After more than two decades of songs and swing, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is putting on the brakes.
Don't take that as a sign that the long-standing West Coast band is slowing the pace of its vintage-flavored swing music or the performance drive that brings it to life onstage. It's just that after an especially active run of touring and the concurrent recording of three successive (yet distinct) albums, this Voodoo bunch is ready to decelerate modestly.
"I think right now we're just trying to regroup a little bit," said BBVD trumpeter Glen "The Kid" Marhevka. "We've been working really hard the last few years with the last three records and everything. But I think we're at a good place. We're retooling right now after taking a little bit of time off in April. Now we're trying to take things a little bit slower. Not that we were killing ourselves, but I think a break has put everybody in a good place."
The band's run of activity began in 2009 with How Big Can You Get?, a record devoted to the '40s-era swing of vocalist and band leader Cab Calloway. For Marhevka, the album was something of a full-circle project. In his youth, he got to see Calloway perform, but didn't gain a more scholarly appreciation for his music until adulthood.
"I was listening more to the '50s and '60s quintet sound — Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, that kind of thing. I heard Cab Calloway when my parents took me to hear him play. I remember that was such a great night to listen to his music. But when I got to be in my late teens and early 20s, I was more about progressive jazz.
"Still, once you learn how to swing and play jazz, it applies to all of those idioms, from the early 1900s all the way up to the modern day. Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, these were all things I listened to a little bit growing up but hadn't studied all that much at first. But it's all coming from the same place."
Next up was 2012's travelogue/time capsule album Rattle Them Bones, which traced jazz/swing history through Kansas City and New Orleans, winding up with a brassy rewrite of Randy Newman's Lonely at the Top. The record also allowed Marhevka to double as director for the quirky, campy music video that BBVD shot for Why Me?, an original swing piece written by band founder/vocalist Scotty Morris.
"We got all those vintage microphones together that a friend let me borrow. Then we got tons of instruments together — tubas, all kinds of stuff. And it was just a fun day. We just shot a bunch of cool, funny stuff. There were some great moments along the way, too, like when Scotty's fake mustache fell off. That totally captured a real moment. We wanted to make the video a little tongue-in-cheek but also a little arty."
Finally, there was 2013's It Feels Christmas Time, BBVD's third holiday recording. The band was to have showcased the record last December at the Lyric, but the performance was cancelled. While this week's Lyric return will focus on the entire BBVD catalog, except for holiday music, the band will be back to show off its seasonal sounds with a just-announced Christmas concert at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond on Dec. 12.
"It was nice to do the Christmas album that came out last year because we were able to add repertoire to the show," Marhevka said. "We usually go out with a Christmas program each year, so it was great to add some variety to the show — you know, take some tunes out and add some new stuff. It's all a pretty fun process."