Steve Lucky has never been the kind of pianist who sits when he plays: A video from 1984, featuring Lucky with his former nuvo-swing band, The Blue Front Persuaders, reveals a lot of charismatic body-moving once he gets going on the piano.
Thirty years later, now fronting Steve Lucky & The Rhumba Bums (featuring Carmen Getit), his performances are just as athletically demanding. He evokes an energy similar to piano-rock icons like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.
The six-piece jump-jive retro swing outfit (think Big Bad Voodoo Daddies and Brian Setzer Orchestra) has been doing their thing since 1993. And though they’ve released albums regularly over the years – they’re currently working on a new record and shooting for a May release – they’d rather be on stage, where they can stretch out and give a multi-sensory experience beyond the music.
“Performing for people is really where my heart is,” he says. “Besides being musicians, we’re entertainers in the same way Cab Calloway entertained, dancing and singing our hearts out every night.”
When the group rips through rollicking sets that feature staples like T Bone Walker’s “Bye Bye Baby,” Lucky glides upstage and downstage, moving side-to-side and utilizing every key spanning the length of the piano. Between songs, Lucky keeps up back-and-forth banter with audience members.
There’s also a secret weapon that gives SLATRB shows an exponential boost in the entertainment department: Co-bandleader Carmen Getit – who joined the band in 1994 – is a tornado of exuberance. She summons the spirit of T-Bone Walker on guitar and a mix of Julie London and Lena Horne on vocals.
Lucky’s swing revivalist original “Jumptown” features vocal interplay between he and Getit, giving the already-inviting song a theatrical dimension.
“[Getit] has helped us from being just another band to becoming double trouble,” Lucky says.
No two performances are the same.
“If we’re playing for a swing dancer crowd we can’t put on the kind of show that we will for a sit-down concert audience,” Lucky explains. “Swing dancers want [long] uninterrupted songs.”
Since Sunset Center’s Studio 105 Cabaret has sit-down seating and a dance floor, Lucky says they have a mix planned for their show tonight and Friday, even though everyone’s jumping out of their seats by the end of the show anyway.
STEVE LUCKY & THE RHUMBA BUMS featuring Carmen Getit perform 8pm Thursday, Feb. 27 and Friday, Feb. 28, at Sunset Center’s Studio 105 Cabaret, San Carlos and Ninth, Carmel. $35; $49; $79. 620-2048.