‘That stuff is way downtown': Is Van Halen’s David Lee Roth set to front the Duke Ellington Big Band?

Van Halen fans are rightly thrilled with the news that David Lee Roth is retaking the road after Eddie Van Halen’s recent health scares. But that’s not the only band he’ll apparently be fronting in 2013.

“I’m going to be playing, probably this November, the 25th anniversary of the Blue Note in Tokyo with a big band,” Roth tells Jay Mohr as part of his FakeMustache.com podcast. “The Duke Ellington Big Band just called recently to see if I wanted to play with them. That stuff is way downtown. There’s some dirt under the fingernails, if you do that kind of music right.”

Roth’s seemingly incongruent love affair with swing, big band and jump music first became obvious to a wider audience with the release in 1985 of his solo take on the Louis Prima-sung 1956 chestnut “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” — which went to No. 12 and helped usher Roth into a solo career. He later recorded a covers-dominated album in 2003 called Diamond Dave that featured a few big band-ish charts like the one below.

Roth wouldn’t record another original album with the arena-filling Van Halen until last year’s comeback A Different Kind of Truth. Still, even today, Roth has no trouble making a connection between the two seemingly disparate genres.

“Big band is the original hard rock,” Roth adds. “You know, they load up on those low saxophones — they load up on all the baritones. You can feel the boom in the room. If you look at your beer glass, it’s making those little circles that start in the center. You could feel that in your stomach. The hips don’t lie!”

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