Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will cast its holiday spell at the Eccles Center
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will get its mojo working with some holiday cheer to Park City when it returns to the Eccles Center Wednesday night.
“We’ll play our holiday show,” said drummer Kurt Sodergren during a phone interview from Crested Butte, Colorado. “We’ll play selection from our two Christmas records, but also play songs from our new record ‘Louie, Louie Louie’ as well as some songs from our career.”
The two Christmas albums Sodergren referred to are the 2004 release “Everything You Want for Christmas,” and “It Feels Like Christmas Time” from 2013.
The two albums couldn’t be more different, he said.
“The first one is us blasting out some Christmas songs,” Sodergren said. “When it came time to make our first Christmas album, we were almost unanimous in recording ‘Mr. Heatmiser’ from the TV special ‘The Year Without a Santa Claus’ because we had all watched that claymation show when we were kids. And then of course, you have Elvis Presley with ‘Blue Christmas.’”
When it came time to record “It Feels Like Christmas Time,” the band had grown musically.
“There was a maturity there, and we decided to do songs that had better arrangements to them,” Sodergren said. “That’s the beauty of these songs. We can play ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town’ or ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and mix it up. We’re able to put our stamp on all of these songs and that makes them fun to play.”
Last summer, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy released its 11th studio album, “Louie Louie Louie,” its tribute to jazz pioneers Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan and Louis Prima.
In the same vein of the 2009 album, “How Big Can You Get: The Music of Cab Calloway,” the new release is designed to pay homage to some of the band’s biggest influences.
“When we started playing as a band we didn’t have a lot of music,” Sodergren said. “So when we began getting booked to play weddings and parties, our 45-minute set wasn’t enough to round out a full night where people wanted us to play three 45-minute sets.”
So Big Bad Voodoo Daddy raided the catalog of Calloway, Armstrong, Jordan and Prima for more material.
When it came time to record a new album, bandleader and singer Scotty Morris decided to make and album that recognized these three Louies.
“Scott had an idea, and everyone in the band had songs they wanted to cover,” Sodergren said. “So there was a lot of throwing out songs here and there.”
The band agreed to record well-known songs as well as some that were more obscure.
“While we don’t consider ourselves a cover band per se, this became a great excuse for us to play those songs again,” Sodergren said. “I know there are people who know Louis Armstrong, but there may not be as many who know Louis Jordan and the big impact he had on rock ‘n’ roll. And if you’ve never been to Vegas, you might not be as familiar with Louis Prima.”
The drummer was especially excited to play some Armstrong works so he could play the drumlins made famous by his idols Warren “Baby” Dobbs and Danny Barcelona.
“I’m partial to the New Orleans jazz drumming, so I was stoked to know that we were going to do Louis Armstrong as well,” he said.
The band recorded the album last year.
“We wanted to find a balance of staying true to the original songs, but add our own Big Bad Voodoo Daddy flair,” Sodergren said.
That meant playing the songs with a punk-rock attitude.
“When we started as a band, it was just Scott and me,” Sodergren said. “He played his Fender Strat through a loud amplifier, and as the band grew, we began playing blues and roots music with some (Jimi) Hendrix and Tom Waits.”
One day, Morris decided to play some swing.
“But he kept his Strat and loud amp, so I kept my earplugs in,” Sodergren chuckled. “We still had the power and volume, but played swing music.”
The band, which helped usher in the big-band swing revival during the late 1990s, began refining its sound with the help of pianist and arranger Joshua Levy.
“That’s when Scott started playing a hollow-body guitar and we brought the volume down a bit,” Sodergren said. “We still have that power and energy, but we’re not as bombastic as we used to be.”
After early 30 years of performing with Morris, Sodergren is still learning how to play the drums.
“When we decided to play swing, I began private lessons, because this isn’t a type of music you can just wing, unless you’re super talented, which I’m not,” Sodergren said. “So really, this band has been my master class. And I’m grateful that Scott has allowed me to hold on to my crazier elements, because I love John Bonham.”
Sodergren is looking forward to Wednesday night’s concert.
“Park City is one of our favorite places to play, and I’m bummed we can’t spend more time there,” he said. “We have to leave that night because we have another show the next day.”
Park City Institute will present Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, which was instrumental in the swing band revival of the 1990s, will bring its Christmas concert to Park City. Tickets range from $29 to $79 and are available by visiting tickets.parkcity.institute.
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