Swing music continues to hold its small but important place in American history.
It was the soundtrack of the World War II generation, a danceable form of jazz with band leaders whose names still are commonplace when discussing the history of American music. But it’s so much more.
Big band leaders were rock stars before there was rock, enticing audiences into a frenzy of dancing, jitterbugging around a dance floor to sounds provided by hot rhythm and even hotter horn sections. It remains an aggressive yet complicated style of music, with its popularity coming and going in waves, making new fans whenever a song or throwback band gets cleverly placed in a television show or on a film soundtrack.
One throwback band whose record sales have been boosted by television and film over the years is Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. A Super Bowl halftime show and the “Swingers” soundtrack found the band riding the unpredictable wave of popularity. Yet its solid fan base has remained stable.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will return to the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College on Monday for its annual holiday show. The Southern California-based swing band includes Scotty Morris on lead vocals and guitar, Kirt Sodergren on drums, Kirk Shumaker on bass and vocals, Andy Rowley on saxophone, Glen Marhevka on trumpet, Karl Hunter on sax and clarinet, and Joshua Levy on piano. While on tour, the band adds two more to its horn section: Tony Bonsera on trumpet and Alex Henderson on trombone.
The band formed in 1989, and its connection to a die-hard fan base is what has allowed the band to make a living playing a genre of music that’s appeal peaked in the 1940s.
“We’ve been playing nonstop, and we’ve built up a great base of people that like to come out and see the live show,” Marhevka said last week before heading out on tour. “They tell their friends and then other friends. That’s what the band is about more than anything.”
It also doesn’t hurt to push a product of which the creators are proud.
“We’ve become a great live band, and the band has become really seasoned with all the touring and playing we’ve done. It’s a great band to see live,” Marhevka said. “I’m not just saying that because I’m in the band, I really have seen the band grow over the years, and it’s been really fun to be a part of.”
For the holiday show, the band will dip into cuts off its 1997 holiday release, “Everything You Want for Christmas,” plus obscure Christmas classics such as a cut from the early 1960s stop-motion animation specials anybody born in the 20th century remembers, as well as some originals.
“Jazz and swing – it’s American music. It’s one of our national treasures,” Marhevka said. “We do a small slice, and it’s great to get out there and have people check it out live.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.