Long before David Lee Roth’s Banshee scream, before Elvis and his pelvis and before Sinatra and his Jack, swing musicians were the decadent kings of cool. With the waning hours of 2017 winnowing away, the auditorium of the Fred Kavli theater swells with a mature crowd, eager to ring in the new year with a jazzy flare. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the swing/jazz band with rock n’ roll attitude, help to usher in 2018 as well as a milestone 25th year as a band.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was formed in Ventura, California in 1993. In the ensuing 24 years, they have toured the world spreading their current brand of classic jazz, swing and dixieland music to the masses. On an evening underscored by new beginnings, seems like a blast from the past. These throwbacks to the 30’s and 40’s run through a set of original and classic numbers in a two-part set that contains a brief 20 minute intermission.
Primary vocalist, guitar and banjo player, Scotty Morris at one point introduces three songs from their new album, Louie, Louie, Louie, which is inspired by three of their favorite musicians, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima and Louis Jordan. Being the end of the Christmas season, there are a few holiday numbers thrown in, Merry Christmas Baby, Mr. Heatmeiser and You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, the last of which has stand up bass player, Dirk Shumaker bellowing out the lead vocals. Kurt Sodergren, the band’s drummer thumps out solid swing and jazz beats throughout the show.
The horn section of the group makes up more than half of the ensemble. Andy Rowley is the baritone saxophonist. Glen “The Kid” Marhevka and Mitchell Cooper share trumpet duties. Karl Hunter plays saxophone and clarinet. Alex Henderson handles the slide trombone. Each member of the horn section gets to thrill the crowd at the front of the stage for solos. The last member of the troupe, pianist Joshua Levy adds harmony to the music and gets a good view of the show, as he plays facing the other performers.
Morris elicits the room’s help with some sing-along to “Hi-dee, hi-dee, hi-dee, hi’s”, etc. on Minnie the Moocher. Near the end of the set, the swingin’ cats thrill the audience with I Want to Be Like You, from Disney’s animated The Jungle Book, also originally sung by Louis Prima. The sound in the auditorium is top-notch and very conducive to the enjoyment of this brand of music. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy turns in a pleasant performance nearing almost two hours, and sends the crowd out into the foggy evening to finish out their new year’s celebrations.
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