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Who’s your Daddy?

Kimberly Nicoletti

KEYSTONE – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy casts a spell on audiences with its swinging style of 1920s to early ’70s music.

“It’s one of the wildest, most entertaining shows I know,” singer and songwriter Scotty Morris said. “The band plays hard every time.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy helped revive the swing scene, contributing original music for the hit film “Swingers.” Since then, it has played at the 1999 Super Bowl halftime show, performed four songs in an episode of “Ally McBeal” and played at premieres for “The Godfather,” “Titanic” and “As Good as It Gets.”

“We try to blend all styles of American music,” Morris said. “By all definition, we are a swing band, but to see us live is really to see the band at its full potential. We have so many different influences, it’d be an injustice to say we’re only a swing band.”

The band blends Latin, jazz, rhythm-and-blues and swing music into a wild, fire-in-your-belly bash. To keep the sound fresh, Morris adds a rock ‘n’ roll influence to his songwriting.

“It’s the rule-breaking attitude of rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “That songwriting form has definitely sunken in. I’m constantly trying to find something new in the music and in my songwriting.”

He’s also inspired by touring and the people, places and things he encounters. Lately, he’s edged in an early New Orleans jazz style after spending time in the Big Easy.

The seven-piece band dubbed its name in 1992 from Albert Collins, who signed an autograph to Morris “to the big bad voodoo daddy.” Morris had launched a three-piece swing combo in 1989, then developed a bigger sound, with more horns after adopting the new, bigger name.

“The audiences didn’t quite know what to think of five guys in suits and fedora hats, playing swing music with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude. I could tell we were off to a good start,” bassist Dirk Shumaker said.

Each band member seems to have been born with a natural dedication to music. Morris began picking off licks from Louie Armstrong tunes on the trumpet at age 4. Sax player Karl Hunter made noise on anything he could get his lips on from an early age. Sax player Andy Rowley used his first student loan to overhaul his horns and ended up living on Top Ramen and bagels that semester. Trumpet player Glen Marchevka played horns, even though the cool kids in school told him it wasn’t cool – until, of course, he joined cool bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Drummer Kurt Sodergren lives by the philosophy, “Always beat the crap out of a drumset.” Shumaker played the trombone until fourth grade, when a Beatles song drove him to play electric bass. Pianist Joshua Levy started playing the cello at age 5, but his mother steered him toward the piano when she realized he loved to bang on everything – pots, pans, bottles, cans, the cat and the piano.

Tickets are $17 and may be purchased by calling (800) 354-4FUN or by logging on to http://www.ticketswest.com.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

– When: 8 p.m. Saturday

– Where: Park Lane Pavilion, Keystone


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