The voice on the other end of the phone has the unmistakable growl and cadence of the good doctor himself. "It'll be a surprise for everybody and it will be some off-the-hook stuff. Night Tripper stuff — and a whole lot of it," Dr. John says in reference to his gig closing the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.
The show's all-star lineup includes bassist George Porter Jr., percussionist Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, drummers Herlin Riley and Smokey Johnson, guitarist Shane Theriot, vocalist Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxophonist Roderick Paulin, trombonist Sarah Morrow and vocalists Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony.
Many of the performers have a history with Dr. John. Drummer "[Herlin Riley] has been a friend of mine since he was playing trumpet in the church," Dr. John says. "I came up with his family." Alfred "Uganda" Roberts gained notoriety while playing with Professor Longhair, one of Dr. John's main influences, and he has contributed great conga work to the recordings of a long list of local musicians. "Uganda goes back to the great Didymus," Dr. John says, referring to Richard "Didymus" Washington, the conga player in his band during the late 1960s and early '70s.
Although Dr. John changed his band, which sparked some controversy, it overall has been a very good year for him. He won the Best Blues Album Grammy Award for Locked Down. (Its producer, Dan Auerbach, won the 2013 Producer of the Year, Non-Classical Grammy Award.) The album updated Dr. John's New Orleans gris-gris swamp sound for a new generation, while adding some modern touches and Afrobeats.
Dr. John also received an honorary degree from Tulane University. The ceremony featured him performing with fellow honoree Allen Toussaint while the Dalai Lama danced behind them.
The Night Tripper seems to take it in stride and move on to the next thing – such as Voodoo.
"Be there," he says with his signature rasp. "It will be flaming."