Interview with Paul Cosentino

DCLX Interviews Paul Cosentino of the Boilermaker Jazz Band!

Abigail Browning had a chance to banter with Paul Cosentino, bandleader of the Boilermaker Jazz Band about the Washington DC Lindy Exchange this April 19-21, 2013.  The BMJB will be playing at DCLX this year with Craig Gildner’s Blue Crescent Syncopators and Bria Skonberg’s Hot Five—all on the same stage! Registration opens January 15, 2013.

AB: What is the most important thing for a bandleader to remember at a gig for dancers like DCLX?

PC: When you play for a big event like DCLX you have to be ready with the energy. We play a lot of different types of events, so playing DCLX is certainly different than playing for a corporate event or wedding cocktail hour (those we call musical wallpaper). You have to have your energy level up to that of the dancers because you know they are all happy to be there and will be bringing it. You can’t let them down!

AB: Very true.  In some ways you are responsible for the chemistry and energy of the dancers.  Given that knowledge, the BMJB has been together for a long time.  How do you maintain your internal group chemistry?

PC: The chemistry has to be there with your personnel otherwise it cannot work. One bad apple spoils the bunch. I learned that lesson years ago when I was 20 years old and first started playing with George Gee. So I try to make sure that I have guys that get along, that want to be there, and that are also supremely talented. And guys that are willing to buy into my concept for the band. I also give them a lot of room to express themselves musically as well, so it works both ways. That’s what keeps it fresh. Plus a huge repertoire helps too so that you play different tunes all the time. Keeps everyone on their toes.

AB: If you could play with any musician, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

PC: That list could go on and on and on. But I think maybe the greatest would have been to play in Ellington’s band in the early 40’s. They had such an array of soloists it’s mind boggling, and the repertoire was very progressive. I think it is the most exciting big band ever, and I would love to steal a few of Barney Bigard’s clarinet solos!

AB: I would love to see that!  From your perspective up on the stage, why do you like playing at DCLX?

PC: DCLX is one of those exchanges where everyone is there to have a good time. People travel from around the corner and around the world to be there, and they expect great music- that is something DCLX has always been known for. The level of dancing is also very high. But if you give them what they need, the response is as enthusiastic as any event we have ever played. We feel the love. And it’s just a great relationship between the band and the DCLX dancers.

AB: How have live band trends changed over the years in the Lindy Hop and Bal world?

PC: I see more live bands now than ever before. Even for late nights, when it used to always be DJ’s. I think that is great, and it also shows that there are more bands out there now who play for dancers than there used to be, which is also good.

AB: As an extension, how has playing events like DCLX shaped your approach for playing for dancers?

PC: Playing for big events, when you know that there are a lot of great dancers in the room allows us to pull anything out of our bag that we want and we know that the dancers will be able to handle it. Sometimes when you play for dances at colleges, or for a less experienced scene, you have to be careful not to hurt them- don’t play anything that might throw them off, or that will clear the dance floor in terms of tempos. But at an event like DCLX, I think people are looking to have a great social experience, but are also looking for a challenging dancing experience. So merely playing a bunch of mid- tempo riff tunes that everyone has heard before is not going to cut it. You have to bring something fresh, fun, interesting and really push it and see where it goes!

Many thanks to Paul Cosentino for his thoughtful answers and perspective.  We hope to see you at DCLX this April!