Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: How Big Can You Get? A Tribute to Cab Calloway

You’ve got to give Big Bad Voodoo Daddy credit for having enough chutzpah to dedicate an entire album to the repertoire of a legend like Cab Calloway – and for tracking the whole thing live on vintage gear – but it’s a well-known musical maxim that you needn’t bother cutting a cover unless you’ve got something new to add, and that goes double for someone whose songs have been bought, sold, covered, and compiled as often as Calloway’s. As a result, How Big Can You Get? is about as thoroughly inessential as you can get – it’s impeccably performed, and adds a dash of modern production sparkle to a stack of well-worn tunes that includes “Jumpin’ Jive” and “Minnie the Moocher,” but it lacks the heat and spice of the original recordings, and anyway, there’s no reason to spend money on relatively faithful interpretations of Calloway’s songs when plenty of compilations and reissues are available for a minimal investment. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy remains as likable as ever on these recordings, even if lead singer Scotty Morris doesn’t do himself any favors by encouraging comparisons to Calloway, and fans of the band should be consistently entertained. As a gateway to Calloway’s world, however, it’s not worth opening. (Vanguard 2009)

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