Dr. John’s Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit of Satch is an album that promises a lot, but more important, it delivers on that promise. Dr. John has put together a baker’s dozen of songs, some closely identified with Satchmo, some less closely, that honor the great man’s memory not through imitation, but by taking the Armstrong vibe into the new century. He and his cohort don’t copy, they create—really the only way to truly honor a jazz great.
The set opens with a swinging take on the too-often saccharine “What a Wonderful World” where the Doctor works with The Blind Boys of Alabama. The Blind Boys show up again later on a haunting “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.” Trumpet solo work on this is handled by Terence Blanchard, who also turns in some impressive work on Dr. John’s brilliant recreation of “Mack the Knife.” Mike Ladd adds a bit of rap to the mix.
The album is filled with excellent trumpet work—Arturo Sandoval, on “Tight Like That” and “Memories of You”; Wendell Brunious on “That’s My Home”; Nicholas Payton on “Wonderful World” and Gutbucket Blues”; and James Andrews on the rocking “Dippermouth Blues.” Dr. John, of course, delivers some solid work on the piano. The set closes with a fine version of “When You’re Smiling” with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Bonnie Raitt joins him for a duet on “I’ve Got the World on a String” and he trades barbs with Shemekia Copeland in a battle of the sexes on “Sweet Hunk O’Trash.” Ledisi backed by the McCrary Sisters gives “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” a gospel flavor, while Anthony Hamilton knocks “Motherless Child” out of the park. Telmary does the vocal on the Latin arrangement of “Tight Like That.”
Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit of Satch is an exciting album filled with fine tracks. It does both Satch and Dr. John proud.