Exhibit A: the late [B]Duke Ellington[/B]. Debonair proto-swing jazz virtuoso. Exhibit B: [B]Doctor John[/B]. Fucked-up, fingerless voodoo-vibed R&B casualty from the dirty side of New Orleans with a
Exhibit A: the late Duke Ellington. Debonair proto-swing jazz virtuoso. Exhibit B: Doctor John. Fucked-up, fingerless voodoo-vibed R&B casualty from the dirty side of New Orleans with a working CV that reads like a [I]Who’s Who[/I] of muso legend. And this is where they meet, for ‘Duke Elegant’ is the Night Tripper’s tribute to one of the all-time jazz greats, featuring a dozen reworked Duke Ellington gems dating from prewar to early-’70s.
You would expect the Doc and his Lower 9-11 band to dip into the gloriously paranoid blues psychedelia that he’s famed for, but instead there’s an air of reverential sonic politeness here. Sure there’s the bump’n’grind sex metaphors, and there’s Doc’s unequivocal timbre: a cackling belch dragged through the shittiest of experiences. But it’s almost as if he’s playing it straight – the modern blues of ‘Perdido’, for instance, is standard issue stuff; as is the acid funk revamp ‘Caravan’. Still good, mind, but his own dadrock legacy has evidently left its mark.
Fittingly, it’s on the Ellington novelty tune from 1932, ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’, where he really excels: reframing the proto-swing coda of the original into a shiversome [I]|ber[/I]-funk celebration.
Ultimately, Dr John has more rock’n’roll gusto in his missing digit than most of your schmindie nu-skool upstarts have in their whole bodies. He’s lived the life and this is his tribute to a pre-pop, pre-rock genius. Who are we to over-scrutinise?