The next time you attend a wedding reception, do this informal poll: Watch the action out on the dance floor and notice what makes people dance. Some folks will only get their backfields in motion to oldies but goodies, while the younger crowd may not move a toe unless a record was released within the last year. In other words, dance music is a highly relative term. Zupe didn’t need to spy on every neighborhood wedding reception, however, to gather this insight. Instead, he knew it instinctively. This is why his CD Dance is filled with so much variety. He knows the phrase, ‘Different strokes, for different folks,’ particularly holds true when it comes to making music that causes people move their feet.
This disc’s variety can be starkly different, even from track to track. “Solamente La Samba”, for instance, is a hot little number, especially notable for its spicy trumpet work. Yet “Magnolia”, which follows directly after it, is a sweet ‘n soft country ballad, colored with twang-y guitar and empathetic fiddle. Getting back to our wedding reception analogy, the dance crowds would be completely different for each of these singled-out selections. By the way, country musical elements also enter into the picture once again with the descriptively titled “Saturday Night Honky Tonk”, which closes out this release. Hey, rednecks like to dance, too!
Zupe spells out his stylistic intentions many times throughout this work. To the point, mambo dancing is strongly suggested with “Martinique Mambo”, whereas the samba is at the forefront of “Solamente Samba”. And one of the truly fun songs on this CD is “Indiscreet Tango”, which is guided by gypsy accordion playing, as well as similarly plunked piano. While much of this music is beat heavy – you can’t get a whole lot of action out on the dance floor without a solid beat – there are also slower tunes, as well. After all, folks need to slow dance, too. “Dreamland” is a good example of a big band down tempo dance song. With its warm trumpet work, it sounds like something out of a post World War Two dancehall.
In a few places, Zupe has put the word “dance” right into his songs, which is not at all uncommon with dance music. The CD opens with “Let’s Dance”, which features a laid back vocal. “Dance with Me”, on the other hand, sports much more insistent singing. When the words, “dance with me” are sung during its chorus, this is a demand, not a request. The song is a lusty little Latin number, which brings the music of Ricky Martin to mind.
With the popularity of TV’s Dancing with the Stars, partner dancing has made a roaring comeback. And that’s a good thing, because, dancing has always played an important role in the human courting process. With Dance, Zupe has given us an extensive reminder of the great variety that exists in the world of dance. For those that are already accomplished dancers, this recording will give you plenty of sounds to practice to. But even if you have two left feet, you’ll still enjoy these tracks because there are no two alike. Furthermore, the musicianship is topnotch. An ability to switch from country music to Latin dance is not a skill shared by all players, yet Zupe has gathered together a troupe that can seemingly do it all.
If Zupe were to play the next wedding reception you attended, chances are good he would get an accurate read on the crowd and only play songs that kept the majority of celebrants on the dance floor. Sadly, dance music – to the ears of many music critics – is sometimes disrespected the way comedies are looked down upon by the Oscars. But just as being funny is not always as easy as it looks, creating dance music that makes people want to get up immediately and move can be extremely hard work. So give Zupe a little respect because he makes dance music look easy here.
Review by Dan MacIntosh