It was a Sunday evening in Tucson, and crowds of smiling faces were descending on the Fox Theatre to see Dr. John and his band.
Openers, the Bryan Dean Trio (made up of Bryan Dean on guitar, Ralph Gilmore on drums and Koko Matsumoto on bass) were a worthy warm-up for the terrific show to come. When the Doctor took the stage with his band—trombone player and musical directress Sarah Morrow, drummer Shannon Powell, bassist Dwight Bailey, organist Ben Alleman, and guitarist David Yoke—they were absolutely on fire. For the finale, as Dr. John left the stage, each member of the band got an opportunity to play a solo, with Ms. Morrow taking her turn last, and rightly so. They were so good the audience wanted them to keep right on playing.
Having seen Dr. John quite a number of times, I was shocked by how happy he was at this particular show, and how much he seemed to be enjoying himself and the audience. The show was filled with one musical highlight after another, from all stages of his career. He even played music from the very beginning when he worked at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans, an era that marked the birth of so much of the New Orleans sound and served as a starting point for so many artists, such as Aaron Neville, Huey “Piano” Smith, Lloyd Price and Dr. John himself, Mac Rebennack.
One of the reasons this show was so powerful was an appreciative and knowledgeable crowd, as well as the excellent acoustics of the Fox Theatre. There are many venues around with good sound, but there is a quality in the Fox that just purifies the sound and makes it resonate no matter your seat.
– Bob Gottlieb