Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Album Review: Dr. John - Solo Piano Live In New Orleans 1984

Dr. John
Solo Piano Live In New Orleans 1984
*** out of *****

With Jazzfest on the horizon, the Tipitina’s Record Club looks to a past late night Festing show for their most recent release. Dr. John’s Solo Piano Live In New Orleans 1984 was recorded on the paddle boat SS President, cruising the Mississippi River after a day of music at the Festival that year. 

The brief vinyl outing was captured at an odd time in Dr John’s career. He had left yet another label and had just released the solo studio album Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack, as he was searching for a new path and wouldn't find it for some time.

“Dorothy” an original tune from that album starts this live show as Mac shows off his underrated piano playing. He also delivers his original, “Such a Night” with a gorgeous, classically influenced intro, this set however is more to pay homage to the great New Orleans piano players who came before him, while establishing the good Dr. right in that very same category.

The opening tune dipped into “Junko Partner” and the run to close side A of “Qualified” > “Sick and Tired” > “Goodnight Irene” are all musical tips of the cap to James Booker whose influence is everywhere on this night, along with David Bartholomew. They aren't alone though as Dr. John gives Lloyd Price’s classic “Stagger Lee” an injection of some new lyrics. While Mac’s playing is top notch, his voice this evening is harsher than normal, especially starting out, before things warm up.

Professor Longhair himself gets some love as Dr. John delivers a fairly tame cover of “Tipitina” while the set ends with Mac mixing up his classic “Mama Roux” with two songs from the criminally underrated Huey “Piano” Smith as he seamlessly transitions into “Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu > Don't Ya Just Know It” to wrap up the short show.

For those who have never heard Mac Rebennack’s solo piano work this release will be eye opening, for longtime fans it is fun to hear some classics in this sparse setting. Dr. John’s Solo Piano Live In New Orleans 1984 is an excellent capturing of a long gone night where a New Orleans icon paid tribute to the past with classical piano flourishes.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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