in performance: big bad voodoo daddy

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Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Joshua Levy, left, Dirk Shumaker, Kurt Sodegren, Andy Rowley, Karl Hunter, Glen “The Kid” Marhevka and Scotty Morris. Photo by Don Miller.

Given the scholarly ease with which Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has navigated its career, it should come as little surprise that a similarly schooled confidence was applied to the band’s holiday concert last night at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond. But it took a seasonal program like this to underscore an attribute that has long defined the West Coast ensemble as much as its command of swing and jump blues styles, jazz-friendly instrumentation and inventive arrangements.

The secret ingredient, the catalyst that sparked the aforementioned finery, was as essential as it was simple – attitude.

From the time a backdrop was lowered behind the band depicting a winter landscape highlighted by a snowman with boxing gloves and a stogie, the performance’s light hearted but still very learned view of holiday music lit up like a Christmas tree. This was not a stoic, overly reverential celebration of the season, nor was a crassly sentimental one. Frontman/vocalist Scotty Morris, pianist/arranger Joshua Levy, an ultra flexible rhythm section and a five man horn team kept the mood fun and the music hot.

The bulk of the program was devoted to the primarily original tunes from 2004’s Everything You Want for Christmas album and the revamped staples that dominate 2013’s It Feels Like Christmas Time.

From the former came the show opening Rockabilly Christmas, a blues cool treatment of Merry Christmas Baby, the Mardi Gras groove-a-thon Mr. Heatmiser and a noir-style instrumental version of We Three Kings that placed the horn section front and center.

The newer recording favored more familiar tunes with riskier arrangements. That translated into a brass sass savvy Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, a hornless jazz quartet update of All I Want for Christmas (is My Two Front Teeth) and a wonderful rumba revision of Winter Wonderland funky enough to put Scrooge in a conga line.

There was also a brief smattering of non holiday fare (Diga Diga Do, Why Me and the band’s traditional show closer So Long, Farewell, Goodbye). But even the concert’s most prominent swing hit, Go Daddy-O, became Go Santa Claus for the evening to cement a program full of inviting seasonal fun.

Given the scholarly ease with which Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has navigated its career, it should come as little surprise that a similarly schooled confidence was applied to the band’s holiday concert last night at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond. But it took a seasonal program like this to underscore an attribute that has long defined the West Coast ensemble as much as its command of swing and jump blues styles, jazz-friendly instrumentation and inventive arrangements.

The secret ingredient, the catalyst that sparked the aforementioned finery, was as essential as it was simple – attitude.

From the time a backdrop was lowered behind the band depicting a winter landscape highlighted by a snowman with boxing gloves and a stogie, the performance’s light hearted but still very learned view of holiday music lit up like a Christmas tree. This was not a stoic, overly reverential celebration of the season, nor was a crassly sentimental one. Frontman/vocalist Scotty Morris, pianist/arranger Joshua Levy, an ultra flexible rhythm section and a five man horn team kept the mood fun and the music hot.

The bulk of the program was devoted to the primarily original tunes from 2004’s Everything You Want for Christmas album and the revamped staples that dominate 2013’s It Feels Like Christmas Time.

From the former came the show opening Rockabilly Christmas, a blues cool treatment of Merry Christmas Baby, the Mardi Gras groove-a-thon Mr. Heatmiser and a noir-style instrumental version of We Three Kings that placed the horn section front and center.

The newer recording favored more familiar tunes with riskier arrangements. That translated into a brass sass savvy Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, a hornless jazz quartet update of All I Want for Christmas (is My Two Front Teeth) and a wonderful rumba revision of Winter Wonderland funky enough to put Scrooge in a conga line.

There was also a brief smattering of non holiday fare (Diga Diga Do, Why Me and the band’s traditional show closer So Long, Farewell, Goodbye). But even the concert’s most prominent swing hit, Go Daddy-O, became Go Santa Claus for the evening to cement a program full of inviting seasonal fun.



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