Recorded at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London and dedicated to Scott's memory, Trippin' Live includes Rebennack's killer horn section of Alvin "Red" Tyler on tenor sax, Charlie Miller on trumpet and Downbeat magazine's baritone saxophonist of the year, Ronnie Cuber. When this trio of jazzers kick it in, pushed by the rhythms of drummer Herman Ernest III and multi-percussionist Chief Smiley Ricks, the pulsating bass of David Barard and Bobby Brooms' tastefully tough guitar, Rebennack becomes the intrepid leader, taking the band to another level -- the Dr. Zone.
It's appropriate that Mac opens his first official live album with "Tipitina," the signature tune of his mentor and late friend Professor Longhair; it's fitting tribute to another influential musician who was in the right place at the wrong time. Trippin' Live contains the expected Rebennack classics: "Such a Night," "Right Place Wrong Time," "Wild Honey" and "My Buddy." He enjoys rapping, and rap he does -- with a voice that sounds like crawfish tastes, a little sandy, a little salty -- in the brilliant Rebennack/Goffin-penned "Renegade." Ex-Squeeze keyboardist and BBC television host Jools Holland sits in and frees Rebennack to play some bluesy guitar on "24 Hours." A fine medley of "Down By the Riverside/My Indian Red/Mardi Gras Day/I Shall Not Be Moved" highlights the second-line rhythm "feel," while the gig ends all too soon with "Goodnight Irene."
Mac Rebennack is a national treasure, a musical genius and a survivor. Trippin' Live is testament to his greatness and a must for every collection. No jive -- just a good vibe.
-- Andrew M. Robble