Review by Dorothy Parvaz
Photography by Michael LaRivière
Kickin' off the night were the Jazzmanian Devils, who, if nothing else, provided and opportunity for them swing kids to dance a bit before the club got entirely too packed to do so (and before the bouncers got bored with pestering everyone at the door and decided to move on into the club to bully the crowd -- as if a bunch of kids in zoot suits and swingy dresses were poised to cause any sort of damage).
The trippiest thing about the JD's was their frontman, Dennis Mills, who sort has the demeanor of a freak-circus ringmaster. Other than that, the Jazzmanian Devils weren't bad, they just didn't have much oomph. They had a tidy little jive sound (emphasis on little, especially when it came to the drums...), but they weren't too engaging.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy were the main attraction of the night. Die-hard fans swapped stories of the last time BBVD were in town, who was there for the show, who wasn't and what they had to go through to get tickets to this show. By the time BBVD came on stage, the floor was packed and hopping, and by hopping, I don't mean like the Lindy... I mean like a pogo stick. There was no room to twirl and jitterbug, which explains why even the tiny open spaces near the bathroom and the grill upstairs were hot-spots for dancing couples -- there was nowhere else to go.
Frontman Scotty Morris didn't stop smiling once. It was as though someone had just told him he'd won a million bucks... what a smooth-singing, sharp-looking fella. Then again, what did he have to be pouty about? The crowd was so fully into every note and every gesture that, let's face it, BBVD could do no wrong, and they didn't. They just went supernova on stage, and the audience followed suit when they burst into "You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)."
The drums were just so. Perfect. And there's just something about the upright bass. Played right, it can do things to a person, and let's just say Dirk Shumaker played it right.
We got treated to an extended version of "Jump with My Baby" on account of this loco sax solo and band members just having a blast on stage. Sweet Jesus, what a horn section. Every kid who even thinks of dropping out of the high school band should check out Karl Hunter on the sax and Glen 'The Kid' Marhevka on the trumpet -- these guys are fierce. They blew the lid right off the joint. So stick with the brass kids... you never know.
Other than out and out setting the place on fire with their huge sound, the thing that sets BBVD apart from other young swing bands it that they don't just play dress-up and belt out some old tunes; these guys are the genuine article. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are pure class... there wasn't a single slip-up, not a cuss word, not a scowl, nothing but smiles, energy and amazing musicianship.
As further proof that they're first class all the way, baby, BBVD's dedicated their encore to the memory of Frank Sinatra, with Golden Slide (aka baritone saxophonist Andy 'Luscious' Rowly) singing that old Austin-Jordan tune, "Is You Is, or Is You Ain't My Baby."
They closed with "Go Daddy-O" (with a touch of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" tucked in the mid-flow), which brought the evening's cover count to a whopping three (including Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" and Louis Prima's "I Wanna Be Like You," from the Jungle Book).
Christ, what was your excuse for missing this show?
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