April 24, 2005
In a melting pot, Dr. John plays melting pot music. He's made a 64 year-old living off of mixing Stax horns, second-line syncopation, R&B, rock, blues, and funk. Dr. John played a laid-back set Sunday afternoon at Jazzfest that drew from his first record and his last record.
Dr. John wasn't reaching the stars during this set. He got the songs across well enough, but he seemed a little subdued. Mellow. He barely engaged the audience, and he acknowledged applause with a hearty "Well, alright." He wasn't there to shock and awe. His songs were great, though. Search him out in an intimate setting.
"Qualified" was a nice surprise from his first album. It was a slow groovin', syncopated half-jump song that was soaked with gritty spice.Funky stuff. Dr. John has a signature down-home growl that one would want to hear when meeting a father-in-law. But, on "Qualified" he used a scarred, confident, cracklin' voice that might make one think he's lived a bit more than James Brown. He sang, "Your social life ain't no better than my hot dog stand/Your edumacation ain't no hipper than what you understand." This was the song in which Dr. John showed his street-smart, swaggering side.
"Marie Laveau," off his latest album, was reverent and patient, instead. It was a breezy, spoken-word twilight number that utilized water ripple synthesizer. It was sensual and slow groovin'. The "ya, ya, ya" chant was straight creepy, and Dr. John's background singers added more spook at the end of every measure with a "ka-cha ka-cha" sound.
Dr. John conjured a blues piano boogie during "Stakalee," a medium-paced song about a bad-ass pimp. "Touro Infirmary" was an enjoyable Prytania Street side of the legendary traditional song, "St. James Infirmary."
As expected, Dr. John played his biggest hit, "Right Place, Wrong Time." It was a little stagnant, though(Where were The Meters to back him up like on the recording? I know they were in town. Zigaboo would probably make Dr. John pay to play with them).
Catch Dr. John the next time he's at Tips or the HOB.