Right Place, Right Time: Live at Tipitina’s Mardi Gras ’89 – Dr. John
Hyena Records 93444
Seeing as a friend of mine had shacked up there, and I would have a floor to sleep on (or a La-Z-Boy, as it was), I made my first pilgrimage to New Orleans in 2005, for Jazz Fest.
I count those few days among the best Ive ever had. Like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, I got to talk with the spirits: on the fairgrounds, in the streets, at Preservation Hall. I took in home court sets from Allen Toussaint and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Away team victories from Charlie Hunter and McCoy Tyner. I watched the Duo jam with Mike G until 5:30 in the morning.
I was home. Until reality snatched me back to Louis Armstrong Airport and, subsequently, New England. But I wont soon forget my first impression of the now temporarily crippled swamp that birthed Satchmo, Fats Domino and Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr.
Whats that? Not familiar with that last one? For shame! Let me bring you up to speed: thats the Night Tripper himself, none other than Dr. John. And there are a few things you should know about this man of many names.
First off, hes a man of many instruments, too. The good doctor got his start on guitar (he studied with Fats guitar player) but switched to piano after he took a bullet in his fretting hand (no joke Mac used to play rough).
Furthermore, his album Gumbo, circa 1972, is one of the baddest records ever (go pick it up!). On it, John delivers definitive versions of Big Chief, Junco Partner, Professor Longhairs Tipitina, and other New Orleans standards.
Third thing: have you seen The Last Waltz?! Dr. J nearly steals the show when he joins Canadas finest for his own Such a Night.
Finally, its time I let you in on the best secret of all. The Doctor has a new record out (on his Skinji Brim imprint), a live date from 89, and its just burnin. Produced by Joel Dorn (what isnt?) and distributed by Dorns Hyena label, Right Place, Right Time: Live at Tipitinas Mardi Gras 89 deserves a spot in your stereo, stat.
The Doctor gets it started with a rollicking Junco Partner, and the energy in the room is off the charts. I mean, wouldnt you be amped if you were in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, at a club that opened in part to give the Professor himself a place to play (hence its name), and you were in the presence of bayou royalty like Mac?
Of course you would. But thats not all you get; the heat goes on with Renegade, and a killin sermon from the Doc.
Hear him out: I like to do what I wanna do anytime I feel like doin what I wanna do. I like to say what I feel like sayin anytime I feel like sayin how I wanna say it. I like to be how I wanna be anytime I feel like bein how I wanna be that make some kinda sense to somebody, dont it?
Makes sense to me. So does Toussaint-prot Amadee Castenells soaring tenor sax solo on Guilded Splinters, and Tommy Morans Stevie Ray rips on Black Widow. These guys were cookin that night in 1989, and weve got the tapes to prove it.
But no one cooks more than Mac himself, as evidenced on the closing Such a Night, when he pushes the crowd to near-hysterics with nothing more than his trademark croak, soulful-as-hell piano, and a little help from his friends. Go get this disc it aint bottled up or watered down, its just right, and its too funky. But dont thank me for putting out the good word on Right Place, Right Time. If I dont do it, somebody else will.