Wardell Quezergue, Honored While Living

Wardell Quezergue (Honored While Living)

Sunday night’s Tribute to Wardell Quezergue at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall was a triumph for all concerned, and my hat’s off to Dr. Ike and the Ponderosa Stomp crew for the concept, planning, and execution of this memorable concert. A nine-piece band (including five-man horn section) was assembled and imported from New Orleans to give flawless support to a stellar lineup of vocalists including Dr. John, Robert Parker, Jean Knight, the Dixie Cups, Dorothy Moore, Tony Owens, and Tami Lynn. All these performers had worked with veteran writer/arranger/bandleader/producer Quezergue (on sessions dating back to at least the early Sixties) and all of them showed They’ve Still Got It — “it” being the right combination of vocal chops, enthusiasm for the stage, and the physical ability to deliver an engaging if sometimes too-brief performance.

This sold-out concert topped a Ponderosa Stomp triple-header at Lincoln Center, following on the R&B-themed The Get Down (7/16) and rockabilly party The Best Dance in Town (7/17) — both presented by the estimable Bill Bragin as part of his summer-long Lincoln Center Out Of Doors series in Damrosch Park. Jon Pareles wrote a thougtful and detailed NY Times review of Sunday’s show but I’ll add a few personal highlights:

Tony Owens & New Fan at Alice Tully Hall

Tony Owens Meets A New Fan

Although previously unknown to me, Tony Owens met the considerable challenge of standing in for several New Orleans singers now gone on to that Golden Juke Joint In The Sky. He did fine with Earl King‘s “Trick Bag,” less well with Willie Tee‘s “Thank You John” (Willie’s pimp-flavored insouciance seemingly impossible to recreate), but laid me out with a truly soul-stirring version of Danny White‘s immortal “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” Come back soon, Tony, you hear?!

Dorothy Moore sang her career-making hits of 1976, “Misty Blue” (#2 R&B/#3 Pop) and Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” (#7 R&B/#58 Pop). “Misty Blue” was lovely but “Funny…” just killed me. Dorothy’s rich, dark voice hovered near the celestial territory of Mahalia Jackson, had Mahalia ever sung a secular country-soul ballad (she didn’t).
I’ve heard Tami Lynn live three or four times since her surprise appearance at a Willie Tee show in the fall of 2005. But she’s never sounded (or looked) better than in her three-song set on Sunday, with old friends Dr. John (Mac Rebbenack) on piano and the incredible Zigaboo Modeliste on drums: “Mojo Hannah” was especially intense, with Mac adding flawlessly funky keyboard flourishes while Zig pounded out the rhythm on his floor tom, never touching his snare.
And speaking of Zigaboo: The ex-Meter’s powerful lead vocal and fierce drumming on “Hey Pocky Way” brought the raw street feel of the Mardi Gras Indians to this prestigious concert stage — the roughest, toughest moment of the evening.