JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of “JC’s Blues” by Dr. John (1941-2019) and the WDR Big Band. The track was recorded in 1995 in Cologne, Germany, part of a session that will be released for the first time under the title Big Band Voodoo by Orange Music on November 1.
Other tracks on Big Band Voodoo include “I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So,” “Blue Skies,” “New York City Blues,” and “Tell Me You’ll Wait For Me.”
When this music was recorded, Dr. John (a.k.a. Mac Rebennack) had already been thinking about making a big-band album for some time. The opportunity to do so arose during a European tour in the summer of 1995, when the pianist, guitarist, and singer’s longtime friend and manager Stanley Chaisson, on a search for possible bands, learned that Cologne’s renowned WDR ensemble was available for a recording session. Arranger John Clayton was promptly hired, and that August the band and Dr. John recorded more than 60 minutes’ worth of music at the WDR Studios.
After the session was finished, Rebennack’s European tour continued and the WDR tapes were stored away; at tour’s end, they were archived for later use, then forgotten for more than two decades. It was only in the last years of Rebennack’s life that Chaisson remembered the existence of the tapes and rediscovered them. In a press release, Chaisson describes the recordings as “a masterful set … with extraordinary musicianship from the WDR Big Band.”
Regarding this track in particular, Chaisson comments: “‘JC’s Blues’” is a song that Mac wrote during a time when he was a recovering addict. He was desperately trying to overcome the ups and downs associated with recovery. As I remember, he mentioned that he did feel the chords, the lyrics and melody—and that it was sent to him from a spiritual source. He was very pleased with the end results. He mentions in the lyrics, ‘When you six feet in the dirt, all the money in the world ain’t gonna do you no good.’ Knowing how Mac was, he actually lived that way and was a very generous man, spending when he had it.”
To preorder Big Band Voodoo, go here.