The L.A. Big Daddy’s tandem consists of David E. Jackson on drums & percussion plus Matthew Bragg on bass. Both are industry veterans who have backed up artists like the late Sista Monica Parker, Vernon Garret, Garland Green, and Ernie Andrews. After years of playing for others, they decided the time had come to do a project of their own.
The duo enlisted the services of a large musical support group, with five guitarists including Craig T. Cooper. The keyboards and Hammond B3 organ are under the capable hands of Norman Williams and Tony Coleman. Horn players include Lee “Charles” Mitchell on baritone sax, Ira Bassett on trumpet, and Malcolm Robertson on trombone. The leaders were among the six people involved in the recording and mixing of the tracks laid down in four California recording studios plus an additional one in Mesquite, Texas.
While Jackson and Bragg handle some of the backing vocal parts, the lead vocals are covered by four notable singers. Three tracks feature a long-time star of the soul-blues circuit, Ernie Johnson. His gritty voice takes over on “Just For You,” testifying his love on a song he co-wrote. “Guitar” Jack Wargo supplies appropriate support over the riffing horn section. “Stoop On The Roof” is another Johnson original. Brenda Cadell’s spoken opening segment depicts a self-serving woman that is the source the singer’s mounting frustration. Things aren’t any better for Johnson on “Something’s Wrong With This Woman,” a spellbinding slow blues with Keith Anderson on tenor sax bringing things to a boil.
One of the other guitar players, Dwayne Watkins, steps in on four tracks, starting with “A Brighter Day,” a punchy cut that reminds listeners that better days are just around the corner. “I Can Dig It” finds him expressing his growing appreciation for a woman’s many charms. He slips into a mellower R&B vein on “A Man’s Gotta Do,” turning the guitar lead over to Landry Shores for a melodic solo fadeout. Watkins’ strongest performance takes place on “Chain Gang,” a somber observation of life behind bars with the guitarist adding licks that bring to mind the work of Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic’s fame.
Kee Eso Pitchford lends his stirring voice to the aptly named “The Funky Blues,” moaning the blues along with some muscular tenor sax, courtesy of Rodney Taylor. Pitchford is equally soulful on the title track, this time getting an assist from Donald Hayes on tenor sax. “Proud Man Blues” is the lone solo feature for vocalist Adrian Myers and guitarist Butch Bonner, with Myers declaring that “…I got my cake, and I eat it too”. “Grant’s Big Band Shuffle” is the closing instrumental with Jackson and Bragg providing a swinging groove for a memorable Rob Holbert tenor solo.
The experience gained from backing other artists gave Jackson and Bragg the vision for this project. It also helped them in writing a strong batch of material in addition to selecting the right musicians and singers to bring that vision to fruition. It will be interesting to see if this will remain a one-off deal or will prompt the duo to form a band and hit the road. Either way, there is plenty to enjoy on this one.