The melting pot of a small, timeless city on the southern coast of the US is home to one of the original all-American musical styles, a style which synthesizes blues, gospel, jazz, and – by virtue of being a major port – Cuban and other Latin American rhythms.
The piano has always been integral to the music of New Orleans, its masters including Jelly Roll Morton (the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz), Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, James Booker and Harry Connick.
One of few still-living of these piano legends is Dr. John. On Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack, his first solo piano album, Dr. John showcases a masterful technical talent on funky, graceful originals, covers (“The Nearness of You”), as well as traditional tunes (“Silent Night,” “Wade in the Water”).
The album almost didn’t get made. It was Dr. John’s greatest professional nightmare that “I’d end up alone as a solo piano lounge act starring at Holiday Inns or bowling alleys for the rest of my natural life.”
But he didn’t have to worry. While there was no natural radio outlet for the recording, word-of-mouth quickly spread and reviews (including “record of the month” in Stereo Review) ensured that it would become an instant classic. Indeed, the audience of the first live gig promoting the album included bass legend Jaco Pastorius and a young Wynton Marsalis.
Get a taste of this classic with the standout track Memories of Professor Longhair, one of the many tracks that are worth learning and transcribing for piano students who want to master the New Orleans blues piano style.