February 14, 2000 12:00 PM

Dr. John (Blue Note)

In the flood of tribute albums that celebrated last year’s centennial of Duke Ellington’s birth, none had the cheek to recast the composer’s satin-smooth jazz as sweaty, rhythm-and-blues workouts. But New Orleans R&B veteran Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack manages to find the funk in even the most regal Ellington compositions. And he discovered it in the most unlikely of settings: Louisiana strip joints, where Rebennack, a purveyor of roadhouse blues since the 1950s, would tantalize the customers with hopped-up versions of the Duke’s top-hat tunes. Accompanied on this new record by Dr. John’s quartet the Lower 9-11, the keyboardist (and album producer) sings such classics as “Solitude,” “Satin Doll” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” in his soulful, Tabasco-splashed growl. Here on this surprising homage, the spirit of Duke dwells happily “On the Wrong Side of the Railroad Tracks.”

Bottom Line: Elegant funk

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