Big bad jazz swings into town


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Daddy-Os, Lindy hops, and jingle bells meld into a collaborative swing extravaganza to rock Iowa City tonight.

The Holiday Party, which will start at 8 p.m. today at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., plans to showcase the talents of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and members of the UI Swing Dance Club.

Though the “party” will feature mostly swing-flavored traditional Christmas songs, the band expects to play a number of its original works. Admission ranges from $34 to $41.

Englert CEO Sean Fredericks said tickets are selling quickly.

“People started snapping up tickets in August when they went on sale,” he said. “There are really dedicated fans and people involved with swing. I think it will be a really busy performance.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has certainly been busy itself since getting its big break in the 1996 cult comedy film Swingers. The Southern California group has since built a dedicated fan base, and it continues to perform 150 shows annually. The band has also gained recognition through appearances on television programs, including the 1999 Super Bowl halftime show and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” earlier this year.

The band specializes in classic swing music, reminiscent of old-time big-band sounds. But the modern aspect of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s style remains its continuous creation of original songs, and the showy, danceable element of its music and live performances.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy trumpet player Glen “The Kid” Marhevka said the band’s energetic performances separate it from other swing bands.

“We do some cover songs, but we’re really known for doing our own original music,” he said. “It’s not your traditional 17-piece big band in which [the musicians] sit down — it’s more like a rock concert.”

Upon hearing about Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s Iowa City appearance, UI Swing Dance Club members were anxious to join in the excitement and jump on the Big Bad bandwagon. Fredericks said the club approached him about collaborating with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in August.

Club members will swing and dance both onstage and in the aisles tonight to encourage audience participation and create a party atmosphere.

Marhevka said he thinks the seasonal cheer will add to the show.

“I mean, the holiday time of year is just warmth,” he said. “I don’t know what people expect, but [Big Bad Voodoo Daddy] is just a really great show band. It’s not just about playing songs; it’s really an entertaining show to watch more than listen to.”

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