A new album from late New Orleans legend Dr. John, Big Band Voodoo, will be released Nov. 1 via Orange Music. The posthumous collection was recorded in 1995 in Germany with the one of the country’s top jazz ensembles, the WDR Big Band.
Big Band Voodoo was unearthed by Dr. John’s longtime friend and manager Stanley Chaisson, as part of the reminiscing the two did as the musician’s health declined, ultimately leading to his death earlier this year. Mike Donohue of Amplified Distribution explains: “In the hustle of touring while in Europe when this recording happened, these tapes were stored away. Once everyone returned for more touring in the U.S., these tapes were set aside for later use and archived, and forgotten about. As Mac became more ill, Stanley would reminisce with Mac about the good old days. It was when Stanley remembered the session and was able to surface the recording that we now have this lost treasure.
“Dr. John and the WDR Big Band’s Big Band Voodoo album comes from his 1995 visit to Germany, during an International tour thru the UK, Germany, Japan, etc,” Donohue continues. “During this tour, numerous important musicians approached Dr. John for a ‘session.’ Many of these professionals had never seen Mac perform live but were huge fans. While in Germany, Dr. John was offered the opportunity to play and record at the WDR band’s Cologne studio. What transpired in that studio is one of the most interesting yet unreleased sessions from Dr. John’s repertoire: The addition of full Brass and Big Band Arrangements to Dr. John’s unique and distinct singing and playing style melded into a hybrid sound. One minute it’s a Sinatra feel of swinging big band and the next is the distinctive ivory tickling and New Orleans-influenced playing of Mac Rebennack. With over 60 minutes of studio-recorded songs, this unique slice of history is now ready for the world to hear. It’s Dr. John like never before.”
“Big Band Voodoo comes from an evening of discussing new projects with Mac at his Brownstone in New York,” Chaisson recalls. “He and I were discussing the possibility of making a Jazz record. He says, ‘Ya know dis would be dat thing I was always using my head for…a Big Band thing with my New Orleans riffs.
“I appreciate the way Mac translated his Voodoo syncopation and vocal phrasing and merged them with the WDR Big Band,” he continues. “To me, it’s one of the best pairings of Jazz, Blues and Swing on a recording that was ever done. It shows his ability to adapt, perform and interpret music and deliver his part, with one of the best Big Bands in the world. I am just so grateful to be a part of such an excellent piece of music.”