Have a swinging good time

During the neo-swing revival of the late ’90s and early 2000s, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy stood out because they revived nothing.

They created swing anew.

“That’s one of the biggest things about the band is it’s mostly original music,” trumpeted Glen “The Kid” Marhevka, who plays horn for the group. The band will join the Augusta Symphony on stage at the Bell Auditorium.

During the revival, when swing bands numbered a dime a dozen and lined the streets of certain cities, there were great musicians following the trend. But BBVD were the ones ahead of it, creating it and writing new music to engage their audiences.

“I think that’s why we’ve had the success we’ve had, along with the drive of the members,” Marhevka said.

The band originally formed in Los Angeles in 1989, and Marhevka joined a year and a half later. The members focused on swing from the ’40s and ’50s and played clubs and lounges, like the legendary Brown Derby in Hollywood, where they enjoyed a regular Wednesday night gig. They slogged away through two CD releases on their own label, and an appearance in the 1996 cult comedy “Swingers.” After that, the “Vegas, baby, Vegas” odds were on them to lead the new trend.

Gap featured swing in its now-legendary ad for their khakis. Grunge angst looked like a lot less fun next to those hip-swinging hipsters. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy brought their sleek horns and up-tempo arrangements to dance floors across the nation.

But jazz fans are a die-hard bunch, and swing has never lost its core audience. That there are still bands out there writing and producing original, fun, up-tempo music like BBVD’s “You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three” and “Mr. Pinstripe Suit” keeps their fingers snapping. They’ve created original music for movie soundtracks and are one of the most in-demand jazz groups in the business, playing with symphonies all over the world.

And they’ve never stopped writing original music. Right now, Marhevka said that the band is in the studio working on a Cab Calloway tribute album. Calloway would have turned 100 this past holiday season, and he was a big inspiration for the band.

“We’ve been doing one of his songs, ‘Minnie the Moocher,’” he said. “We’ve done that almost every night for close to 15 years now.”

Marhevka is not exaggerating. The band’s work ethic and constant touring are two of the reasons they’ve been so successful. He said that right now they’re home for a day or two at a time, one of which is usually spent in the studio.

But touring is where they’ve found their niche, and they don’t plan on giving it up any time soon.

“I think this band excels live. You put this band on the stage in front of anybody,” Marhevka said. “I don’t care what style of music they like or whether they’ve heard of us or not. They will love it by the end of the show.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy w/ the Augusta Symphony Orchestra
Bell Auditorium
Thursday, April 17
7:30 p.m.
$20-$45
706-826-4705
augustasymphony.org

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