Every Lindy Hopper should be familiar with at least one song by Jimmy Lunceford and his Orchestra: Tain’t What You Do (it’s the way that you do it!) That’s because it’s the song to which people around the world dance  the Shim Sham Shimmy, the classic swing line dance popularized by Frankie Manning. Fortunately for us, that’s not the only great piece of swing music by Mr. Lunceford’s band.

Jimmy Lunceford was the leader of one of the most famous black Big Bands of the swing era. The band was famous for its moderate tempo music (great for dancing) and Lunceford’s rhythmic innovation of a half bar accent on the first and third beat in the classic four beat swing. The band was most popular in the 30s playing musical arrangments by Sy Oliver. Lunceford was a perfectionist, and much of the band’s success could be attributed to their tight and almost-perfect collective performance.

A great album by Jimmy Lunceford is Lunceford Special: 1939-1940 and here are some of my favorite tracks:

  • Tain’t What You Do (naturally!)
  • Le Jazz Hot (smooth and buttery)
  • Baby Won’t You Please Come Home (I love the jolly interaction of the horns with the oom-pah of the bass)
  • Dinah, part 1 (great for Charleston)
  • Lunceford Special (a nice fast tune)
  • Blues in the Groove (another nice fast one with horns that will steamroll you)

Can you hear the “Lunceford Two-Beat” in any of the music?

Jimmie Lunceford – Harlem Shout