Last night's "Swamp Jazz" concert at Fort Dupont Park was complete with gloomy skies, damp grounds and syncopated rhythms played hard and funky. You might say it was just what the doctor ordered; Dr. John, that is. The New Orleans pianist headlined the show, which also featured veteran R&B saxophonists Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman, and the local Rosella Clemmins Quartet.
The Clemmins set was sweet and sassy. Her luminous soprano frequently reached for the skies but remained tethered to the band's earthier accompaniments when it counted, and Chad Evans' alto sax, in particular, foreshadowed the funk to come.
Crawford and Newman, working with Dr. John in a quintet, presented a similar contrast. Each had both feet in the groove, but Crawford aimed straight for the heart and soul, while Newman, in a more reflective mood, took his time getting there, making the trip all the more worthwhile.
For Dr. John this was an occasion for "Life Ain't Nothin' But a Party" and "Such a Night," with its apt lyric "sweet confusion under the moonlight." As always his playing pitted one rhythmically dense and compelling pattern against another, prompting the rest of the rhythm section to do the same. By evening's end, the quintet was blowing off steam like a pressure cooker at full boil.