Dr. John - Right Place, Right Time, Live at Tipitina's, Mardi Gras '89
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Dr. John
Right Place, Right Time, Live at Tipitina's, Mardi Gras '89
Skinji Brim/Hyena (www.hyenarecords.com)

This concert recorded at the famous Tipitina's of New Orleans, was a great moment in its own right, but the social and political context it's released into in 2006 gives it startling weight. This music, charged with celebration in 1989, is re-offered at a time of widespread struggle when celebration may, ironically, be the best way to survive. Dr. John is a survivor, against the odds and proud of it.

After Hurricane Katrina and government bunglers bashed New Orleans last year, Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John) stepped right up to the plate with both generous relief fund-raising concerts and recordings and angry public words of protest. One of the Crescent City's most favored sons, Dr. John came home for both Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest this spring, doing his considerable bit to keep the world's attention focused on what needs to be done to help New Orleans come back. I had the luck to catch his packed April musicians-benefit show at the very same Tipitina's Uptown club where this 1989 set was recorded. Storms may have battered both Dr. John and Tipitina's, but they are both still standing strong and still putting out fine music.

In fact, Mac Rebennack, veteran of decades in music, is at the height of his creative output right now in 2006, having recently released grandly-conceived tribute albums to Duke Ellington and Johnny Mercer, and having famously revived his full-blown, magnificently-costumed 'Dr. John, the Night Tripper' stage persona in June at the Bonnaroo Festival.

This performance was taken from his personal stash of concert tapes and finds Dr. John in grand form. A super-tight band builds the base for him to work his wonders, with Tommy Moran on guitar; David Barard, bass; Herman Ernest III, drums; Trazi Williams, percussion; Amadee Castenell, sax; and Charlie Miller, trumpet. They are hot, jazzy and totally in tune with Dr. John's dancing piano and dreamy-dark voice. "Walk On Gilded Splinters" builds a shivery, spikey groove that chills the soul. The audience screams with joy and approval and you can almost see the sweaty bodies shuffling on their feet each time Dr. John delivers a chorus. And his witty, rambling spoken asides are worth the price of admission all on their own. One can't help but feel that his sneering 1989 put-down of a certain "jive-ass son of a bitch" could easily be applied to certain politicians today.

Producer Joel Dorn's liner notes, certainly approved of by Dr. John, make this specific: "When Katrina kicked the shit out of New Orleans last summer, the best ol' George, America's foremost hand puppet, could come up with was, 'Great job, Brownie.' Welcome to the bottom of the barrel." Just listen to the power of this recording. The subtext is this: they just should not have fucked with Dr. John's people and Dr.John's city. Hope, like music, like New Orleans, like Dr. John himself, abides and will triumph. This is triumphant music, to get us through this time, too. Savor it again. - Bill Nevins

CD available from the label

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