Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit Of Satch (Concord Records , 2014)
Dr. John, one of the most iconic musicians from New Orleans pays tribute to his jazz musical roots in his new album, Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit Of Satch. The album focuses on the memorable songs made popular by another New Orleans legend, the unforgettable trumpeter Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. “He’s the most famous guy that ever came out of my neighborhood,” says Dr. John. “He became a legend all over, for his trumpet playin’ and everything else, and he was the United States’ ambassador to the world.”
On Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit Of Satch, Dr. John is joined by an impressive cast of vocalists and instrumentalists. “Louis’ spirit came to me and told me to do something, that’s how this whole thing started,” adds Dr. John, who’s previously released tribute albums to musical giants Duke Ellington and Johnny Mercer. “Louis told me, ‘Take my music and do it your way.’ It was the most unexpectable thing in the world to me, to have Louis’ spirit show up like that, but he gave me a concept of where to roll with it that was spiritually correct. That made me feel very open to try some different things, because I felt was that his spirit had ok’d this record.”
The opening track is the well-liked classic ‘What a Wonderful World,’ recreated as Gospel-infused jazz piece with renowned trumpet player Nicholas Payton and the unmistakable vocals of the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Another standard, ‘Mack The Knife’ gets a respectful funk-jazz treatment with the stellar performance by trumpeter Terence Blanchard. The downside is the unnecessary rapping of Mike Ladd that is totally out of place.
The next piece, ‘Tight Like This’ is transformed into a tasty Cuban piece with maestro Arturo Sandoval on trumpet and Telmary on Spanish and English-language spoken word.
One of the most delightful pieces on the album is the swinging ‘I’ve Got The World On A String’ which features Dr. John along with the fabulous Bonnie Raitt on vocals and bluesy guitar.
The list of trumpet masters continues with Nicholas Payton who joins Dr. John on the excellent ‘Gut Bucket Blues.’
Next comes a radio friendly R&B version of traditional song ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’ with R&B star Anthony Hamilton on vocals.
The brass returns in the hands of inspired Creole flugelhorn player Wendell Brunious. The vocals on this piece, titled ‘That’s My Home,’ are wonderful with Dr. John accompanied by the McCrary sisters.
‘Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen’ is a traditional Gospel classic with Dr. John on piano and famed R&B and jazz artist Ledisi on vocals.
Terence Blanchard and the Blind Boys of Alabama make another appearance on the Gospel and blues-styled ‘Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.’
‘Dippermouth Blues’ presents yet another talented trumpeter. This time it’s James “12” Andrews.
The most amusing track on the album is Sweet Hunk O’Trash , which includes a captivating vocal dialogue between Dr. John and blues singer Shemekia Copeland.
Arturo Sandoval returns for a second performance on the laid back ‘Memories of You.’
The album closes with the classic ‘When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)’ featuring the exciting Dirty Dozen Brass Band who make a pleasurable mix of New Orleans-style brass and Latin rhythms.
“The whole thing felt pretty special, and I decisively was in a different zone for this record,” says Dr. John, who co-produced the album with his longtime trombonist Sarah Morrow, who also arranged the album. “I wanted to pull together some of his hits and some of the songs he wasn’t as well known for, and make them feel fresh and different. Sarah wrote some slammin’ charts that kept everything spacious and hip. And everybody played and sang great, and gave it their own spirit.”
In the 1950s, Dr. John was still known by his birth name, Mac Rebennack. He became an in-demand producer, guitarist, pianist and songwriter on New Orleans’ studio scene, working for local labels such as Ace, Ron and Ric, collaborating with artists like James Booker, Earl King, Professor Longhair, Art Neville and Frankie Ford, and scoring the regional solo hit “Storm Warning.”
In the early 1960s, Dr. John moved to Los Angeles, where he played on numerous sessions before debuting his flamboyant new musical persona, “Dr. John, The Night Tripper,” with his first solo album, 1968’s Gris-Gris that introduced the world to his uniquely eclectic voodoo-funk.
Since then, Dr. John has remained a particularly prolific and powerful force, releasing more than 30 albums of his own while collaborating with a broad assortment of acts including the Rolling Stones, Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Gregg Allman, Mike Bloomfield, Levon Helm, Ringo Starr, Rickie Lee Jones, B.B. King and Christina Aguilera. He also performed in films such as The Last Waltz and Blues Brothers 2000, and pursued a successful two-decade songwriting partnership with legendary tunesmith Doc Pomus.
Dr. John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, and won the most recent of his six GRAMMY Awards in 2013 when Locked Down was voted that year’s Best Blues Album.
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Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.