Colston Hall, Bristol
This is the last night of the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival, a New Orleans themed day. And if you’re doing Nawlins, you need the Doctor. Filing into the auditorium we are treated with the sight of Mr Rebannack’s skull roadie sorting out props on the piano before his band, led by ace trombonist Sarah Morrow take the stage and kick up an introductory groove. Dr John hobbles to the piano in feathered top hat, walking with two canes (both covered in trinkets and fetishes, obv), and kicks off Iko Iko. It’s not quite jazz, not quite blues, not quite funk, and sets the tone for the rest of the night, all swampy voodoo with enough room for a Professor Longhair break. The rhythm section are very good, especially the drum workout on Walk On Gilded Splinters, and there’s some lovely Hammond as well. Pee Wee Ellis sat in for a couple of tunes near the end (he’d played an earlier set at the festival (my excitement at seeing one of James Brown’s sidemen was only slightly lessened after the gig when I discovered he lives just down the road in Frome these days). I inherited my love of this music from an old vinyl copy of the Such A Night – Live In London album pinched off my dad, and so it was a special pleasure to have him sat next to me for this tremendous show.
Do you remember the Alan Plater Beiderbecke Affair television series, where James Bolam spent an awful lot of time in the backrooms of pubs with other middle aged men listening to trad jazz? They were all there.
It made me think..
He may be in his mid seventies and barely mobile now, but Dr John was still absolutely the coolest cat in the room that night. Also the Bristol Jazz Festival looks like a lot of fun – two venue spaces (one big, one small) with a programme that covers the underground and experimental through to the mainstream, plus free live music and dancing though the foyer of the Coslton Hall. I will investigate more next year…