Already the modern-day authority of swing style jazz music, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy made their name known to the populace in 1996 when the boys performed two hit songs, “You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three Tonight (Baby)” and “Go Daddy-O,” in the cult film classic, Swingers. Twelve years later, the Ventura locals continue to tour and record. And as for now, the guys are putting the bells and whistles on their tribute record to Cab Calloway, the godfather of scat-style singing. The seven-man band is very proud to have been invited to make the record, and frontman Scotty Morris touts it as their most focused and inspired recording to date. With the completion of this album under their Zoot suit belts, Morris believes the band will continue to move forward, creating records with even more pizzazz than the ones they’re already known for.
“Right now,” Morris commented, “we’re in the middle of finishing our new record. It’s a tribute to Cab Calloway. It’s going to be incredible; we’re really pleased and proud of it. : It’s probably our most noble record,” he continued. “We didn’t compromise anything: not quality, not sound, inspiration, or musicianship. We were approached last year to make this tribute record [and] we’ve always dreamed to do this, so for me it was a dream to do what I wanted to do. When the opportunity came, it was like a green light said, ‘Okay, just go do this.’ So last year we began working on these tunes.”
Because this was to be a tribute album, the boys approached the recording process differently than they have in the past. That difference lies in what T.S. Eliot would call “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” where the process of original creation is much different than the study of the greats who came before. “When you write your own music, your initial idea is your gut. Our attitude now is to really listen and make every single second of every single tune count,” Morris explained. So when it came time to pay tribute, they had to rely on much more than their guts-they had to listen, learn, and polish the songs that were originally written by and for Calloway. And they had their work cut out for them. “It’s the most focused record we’ve made. It spans from 1931 to 1948, a time when lots of history is covered. We’ve always touched on different styles, but with this record we focused and nailed the periods as best we could. This is the best of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. [This time period] is beyond a master clash of music. This was the prime of some of the best musicians from the time-this was their pop music. [Making this record] changed me as a musician,” Morris stated matter-of-factly.
When asked if there were other ways in which this recording stood out from the albums they’ve cut in the past, Morris chuckled a little and replied, “We’ve never made a record that sounds like the last, and we set the bar really high with this record. We have a whole lot to try and do for our next one. I’ve written a few things,” he continued, “and my ideas are much more clear. Our reference point is definitely bigger.”
They’re sure to play some of the new tracks on December 16, when the band takes to the Arlington Theatre, just north of their Ventura homestead. But Tuesday’s show is part of the band’s Christmas tour, and Morris concedes that seasonal songs will be the primary focus of the show. “It’s pretty much going to be an all-star set of our Christmas music, but we’ll play most of the sets from all our records. We’re really excited,” Morris mentioned, “because it’s our first hometown Christmas show in years.”
With such upbeat numbers, concertgoers might wonder where they’ll be able to get their swing on inside the historic Arlington, Santa Barbara’s beautiful (and seated) concert venue. “Well, there are so many different sides to what we play,” Morris pondered, “usually if there’s room to dance, people will. Dance floors get packed at our shows, and in theaters people will rush the stage and dance in the aisles. Depending on the venue, there’s a full scope to what people can expect.” This is something the big band leader attributes largely to their fanbase. “Our whole career has been a dream come true. Our following is strong-people don’t know us from the radio and movies, aside from the huge splash they made in the mid ’90s. We’re just a band; just music. It’s exactly what we want to be. We wanted to play music, and we didn’t care who was into swing when we got going. We were happy people weren’t really into it. We and our fans are into it.”
UCSB’s Arts & Lectures presents Big Bad Voodoo Daddy this Tuesday, December 16, at the Arlington Theatre at 8 p.m. For tickets and info, call 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.