It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Dr. John

Our guest today is Zoe. She is a delightfully charismatic, astutely French.. and a girl. She loves a bit of Jazz, she once fronted a midly successful band, and she is now bopping about in London. All in all, she’s a top girl, and she’s done a post for us which we’re all very grateful about. Awesome!..

So having been asked to guest on this week’s blog, I thought I’d go with a theme that represents my current frame of mind: post-exams celebration. I’ve been all over the shop with my spotify hits this past week, rekindling old loves and developing new ones. From Duke Ellington to Rihanna, my little room in my halls in London-town has heard it all.

The award for best post-exam-groove music goes to my discovery of Dr John’s album of Duke Ellington covers, smoothly entitled Duke Elegant (2000). Featuring some superb funked-up renditions of some of Ellington’s most famous numbers, the tracks I most enjoy are the Dr’s versions of It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (featured below).

In my opinion the faster numbers are more successful overall than the slower ones, but Dr John’s version of Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From You is a glorious reminder of his sumptuous blues-piano licks reminiscent of his performance of Such A Night on The Last Waltz. And I could listen to his husky New Orleans vocals all night. Smooooth. And just check out the “Aww man!” at the end of Don’t Get Around.

After watching Zombieland recently (an awesome film; Shaun of the Dead with the lack of British humour compensated by ridiculous-budget visual gags which Americans do quite well when it comes to zombies), I was pleasantly surprised to hear one of the tracks off The Raconteurs most recent album Consolers Of The Lonely (2008) playing over the end credits (Salute Your Solution), but in my opinion one of the songs that most holds its own on this album is These Stones Will Shout (featured below).

Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, but this song seems to be alluding to when you know what someone wants to say and you want to shout it out for them, to let them know that you’re ok with it no matter if you agree or not. The words of the chorus are as follows:

Speak to me and don’t speak softly

Talk to me and let me know

Grab hold of my shoulder and tell me

Grab hold and do not let go

The song Top Yourself (featured below) is also good, particularly the arpeggiating counter-melody on the banjo which pretty much sums up the band’s deep-South-travelling-minstrel-band influences.

I’m not gonna lie, I enjoy going out clubbing as much as the next person (a comment which I fully expect will be met with scorn from most of the participants of this blog and its followers amid snorts of “she’s become all student-y”), but recent celebratory nights out at Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues in Soho have put my faith back in the marriage of good music and good bars. This particular haunt hosts live bands each Thursday night in a dingy basement in London’s West End, where a night without at least one shout of “BRAAAAAAP” is a night wasted. The regular DJ has reinforced my love of ska and reggae, and in particular of Toots & The Maytals. So in this vain I’d like to invite you to join me in a celebratory skank to the tune of 54-46 Was My Number (featured below).

From an old classic to a new Gaz’s-discovered gem, I introduce three Swiss lads who make up Mama Rosin (and fans of Dr John on their Myspace page, no less). They describe their sound as “Combat Cajun” mixing rock and blues with the original New Orleans-born Cajun style (namely that their songs feature a mix of guitar, accordion and banjo). Their latest album, Black Robert (2009), opens with drumming accompanied by gospel-style vocal musings to the words of “quinze jours passés”, but my personal favourite is Tu A Perdu Ton Chemin, a beautiful song you can imagine listening to on a boat, rolling down the Mississippi. Unfortunately, this song isn’t up on YouTube but you can find it on Mama Rosin’s Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/mamarosin. As my admiration for this band is down to their electric performance at Gaz’s sometime in March, you’ll have to take my word for the fact that these recordings simply do not do the boys justice. All multi-instrumentalists, Mama Rosin set the tiny basement club on fire inviting audience participation (featuring yours truly on a tambourine) leaving the crowd feeling as though they’d spend the night dancing in some bar in New Orleans, eating gumbo in the middle of Mardi Gras.

Tonight I’m continuing my post-exams celebrations with a trip to a karaoke bar with my flatmates, only instead of a machine they have a live band with a set list. I’m hoping that the song I’m leaving you with now is on the list tonight:

Too true.

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One thought on “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Dr. John

  1. that bit they do at the end of the Dr John track is, I presume, a homage of the intro to this live version of I Heard Through The Grapevine from Montreux in 1980

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