Ask anyone: The most iconic New Orleans musicians are jazz trumpeter/singer Louis Armstrong and eclectic pianist/guitarist/singer/songwriter Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack. As Armstrong symbolizes the city’s jazz tradition, the good Doctor’s music encompasses the entire cornucopia that is N’awlins. This homage to Armstrong accents creativity over easy, old-school sentiment — while the basis of this set is Armstrong’s repertoire, Dr. John injects the breadth of NOLA’s tones since Armstrong’s 1920s emergence with inspiration and flair that cuts across genre lines.
While “Mack the Knife” is driven by the sultry simmer of New Orleans rhythms, the crackling trumpet of fellow resident Terence Blanchard injects some soaring bebop and post-bop lines. Buttressed by honeyed brass and languid rhythms and voiced by the mellow-toned Anthony Hamilton, “Motherless Child” becomes a sultry, sophisticated jazz-tinged R&B ballad with Katie Lied/Aja-era Steely Dan overtones. “What a Wonderful World” gets a rollicking gospel treatment featuring the earnest energy of gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama. Dr. John has the most distinct vocal rasp after Armstrong (and before Tom Waits), but he displays a virtually suave croon on “That’s My Home.” Other guests include Bonnie Raitt, Nicolas Payton, and Shemekia Copeland, but the star shining brightest is Armstrong’s joyous legacy.