May 18, 2024

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CD review: Dr. John Solo Piano – Tipitina – Live In New Orleans 1984 – 2023: Video, Sound, CD cover

Dr. John Solo Piano/Live In New Orleans 1984′ via Tipitina’s Record Club set for April!

A new release by Tipitina’s Record Club gives fans an opportunity to experience the good doctor in a rare solo setting. A never-before-released live concert from 1984 finds Dr. John performing familiar favorites as well as some New Orleans classics. On April 27, 1984, Dr. John took the stage for a solo concert on the SS President riverboat, headlining alongside fellow Big Easy luminaries Fats Domino and The Neville Brothers.

Of this exciting release, Karla R. Pratt (Dr. John’s daughter and executrix) tells me:

I’m thrilled that my dad’s rare solo piano show from decades ago is finally going to be available to his fans. With this album, it’s going to feel like they’re on the riverboat SS President in 1984. I’m thankful that Quint Davis and the Tipitina’s Record Club worked together to help make this release happen. And I am happy to share this news on Mardi Gras, a holiday Dad loved.

We just lost Huey “Piano” Smith, who Dad greatly admired, so I am happy that his songs are on this album. Dad told Huey’s biographer John Wirt in the Advocate: “Hey,” Dr. John said of Smith’s impact on New Orleans pianists, “It’s a lot of him in all of ’em. Huey is a major part of the whole thing.”

You’ll hear Dad’s version of “Rocking Pneumonia” on this record, along with covers of New Orleans piano giants Dave Bartholomew and Professor Longhair, who he also admired. “Dorothy” was Dad’s tribute to my grandmother, so it’s my sentimental favorite on this record.

“Qualified” is featured 50 years after he first recorded it on his hit record In the Right Place, so that’s special too. I’ve always felt like Dad was his own genre, especially his solo piano playing.

The outsize legacy of Professor Longhair looms large on Dr. John’s rendition of “Tipitina,” the live version premiering exclusively on ABS today. Seemingly double-jointed in double-time motion, the doctor went to the school of the professor and passed with flying colors. A song essential to the New Orleans rhythm and blues renaissance, the iconic world-famous venue/foundation even bears the name. And now Tipitina’s Record Club is giving listeners a front row seat to the full set. Rather, a cultural event.

The release of Dr. John Solo Piano/Live in New Orleans 1984 comes thirty-nine years after his show on the riverboat was planned by legendary New Orleans music impresario Quint Davis in celebration of Jazz Fest’s 15th anniversary. Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack: The Legendary Sessions Vols. 1 and 2 had been released in the early ‘80s, so concertgoers on the boat that day gathered around the stage in the center of the ballroom. He was introduced by Davis to a packed crowd full of Jazz Fest revelers as “the man you call Dr. John… who’s really New Orleans’ own Mac Rebennack.”

The show featured other New Orleans songs written by Huey “Piano” Smith (“Don’t You Just Know It” & “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”) and Dave Bartholomew (“Sick and Tired”). He also included “Mama Roux” and “Qualified,” songs he wrote with New Orleans songwriter Jessie Hill (of “Ooh Poo Pa Doo” fame); “Average Kind of Guy” written with his “podnah” Doc Pomus (songwriter of “This Magic Moment”); and fan favorites “Junko Partner,” “Stack-A-Lee,” and “Goodnight, Irene.” Two of Dr. John’s originals prove album highlights: “Dorothy” and “Such a Night,” famously in The Last Waltz.

“Mac’s in the Parthenon of New Orleans piano giants,” Davis says. “That’s reflected on this album – and not just because of the songs, which are almost a compendium of important New Orleans music. Mac was, in his heart, a live player.” Davis is fresh from a Grammy win for best music movie: Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story, and the Succession Of Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr. released a Grammy-nominated album last year.

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