Don Dworkin is the bassist for Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers, that are about to finish their 3-month residency at the House of Blues and Jazz (60 Fuzhou Rd.). The Dixieland band hails originally from Albany, New York. They were joined in Shanghai by Juli Aymi, a clarinet player from Barcelona and Mako Ruan, who danced alongside the band until last week when she went back to Vancouver.
They’ll be putting out a live album in the future with her on the cover. In the meantime, they play every night from now until Sunday starting at 9:30pm. We sat down to talk to Dworkin about Shanghai, jazz and everything else.
How is Shanghai so far?
Shanghai has been an amazing life experience; the city is a fascinating blend of quaint old and vibrant new, dynamic and exciting every minute I’ve been here. Meeting the international clientele at the club has been the highlight: people from ALL over the world are there every night. Asia, the Americas, Europe, Russia, Middle East, Australia…you never know who you will meet or where they will be from. In general, that’s always my favorite thing about gigging overseas….that and the food.
How did you come to the House of Blues and Jazz?
A Blues musician band leader who plays here regularly, Mike Null of Boston, Mass., located us in an email search among musicians when he was asked by the club owner, Mr. Lin Dung Fu, to find a New Orleans music band. That (Mr. Lin later explained to us) was always his favorite form of Jazz growing up. One of Mike’s emails landed in the box of Ben Davis, musician son of Peter Davis, our banjo-guitarist. The rest, they say, is history.
When did Mako come and start dancing?
Mako heard through Facebook we were playing there, checked us out and decided she wanted to come meet us and dance with us after she finished her school term. She was originally from here and periodically visits friends, fellow dancers and family here. She has been a whirling dervish of swing dancing, perfectly complimenting our music with her inspired moves.
Your other musical project the Doc Scanlon Trio plays a lot of gypsy jazz, could you talk a little about what that is?
I have 4 other bands: The Doc Scanlon Trio & Quartet: Hot Jazz and Gypsy swing Doc Scanlon’s Pan Atlantic Swingsters: Swing and Blues, travels mostly in Europe about 3 times a year Doc Scanlon’s Rhythm Boys: the “mother band” that begat the rest, a swing, jump blues, Motown, rockabilly unit that has also toured to Russia and does high level concerts, parties and clubs, mostly in Upstate New York.
They are all Swing-derived, and value the American Jazz music of the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Fats Waller, george Gershwin, Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Cats and a Fiddle, Mills Brother, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong are just a few of our influences.
For those who don’t know the music, where are some good places to start with Dixieland jazz?
Louis Armstrong, Louis Armstrong, Louis Armstrong….of course many others, but it all emanates from his legacy.
Could you describe a little what Dixieland’s legacy is to the jazz world?
New Orleans Traditional Jazz, popularly known as Dixieland, was the first Jazz and all others come from it. It synthesized all the cultural mix happening in New Orleans in the early 1900’s from Europe, Africa, America and the Caribbean. All Jazz forms owe their emergence from that time, town and form of music.
How did you meet Juli and how did he end up coming here?
In 2007, I started playing in Europe by busking in the streets of Barcelona, Spain, met Juli in some jam sessions and became friends. When our regular guy couldn’t come, Juli enthusiastically agreed to, and fit right in. He’s an amazing musician, performer, personality and practical jokester. He really made this trip very enjoyable, and it was great getting to know him better. He is coming to the USA to play with us for 2 weeks this Summer too.
What I really liked about the shows was there were a stream of regulars like Mako. Has that happened over the course of the residency or were they regulars before?
There is a jam session every Sunday that has allowed us to meet wonderful local musicians like Yasushi (amazing harmonica player), Yuko (terrific singer) and Theo Croker, great trumpet player from the house band at the Peace Hotel among many others. Now people just stop by to sit in and we have a blast!
How did you begin in music?
I was smitten with this business from my high school days when I was asked to sub in a college jug band for their washtub bassist who had gone to Brazil. They were playing a big music festival in Toronto, Canada, and I had a magical time. I never in tended to pursue it as a way of making a living, but I got into a Bluegrass-Marx Brothers-influenced band as a college student and it just took off. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always been able to make my living from playing, booking and promoting music. I also produce concerts and book nightclubs in my home area….which may one day be Shanghai!!!