Dr. John‘s final studio release was 2014’s Ske-Dat-De-Dat The Spirit of Satch. Released via Concord Records, the album was co-produced by Dr. John and Sarah Morrow, his long-time bandleader, producer, arranger and conductor. As one can tell from the title, the album honors another New Orleans great, Louis Armstrong, otherwise known as “Satchmo” or “Satch.” Now, it’s set for release on limited edition, vinyl format via the UK based label The Last Music Company on June 5, 2020.
But Ske-Dat-De-Dat The Spirit of Satch is much more than just an album of cover songs. The 13 tracks that make it up are all songs that Armstrong interpreted. In return, Dr. John has reinterpreted them in his own distinct style. According to Dr. John himself, Armstrong came to him in a dream and said, “do my stuff, your way.” It’s a love letter from one Crescent City native to another.
Quintessential numbers drawn from various phases of Armstrong’s five-decade career, as well as an army of supporting musicians make it one of Dr. John’s best. At quick count Dr. John provides vocals, piano, guitar, and horn. There are 25 (yes, you read that correctly) additional horn players, 4 bassists, 2 Hammond B-3 players, 3 drummer/percussionists, 2 guitarists and a bevy of guest vocalists including Bonnie Raitt, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Shemekia Copeland, Anthony Hamilton, Mike Ladd, Ledisi, Telmary, and the McCrary Sisters.
From “What a Wonderful World,” to “When You’re Smiling,” Mr. Rebennack runs the gamut of genres from jazz, through blues, to pop and gospel, managing to update the material while maintaining the music’s timeless emotional appeal. Raitt shares the spotlight on a swinging reading of “I’ve Got the World on a String,” Ledisi and the McCrary Sisters lend gospel authority to “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” Hamilton is featured on a mournful “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” Copeland trades verses with Dr. John on a playful reworking of “Sweet Hunk O’ Trash,” and the Blind Boys of Alabama lend their powerful voices to “What a Wonderful World” and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.”
Shortly after the original release of this album Mac was awarded both the Louie Award from the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and the Jazz Foundation of America’s Hank Jones Award.
Both Mac Rebennack and Louis Armstrong grew up in New Orleans’ 3rd Ward. Armstrong was one of the first artists that the good Doctor’s father took him to see perform when he was still a child. Armstrong died on July 6th, 1971, and Dr. John left us on June 6th, 2019. The re-release of Ske-Dat-De-Dat The Spirit of Satch will commemorate the first year of his passing.