The city of New Orleans is going to be three hundred years old this year and Pipkin acts as a guide through it’s musical history. Things start with a little bit of a potted history, including how much of the city’s musical development took place in its many houses of ill-repute in the segregated district known as ‘Storyville’, a hub for prostitution, liquor and music. Here, musical pioneers honed their craft, guys like Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, who as Jelly Roll Morton, may not quite have single handedly invented jazz, but as Pipkin remarks “he was definitely there”.
Now if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a songs got to be worth at least twice that. So Pipkin treats us to an amazing rendition of one of Jelly Roll’s signature tunes, the aptly named Crave. Storyville’s reign was short-lived, deemed too much of a distraction to troops in the run-up to WWI ,so shut down by the Navy. Dom illustrates this moment in history beautifully with his performance of Louis Armstrong’s Farewell to Storyville. Meanwhile, Jelly Rolls popularity waned so much that he began to think he was the victim of a voodoo curse and ended up dying at the age of fifty from stab wounds. The first half closes with one of Dom’s original compositions. Love Affair With New Orleans is an evocative, sadness tinged but melodically pretty ballad that has a sort of bleary eyed closing time vibe.
Things start to really get going in the second half with a host of great performances in the style of some The Big Easy’s piano greats. It’s amazing how Pipkin can play convincingly in the style of so many musicians while not sounding like he’s just doing a by the numbers cover version. The highlight is the history and songs of James Booker, the pianist Dr. John referred to as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced”. Dom is clearly very passionate about Booker and when he starts to channel him in a Booker style rendition of Junko Partner you can see why.
One of the reasons I wanted to come tonight was that I was sure that a show about New Orleans piano would feature at least one song by one of my favourite musicians, Dr. John. I’ve loved the Doctor ever since I saw him sing Such a Night on Martin Scorcese’s famous concert film The Last Waltz and tonight I get to see Dom do his version of the tune. It’s such a great song, with a really amazing right hand melody and Pipkin’s vocal is spot on. The encore is another song by James Booker, the man who aspired to be the black Liberace. So in a slightly meta twist we get Dom Pipkin playing piano in the style of James Booker playing piano in the style of Liberace! It’s electric stuff!
For more on the Inchyra Arts Club programme click here.