“We are a visual band,” said Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (BBVD) pianist Josh Levy, in a bit of an understatement, since the strut, swagger and sashay of this cool-cat swing band is a big part of their draw.
BBVD returns to Jazz in the Pines to once again parade down the aisle as headliners at the festival’s 18th iteration.
BBVD is a swing revival band, born of the renaissance of swing in the 1990s. But unlike many that have faded, BBVD and its musical and performance panache have come to dominate the category of bands you have to both see and hear.
“We’re a storytelling band,” said Levy and there’s a lot of storytelling when BBVD takes the stage and literally tips their hats to their progenitors.
Levy has local roots. His mother, Jane, is one of the premier group of Tahquitz climbing icons from the late 1950s and early 1960s and lives now in Idyllwild. Levy and his sister were ISOMATA (Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts) summer students and Levy attended the first music camp at Buckhorn. He participated in jazz workshops at Idyllwild Arts in the late 1980s.
“It was pretty mind-blowing as a kid sitting in front of a big band during those summers,” he remembered, “and hearing the wonderful sounds of musicians practicing deep in the woods.”
Levy has been part of BBVD for 15 years since he got a call from childhood friend and now band mate Glen “The Kid” Marhevka whom he had met as a student in honor bands in the 1980s. “It’s been an incredible ride,” said Levy.
BBVD’s ride began in Ventura, Calif., when Scotty Morris (lead vocals and guitar) and Kurt Sodergren (drums and percussion), the band’s two original members, formed what would become the seven-man (nine when touring) swing revival band known as “America’s favorite little big band.”
The band got its name after Morris met blues guitar legend Albert Collins at a concert. According to the story, Collins signed Morris’ poster “To Scotty, the big bad voodoo daddy,” and a band, a style and a look were born.
BBVD has appeared for three U.S. presidents, is a staple on the concert scene, appears at bowl half-time shows, in the movie “Swingers” (as themselves), with major U.S. symphony orchestras and on television (notably the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Dancing with the Stars”).
Their most recent CD, “How Big Can You Get? The Music of Cab Calloway,” was released in 2009. They are recording their twelfth CD this year.
You may not need seats for their Holmes Amphitheater appearance, since you may be on your feet for most of their set. Be there or be square.