Frank Hatchett


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Sensational – that’s Frank Hatchett! These words can be found on many of the 16 albums credited to the legendary jazz dancer, choreographer, and teacher to the stars. At the height of his fame in the 1980s, Hatchett’s classes in New York City at the wildly popular Hines-Hatchett studio (now renamed the Broadway Dance Centre) attracted celebrities including Madonna, Brooke Shields, Olivia Newton-John, and Naomi Cambell. Though he hated flying, preferring to cruise in a Corvette from Massachusetts to Manhattan, each week saw Hatchett jet setting for classes and performances around the world. Despite his star power, Hatchett’s signature “Vop Style” emphasizing emotion and attitude over strict technique was made accessible to children, adults, and people from all walks of life. He was also known for forming personal bonds with his students through dance like Richard Simmons did with Sweatin’ to the Oldies, Hatchett’s role as a father figure inspired the nickname “Papa Frank,” while Good Morning America dubbed him “The Doctor of Jazz.”

Hatchett’s name and photos may appear on the sleeves of his records like Dance Crazy, Jazz Power, or Vop Style, but he is nowhere to be found in the music contained within. Instead, these albums dating back to 1974 were recorded by largely unknown studio players under the guidance of musical director Don Tipton or arranger Zane Mark. Performers include keyboardist Fred McFarlane (Madonna, Keith Sweat, Evelyn “Champagne” King), drummer Bernard Davis (Steve Winwood, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kool & The Gang), and actor Tamara Tunie, best known for her role as medical examiner Melinda Warner on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. “When I was playing with Frank it was easy to get musicians involved because all of the women at his studio were gorgeous,” remembers Tipton with a laugh. “Everyone came there because actors have to move, singers have to move, and dancers have to dance. Broadway performers have to be a triple threat, so Frank taught them too.” In the highlights compiled on this expansive double LP set, the sounds of Hatchett’s albums run the gamut from disco and funk in the 1970s to electro and proto-techno as they glide through the ’80s. Like many albums in the dance instruction genre, nearly one third of the songs are covers (Prince, Paul Hardcastle, Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Cobham) and most clock in at a brisk 2:30 – the ideal length for Hatchett’s classes or his students’ recital performances. Fans of library music will find a similar focus on immaculate performances, while the tightly coiled drum breaks, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and thumping 808s will send rare groove collectors into a state of head nodding bliss. At the core of jazz dance is the interpretation of the music. It is my obligation to the musician to express what he feels when he’s playing. The interpretation all boils down to the relationship between the movement and the music.” Frank Hatchett

The albums bearing Hatchett’s name may seem like an unusual addition to this stack of cultural ephemera, but they are actually a common occurrence in the strange world of dance instruction records.

DJ and Hatchett superfan Jeffrey Chamiec explains how Statler Records and its various sub-labels pressed many similar titles for instructors like Joe Tremaine or Lynda Gache. Broadway dancer Ronn Forella’s 1975 album ...Moves! is considered a Holy Grail of this hyper-niche genre. “The labels these Frank Hatchett records are on have albums featuring everything from tap dance to ballet, foxtrot, and swing,” explains Chamiec. “Sometimes they’ll have one amazing track like you’ll find on each of Frank’s records, but it’s one in a million.” While these albums were initially made to be purchased in bulk by dance schools, they have found a second life many years later among collectors of the obscure. “When you find dance instruction records you’ll often see titles like ‘4/4 medley’ or ‘2/4 medley,’”

After decades of making music for Hatchett’s albums, Tipton stopped playing at his classes. He briefly returned to perform live in 2009, but would soon learn his friend was suffering from a brain aneurysm. In his final years, Hatchett headed back to Springfield for a quiet life with his family before passing away in 2013. Though he is no longer here to share his Vop Style with the world, Hatchett’s spirit lives on in a collection of music that can only be described in one word, Sensational. Jesse Locke

This compilation has been thoughtfully assembled, restored and remastered for the highest fidelity possible. Master tapes do not exist and occasionally artifacts from the 40 + year old source materials have forever attached themselves to the incredibly deep grooves contained within.

  1. “6/8” - From Galaxy
  2. “Which Way Is Up” written by Starguard - from Galaxy
  3. “Rainforest” written by Paul Hardcastle - from Vop Style
  4. “For The Love In You” written by Shalamar - from Body Shots
  5. “C.C.D” - from Jazz Technique
  6. “Dance Crazy” - From Dance Crazy
  7. “Just Dance” - from video / tape cassette
  8. “Holly Rock” written by Prince - from Dance Crazy
  9. “Break Out” - from I’ve Got It
  10. “Getaway” written by Salsoul Orchestra - from Get Up And Dance
  11. “Wishing On A Star” written by Rose Royce - from Galaxy
  12. “Sam’s Tune” - from Body Shots
  13. “Malibu Nites” - from video / tape cassette
  14. “Music Is The Answer” - Dance Crazy
  15. “A Message From Kenya” - from Afro-Cuban Drums (Jungle Drums Vol 2)
  16. “Shamballa” - from Body Shots
  17. “We Supply” written by Stanley Clarke - from Taking Off
  18. “The Men” from Spirit Free And New Horizons
  19. “Flashy Super Groove”- from Galaxy
  20. “Stratus” written by Billy Cobham - from Soul Jazz
  21. “Oh Yes” - from Vop Style
  22. “Inspiration” - from video / tape cassette