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TELEVISION REVIEW : Dr. John's Piano: Right Place on Thursday

January 27, 1994|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What the Super Bowl is to football, New Orleans is to music, and while most of the nation is gearing up for Sunday's annual pigskin blowout, KOCE Channel 50 is offering music fans an excellent prelude to Mardi Gras, the wildest day of the year in the Crescent City.

And what a prelude it is--an hour alone with Dr. John and his piano, courtesy of "The Lonesome Pine Specials" (tonight at 10).

For the uninitiated, the good doctor, born Malcolm John Rebennack, is a singer-composer who follows and extends the tradition of New Orleans piano music created in the late '40s by Professor Longhair and practiced by such disciples as Huey (Piano) Smith and James Booker.

*

Of all those ivory-ticklers, Dr. John attained the greatest commercial success, thanks to his early-'70s hit singles "Right Place, Wrong Time" and "Such a Night." Contrary to the title of that first hit, he managed to be in the right place at precisely the right time. Radio since has squeezed out what little room it once had for such left-field treasures as the doctor.

In any case, there are no dazzling lights, no flash pots, no lasers on tonight's "Lonesome Pine Special"--just Dr. John and his 10 pyrotechnic fingers, playing boogie-woogie, barrelhouse, stride, and hybrids that don't have names yet.

The high point is a gospel medley that spans from "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." But there's not a down moment anywhere, from his soulful balladry in "Georgia on My Mind" through his bawdy tribute to the legendary Booker.

For those who can't make to Mardi Gras come Fat Tuesday (Feb. 15), this hour at least will let you feel like you're there.

* "The Lonesome Pine Special" featuring Dr. John is being shown tonight at 10 on KOCE Channel 50.

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