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Dr. John  

Dr. John takes on the Duke

February 21, 2000
Web posted at: 5:24 p.m. EST (2224 GMT)

(CNN) -- One of the seminal figures of the New Orleans music scene is Mac Rebennack -- you may recognize him by his stage name, Dr. John -- whose jazz-funk-blues style epitomizes the New Orleans sound.

His latest work is a tribute to Duke Ellington titled "Duke Elegance."

"One of the reasons I wanted to do this record was to do his music not as jazz music . . . but (as) as rhythm and blues, or funk, or rock 'n' roll, or just anything, because all his music applies to anything," he says. "And that's what I think his legacy is. His music can reach anybody."

Dr. John also has reached an audience over the years. He's been active in the industry since the 1950s, gaining prominence as a session keyboardist and guitarist.

Dr. John credits New Orleans legends from his past -- Professor Longhair, Frankie Ford, Joe Tex, Allen Toussaint -- for influencing his work today.

"There (were) so many people I got to meet and work with as a kid that it all shifted so many gears in life, and then opened doors for me," he says.

Dr. John has evolved into a top talent, Toussaint says.

  DR. JOHN PERFORMS LIVE

"Don't Get Around Much Anymore"
[160k MPEG-3] or [215k WAV]

"I'm Gonna Go Fishin'"
[175k MPEG-3] or [235k WAV]

"On the Wrong Side of the Railroad Tracks"
[160k MPEG-3] or [215k WAV]

 

"Dr. John is phenomenal," Toussaint says. "Dr. John is a heavyweight and one of the nicest guys in the world -- unhurried, and he plays very unhurried. His life is that way. And as for being an ambassador for New Orleans sound and New Orleans music, he's doing it to the bone."

He's been doing it for more than three decades, beginning with his first solo, "Gris Gris," in 1968. Since then, Dr. John has been heard on more than 200 records, including nearly 40 of his own. Now he's crowning his achievements with a tribute to the Duke.

He also offers a tribute to the city he calls home, New Orleans.

"This can be the most traditional city in the universe," Dr. John says, "and you can smell the funk in the air, you can smell the decay, you can smell the fungus growing beneath your feet if you're standing too long.

"You can feel the sinking of your body into the ground, but the music don't sink, because it's coming from the spirit and it goes right through us," he says. "We're just vehicles, and the fact (is) that we're in a very spiritual city."




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