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Jazz video shows you how to ‘Clap on the 2 and the 4’

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Ori Dagan JUAN PALACIO PHOTO
Ori Dagan JUAN PALACIO PHOTO

Not everyone knows how to clap to jazz, so singer Ori Dagan aims to show them how in his latest release, Clap on the 2 and the 4.

The video features Dagan singing his original composition while his friends and fans of all ages, some with their pets, dance and clap to the music.

The song is about feeling the swing rhythm of jazz. “In other forms of music, pop music and especially classical, when you clap to the beat, you clap on the one and three. In jazz, the emphasis is on the second and fourth beat,” he said.

While he was writing the song, he imagined Ella Fitzgerald singing it. Dagan taught himself the basics of scatting from listening to Fitzgerald. “Sometimes when I’m writing a song I try to imagine some of my inspirations singing it. This is one of the pieces where I could imagine Ella singing the song,” he said. “She probably had the greatest sense of swing in terms of singing with jazz feeling. To me, she is the reason I sing this music.”

In the video set in downtown Toronto, shots of Dagan singing and dancing, often surrounded by brightly coloured bits of animated text, are combined with footage of adults and children clapping and dancing, sometimes with birds, dogs and even a horse.

Aside from helping audiences find the rhythm of jazz, the video is also about how jazz brings audiences together, he said.

Once Dagan had the idea for his video, he contacted friends and fans from around the world and asked them to submit videos of themselves clapping and dancing to the song. “The kids and fans added their own take on it. Some of them were really creative, choreographing a dance,” he said.

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The video features two of Dagan’s well-known friends, Canadian fashion icon Jeanne Beker and one of his favourite singers, Alex Pangman, who claps along with her horse in a segment. At writing, the January 2016 release had more than 80,000 hits on YouTube.

Recorded with saxophonist Alison Young, pianist Scott Metcalfe, bassist Jordan O’Connor and drummer Lowell Whitty, Clap on the 2 and the 4 is the first original song Dagan has released as a single.

Until recently, Dagan, named the best jazz vocals winner at the 2015 Toronto Independent Music Awards, has been known mainly as a singer of other people’s songs rather than his own material. “I still love doing covers. But I think there’s a lot to be said for putting something new in the world,” he reflected. “There’s definitely something that compels me to be a songwriter, so that’s what I’m focusing on.”

Half of the tunes on Dagan’s upcoming third album, a tribute to Nat King Cole to be released this fall, will be Dagan’s originals, inspired by Cole’s life and legacy, while the other half will consist of tunes Cole made famous. “I’m in awe of the complete range of his musical talent,” Dagan said.

Along with songwriting, recording and performing, Dagan books some 40 jazz shows a month at the 120 Diner in downtown Toronto, and he writes a monthly column called Jazz in the Clubs for the music publication The Whole Note.

He’s on the faculty of the Summer Institute for Creative Adults, with singers Micah Barnes, Adreana Braun, Shannon Butcher and other artists. The institute holds a five-day summer vocal camp for adults at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre.

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“I absolutely love teaching people about jazz singing,” Dagan said. “I had a class where I was teaching senior citizens to sing the blues. It brought so much joy to people and it really stayed with me, so I’m really excited to be back at the JCC in July.”

Clap on the 2 and the 4 will be screened at 6:15 p.m. on March 17 at the Toronto Short Film Festival at the Carlton Cinema.