By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Review: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida–December 13, 2020
This has been a very odd year with concerts rescheduled and canceled due to the pandemic. Many people will not be traveling to see loved ones for the holidays this year. Vacations will be postponed. One bit of holiday cheer came to Clearwater, Florida, last night in the form of a holiday show featuring renowned swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (BBVD). Yes, Clearwater, there is a Santa Claus!
Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida, has been featuring social distancing concerts under strict guidelines with limited seating, air purification systems, and non-touch ticketing and beverage ordering. Please see our in-depth article from last week regarding all the changes at the venue.
The mostly mature crowd was spaced apart and everybody—yes, everybody—was wearing a mask. Another joy was to see the crowd tuck away their cell phones during the concert (a plus for the evening).
Scotty Morris was on stage center front, holding his Gibson guitar, and wearing a trademark suit and hat. Kurt Sodergren (drummer) sat neatly tucked behind glass at the rear of the stage while Dirk Shumaker (bass), stood on a platform to the side. The mighty brass section consisted of Andy Rowley (baritone sax), Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet), Karl Hunter (sax), Alex Henderson (trombone), and Mitchell Cooper (trumpet). Joshua Levy sat behind a gorgeous grand piano.
BBVD began the evening with some traditional holiday favorites like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, a brass version of “We Three Kings”, and the very bluesy “Merry Christmas, Baby”, which highlighted the sax.
Being non-traditional, I was tickled to hear “Snow Miser/Heat Miser” from A Year Without a Santa Claus, with on full banjo and brass shuffle beat. Anybody who grew up in the 70s certainly remembers this infectious song. Another crowd-pleaser was “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)”, which featured a nice touch on the keys by Joshua Levy.
Morris spoke to the audience regarding the year 2020, saying “We have been together 28 years. We have performed 3,017 shows—800 shows a year for 28 years. We performed a lot of shows and then went to zero. It was depressing.” He described how he was sitting on the couch in his underwear, attempting to write music. He later invited the rest of the band over to sit in their underwear and play music together. Misery loves company.
Morris explained that his mood changed in the summer when he received a “call from Florida” asking if they “still had their holiday show going?”
He gladly answered, “Yes, we do!”
Showing much heartfelt gratitude, Morris said to the audience, “Thank you very much for doing this, my friend.”
For those that craved non-holiday music, BBVD treated the audience to the Cab Calloway classic “Jumpin’ Jive,” a very jazzy rendition of “Old McDonald”, a Dixieland-tinged tune “Zig Zaggity Woop Woop”, and super-swingin’ “Mr. Pinstripe Suit.”
The Latin lilt placed on “Winter Wonderland” warmed up spirits as did the spot-on version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
Overall, BBVD brought the holiday spirit last night to those lucky enough to attend the show in Clearwater, bringing a much needed diversion and a nice reprieve from life for good 90 minutes. Thanks, BBVD!