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Dr. John: Duke Elegant

Jim Santella By

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"Boogie now," says Dr. John to the band in his gnarly trademark manner. Merging New Orleans shuffle rhythms, funk, and hip-hop beats in a tribute to Duke Ellington means that the singer and pianist prefers to do things his way. And why not? Dr. John, 59, has been playing and singing roadhouse blues since the 1950s. It’s what he does, and he’s one of the best. Unique and yet easily recognized, the singer has split his 18th album as a leader evenly between groove rhythm funk and emotional ballads.

Three rarely heard Ellington tunes mark the project. "I’m Gonna Go Fishin’" is from Ellington’s score for Anatomy Of A Murder, while "Flaming Sword" was hidden away until Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra went to work on it two years ago. A vocal number, "On the Wrong Side of the Railroad Tracks," was originally written for a play that was never performed. With Cyro Baptista on congas, the band’s instrumental arrangement of "Flaming Sword" gets a calypso motion to support Dr. John’s piano tribute. "Solitude" gets a reverential ballad-singer’s treatment, as do "Satin Doll," "Mood Indigo" and "Do Nothin’ ‘Til You Hear From Me." The exotic "Caravan," "It Don’t Mean a Thing" and "Things Ain’t What They Used To Be," on the other hand, exhibit the driving hip-hop beat, popping electric bass and jazz organ mood of Acid Jazz. Dr. John has paid an honorable tribute to the music of Duke Ellington, but he’s done it his way.


Track Listing: On the Wrong Side of the Railroad Tracks; I

Personnel: Dr. John- piano, Hammond B-3 organ, vocals; David Barard- electric bass, backing vocals; Bobby Broom- guitar, backing vocals; Herman Ernest III- drums, backing vocals; Cyro Baptista- added percussion; Ronnie Cuber- baritone saxophone on "Perdido" and "Don

Title: Duke Elegant | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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