in performance: big bad voodoo daddy

scotty morris, center, and big bad voodoo daddy.

Jazz winds from at least three different swing epicenters converged last night at the Lyric Theatre as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy plugged into the past for a sound that was vintage in design but wildly vigorous and immediate in execution.

From New Orleans came Devil’s Dance, a tune drenched in Dixieland. Rhythmic strains of banjo and percussion drove the tune while buoyant exchanges between trombone and trumpet set the mood. But as was the case for the entire 10-song set performed for the 700th taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, the key to the tune’s musical jubilation was the placement of leader/founder Scotty Morris’ lightly animated vocals over the pure glee of the Voodoo Daddy’s five-man horn team.

The program then shifted to Harlem for the big beat rumble and joyous stroll of the Cab Calloway gem Reefer Man. Perhaps more than any tune in the set – even the solemn Calloway medley of Minnie the Moocher and The Ghost of Smokey Joe the band opened with – Reefer Man revealed a love of performing that has only intensified over Voodoo Daddy’s 20 year history.

But the inspiration that seemed to gush out most readily out of the band’s music hailed from Kansas City, from the fat, brassy sass and jovial group chorus of Let It Roll Again to the car chase tempo, round robin solos and dizzying arrangement of 5-10-15 Times. Both tunes were part of a six-song segment devoted to the newest Voodoo Daddy album, Rattle Them Bones.

Being a WoodSongs taping, this wasn’t perhaps the optimal environment to hear this kind of ensemble. Morris’ vocals took a beating from the sound mix, as did some of the tastier keyboard support of band arranger Joshua Levy and the deeper extremes of Andy Rowley’s baritone sax work. But saxophonist/clarinetist Karl Hunter sounded like a cool million, especially in the beefy tenor lead that propelled the encore version of Go Daddy-O.

As brief and sonically compromised as the show was, a glowing sense of purpose still pervaded – one that unified the jazz spirits that thrived ages ago in cities scattered all over the country into a single, remarkably vital performance voice. And that, my friend, constituted some serious voodoo.

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