Swing for a Cause with Savoy Hop Cats

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that "charity to help at-risk Valley youth" swing.

Arizona's premier Lindy Hoppers, The Savoy Hop Cats, are hosting their second annual holiday event at the Hotel San Carlos on Monday, December 19. The Moonlight and Mistletoe Holiday Gala will benefit the Phoenix chapter of Heart for the City.

As if you needed an added incentive to dance the night away, the event is also a toy drive and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the charity.

Having performed for and hosted numerous events the dance duo, comprised of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Smalley, have become well-known in the Valley swing circuit for their high energy dance act, but it's always lacked one element; the backing of a solid swing band.

With the help of 2Tone Lizard King saxophone player, Jeremy Lappitt, that's no longer the case.

They commissioned Lappitt a few months ago to help assemble a band that could accompany them to gigs. The result is the Savoy Hop Cat's very own house band, The Savoy Swingdicate. They'll be providing the tunes on Monday as well as unveiling new lead vocalist, Holly Pyle.

Up on the Sun: How did Moonlight and Mistletoe come about?

Nathaniel Smalley: We did this last year, but it wasn't a charity, it was just our Holiday event then. There are a lot of people out there, especially children that really don't have much to look forward to this time of year. So we wanted to put something together that would basically, give back to the community in that way and would provide something special for those in need and what better demographic to do it with than children. We researched a lot of local charities in the area and although Heart for the City is a national charity, they have a local chapter here in the Valley and we thought it would be the best option for a toy drive.

What is the Savoy Swingdicate?

This is our new band that we built with the assistance of our band leader, Jeremy Lappitt. He's a recent graduate from the ASU Jazz School of Music. He has all the contacts in the jazz music scene here in the Valley to assemble really the best talent in the genre. He's helped us assemble a bunch of musicians who for the most part are faculty or are alumni from the Jazz School of Music. A lot of them teach at ASU and other junior colleges in the Valley, so it's a great line up of musicians.

They performed at our Café Le Swing event a couple of months ago and they got great reviews all around. One of the things we did at that event is that we put surveys out asking about the band, and we got tons of positive feedback. One of the things that people did request was that we added a vocalist so we spoke with Jeremy and did auditions at our house. We had about six or eight girls come over and audition for the position and we chose Holly Pyle. She has an incredibly strong voice, she's a beautiful girl and she has the pure sound that all the great female jazz vocalist of the past have always had as their trademark. She's relatively unknown in the Valley as far as performing and that's something we're really excited about because we kind of feel like we found a gem and this will give her a platform for people to see how talented she is. We're really excited that this is going to be her debut performance.

Why assemble a band?

We've been doing events in the Valley for two years now, and we've been dancing here four years. We've hosted so many different events and worked with so many different musicians and bands, really great guys, but we've always been lacking in having a really strong swing band that we could build our events around. Finally we started thinking about it and realized we know so many talented musicians in the Valley and that's how we got in touch with Jeremy.

We got together one night and talked about different types of music, songs and swing composers, and he shared his insights and we shared what we knew as dancers. That's one of the special things that we did with Jeremy. We took a really talented swing musician, got his input, gave ours, and really built the ultimate swing band for swing dancers.

This is the kind of thing where we're going to basically build this band into our events and dance gigs. And they're great musicians. That's something that's always been really important to us when we've made events because without the music there would be no dance.

So is there going to be a label signing and album release eventually or is this going to stay as a performance troupe?

Obviously we're in the baby, growth stages right now but we've sat down with Jeremy and Holly and talked about where this can go. In our minds it can go as far as everyone's effort. Our vision for it was conceived of on a small scale but our hopes for it are on a very large scale. So yeah sure, hopefully they can go perform at other places, maybe travel and make an album in a recording studio. The opportunity for them is so magnified because they're linked up with the Savoy Hop Cats and the sky's the limit as far as we're concerned.

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Anthony Sandoval
Contact: Anthony Sandoval