LIVE: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Swings through Troy with Holiday Spirit 12/12/2019

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Big Bad Voodoo Daddy delighted fans at the appropriately historic Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Thursday, December 12th with their 1930s sounding holiday concert filled with blazing brass, sizzling sax, and cool cat attitudes as they sang favorite Christmas music. Fans grooved along in their seats, many of whom were dressed in clothes from swing music’s heyday.

Opening with “Rockabilly Christmas,” the band initially struggled to find some balance between vocals and the very strong brass section. But once those few unbalanced moments were worked out by the sound technician, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy hit their stride. The nine men dressed in suits and ties slid into “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” with a brassy and joyful sound.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

With a sly sense of humor, including a twinkle in the eye and witty intro to Rudolph (“Pretty sure you know who we’re talking about”), the band was scorching through the set with a nostalgic sound.

The band played a number of their fan’s non holiday favorites, too, like “You, Me, and The Bottle Make Three” and “Go Daddy-o” interspersed between “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” “The Grinch,” and a hilarious version of “Old McDonald.”

In a quieter mood, the band offered a beautiful rendition of “We Three Kings.” Juxtaposing the full brass sound with a quieter bluesy piano for the chorus, the music was a more somber reminder of the meaning behind the Christmas holiday. On the soaring second chorus where percussion was joined by the brass, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy demonstrated they could do more than just have a good time: they had some tremendously talented musicians on board.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Band members have been performing together since the start of their careers. Scotty Morris (lead vocals and guitar), Kurt Sodergren (drums and percussion), Dirk Shumaker (double bass and vocals), Andy Rowley (baritone saxophone and vocals), Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet), Karl Hunter (saxophones and clarinet), and of course the indelible Joshua Levy (piano, arranger) have such a playful, joyful energy together. They also seem to greatly appreciate each other’s technique and sound, dancing around their music stands during each other’s solos and cheering each other on. When Scotty Morris talked about the band’s “handsome” men, they pointed to each other with a deadpan humility that reminded me of watching early television variety shows.

And while they all are tremendously talented, Karl Hunter’s sax solo and Benny Goodman style clarinet playing stood out as jaw dropping, as did Glen Marhevka’s excellent ear and breath control on the trumpet.

This band notably formed when Nirvana was on top of the charts, but was still brave enough to pursue swing music. They had some commercial success, even playing at the Super Bowl half time show in 1999, and have continued to play together since their start without a respite. Scheduled to perform their 300th concert in January, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has that rare combination of musical talent and modesty that feels reminiscent of earlier generations past.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

With humor and light hearted stories mixed in about the band’s history (they are an original swing band that has been together over 25 years) and band leader Scotty Morris’ loving stories of his daughter, the band truly reproduced the vibe of a 1930s concert. It was family centered, but still offered some opportunities to really jam and jive.

The band was having as much fun as the audience, laughing and taking the music lightly as well as calling and echoing with the audience, clearly loving the acoustics of the historic hall. They surely brought the Christmas spirit to Troy when they “swang” through. Don’t miss this show next time they blast through town. They are the rare band that lives up to the compliment that they truly are “The MOTTS.”

Photo Gallery by Jim Gilbert

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