demanded Jumpin' At The Woodside died away at the end of the evening to enthusiastic applause. There was even time for Ronnie Slide to master the intriguing house decks with a few sounds before the club closed.
C Jam Swing's move from Wessex House in Clapham has done it no harm at all if this evening is anything to go by. Even Pete Long remarked that there were a lot of new faces in the crowd - and he's a man who's seen the faces of most of the swing dancers in the UK. The name of the game is bringing new people into the scene, and not just opening a club to divert existing patrons of other clubs to attend. Based on tonight's showing, Swingland and their partners in this venture LindyCircle (absent abroad tonight) are heading in the right direction.
The condition of the floor and lighting at Wessex House were soon sorted out. Then, in July 2000, the whole club moved to The Bedford Arms in Balham.
Seymour's Jump played a swinging set to help launch C Jam Swing, the new Swingland/Lindy Circle club in Clapham, south-west London. The event made a solid start in its bid to become a new fixture on London's weekly swing dance scene.
A friendly greeting on the door from Swingland's Jane Eliot is your introduction to this intimate venue, before walking upstairs to the bar and dance area. Martin Ellis and Liza Patoux began the class, followed by current UK Lindy Hop championship winners Dan and Christi Guest, before the freestyle begins to the sounds of DJs Smartie and Groove Juice Special. Future plans are for the teaching duties to be shared between Swingland and Lindy Circle, with the occasional bonus 'double header' of both such as happened tonight.
The sound system is excellent, with enough volume to get you on the dance floor without pinning you to the back wall. The wooden floor feels good, although some followers thought a bit of a polish would help their spinning. The lighting was low (how about switching on another of those attractive chandeliers?) and the strobe lighting has got to go! These points were duly noted by the organisers and will be addressed in the future.
Mark Seymour's band were on good form, running through a good selection of swing standards from the latest CD. Flying Home, Shim Sham Shimmy, Cheek To Cheek and Let's Face The Music all proved popular with the crowd over the two sets played during the evening. The band sound even better live than on the CD, with Alex Keen's bass combining with the drums of Nigel Tilbury to drive the combo along. Mark Seymour was on fine form vocally and trombonarily, supported by the voice and guitar of Steve Knight and Perry White's piano . On this showing, they're bound to be asked back in the future.
The venue at Wessex House is one of the best for access, with parking on the main road, and Clapham Junction main line station just across the road. The evening was well-supported by the Sunday Swingland regulars, and also a lot of new faces, so full marks for trying to expand the scene by attracting new people, rather than diverting those from existing clubs. It should also prove popular with south-of-the-river swing dancers, because Tuesday is not exactly overflowing with events at the moment. All in all, a promising start to what deserves to be a regular fun-and-friendly evening that could turn other promoters (Palmers) green with envy!
© 2000 Andrew Winton.
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