Saturday night in Québec City and the word on the street was that the jive would be jumping at a joint called the Port-O-Swing. My best gal got all dolled up and I donned my hippest duds before driving our jalopy to the corner of Duplessis and Chemin Sainte-Foy. A small sign above the door cued us that this was the place, so we ankled it down the stairs and forked over the dough.
Colourful lights lit the dance floor. It was already crowded with anxious participants for the Port-O-Swing’s Initiation to Swing night. Although we were there to hear The Dudes of Swing perform, we still had an hour to kill and the music had our toes tapping. We were soon bopping to the beat thanks to dance instructors, William Mauvais and Maéva Truntzer. Originally from France, they are the current World Champions in European Boogie-Woogie and are ranked number one in the world.
“Who’s ready to swing to some music that doesn’t come out of computer?” was the cue for The Dudes of Swing to start their set. It didn’t take long before David Parker (tenor sax, vocals), Paul Hinton (guitar, vocals), Jacques Bourget (trombone), Pierre Côté (bass) and Raynald Drouin (drums) had everybody jigging and jiving.
The Dudes of Swing, the first live band to play at the Port-O-Swing, started off with a Big Joe Turner tune called “Flip, Flop and Fly” from the movie, The Blues Brothers. Parker sounded great on vocals. Later, Hinton took to the microphone for Leon Russel’s “High Heeled Sneakers”. The band provided a solid groove, with each member holding their own during solos. It was one great tune after another. The dance floor stayed packed, no matter what they played.
Being a bit of a heeler, I decided to stay out of the way of dancers who knew what they were doing. People of all ages, all shapes, all styles, some wearing fedoras, and some wearing pointy wingcap shoes were twisting, turning, spinning, stomping and smiling. I felt as though I was in a time warp, only nobody seemed out of place and every dame and daddy posilutely thought the music was the cat’s meow.
I had a chance to talk to David and I asked him a few questions about The Dudes of Swing.
Life in Quebec (LiQ):
The crowd really seemed to dig what you guys were doing, how did you select the tunes?
David Parker (Parker):
I like the fact that the dancers liked us. The Dudes’ repertoire is geared towards dancers. We have a good mix of Swing, Rock & Roll and early R&B. We found a list of about 200 swing dance tunes on the Internet and narrowed it down to about 150 that we liked and thought we could play without too much work. We cut that list again by 130, added a few classic Rock & Roll tunes that Paul or I had always wanted to sing, and that was about it! Most of these songs I heard growing up in Windsor, Nova Scotia. I had a very hip band teacher named Brian Johnston. He had our high school band playing dances around Windsor and down in the valley.
How long have The Dudes of Swing been playing together?
Paul and I came up with the idea about a year ago. Our first gig was in April 2010. Actually, that gig turned into an hour of cocktail music followed by a wild jam session with some high school musicians from New Jersey. We basically funked out in G for the final set!
What’s in it for you?
Honestly, I probably do it as much for the adventure as for the music. It’s fun creating a new project and seeing where it takes you, I’ve always loved that side of music. The Shuffle Demons was like that and Sax-O-Matic as well. At the same time, it has to be musically rewarding. That means that the project has to be different than what other groups are doing. It also has to be with musicians that I like being around, both musically and personally.
What advice can you give other musicians?
You have to embrace the adventure as much as the music. If you strongly believe in your project, and it’s sincere … go for it … and practice. I often kick myself when I think about the fact that I’m a professional musician; people pay me to play music – It’s a humbling feeling!
The Dudes of Swing’ perform every couple of months, but they’d be hip to have a house gig somewhere, so if you’d like to book them or be on their mailing list, you can contact David at email@example.com.