MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) - Hugh Laurie, Dr. John and Trombone Shorty celebrated bluesy New Orleans music in a three-part show mixing new tracks and southern classics at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Laurie, star of the Emmy award-winning medical television drama “House”, opened the sold-out concert on Monday night with “Mellow Down”, singing and then moving to the piano.
Tracks played from his 2010 debut album “Let Them Talk” included “St. James Infirmary”, “Buddy Bolden’s Blues”, and “Whinin’ Boy”. “Swanee River”, a minstrel from the Deep South, and “Unchain My Heart”, first recorded by Ray Charles and then by Joe Cocker, followed.
“We’re doing something mildly hazardous now, a song by the greatest musician in the world, Dr. John. Let’s see what kind of mess we can make of this,” the 53-year-old British actor joked as he introduced “Wild Honey”.
Laurie’s top-notch band featured guitarist Kevin Bright and Sista Jean McClain, lead vocalist for “John Henry”, a ballad about a steel-driver on the railroad who became an American folk hero.
Laurie also joined Bright on the guitar for “Whining Boy” and, after the Canadian riffed, he quipped: “I could do that stuff, I just choose not to.”
“It’s been an absolutely amazing experience to be here,” Laurie, wearing a ruffled white shirt, told fans as he ended the one-hour set at famed Miles Davis Hall where seats cost up to 220 Swiss francs ($230).
Dr. John, wearing a purple suit, black hat and beaded necklaces, entered leaning on a feathered walking stick, and brought a touch of voodoo from his native New Orleans. White skulls were displayed on top of his keyboards and piano.
The theatrical 71-year-old, his gray hair tied back in a neat pony-tail, played signature hits including “Rite Place”.
Trombonist Sara Morrow joined him in a duet of “(Makin’) Whoopee” while keyboardist and songwriter Jon Cleary shone in a solo of his composition “Occapella”.
John ended his 90-minute gig on an electric white guitar for “Mama and Papa”.
Well after midnight, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews burst on stage, two brass trombones raised in the air, to deliver an electrifying “Slippery Lips” as strobe lights flashed.
“My name is Trombone Shorty and I’m from the great city of New Orleans,” said the 26-year-old phenomenon, dressed in black and sporting red glasses for his second appearance in Montreux.
In a nod to late musical giants Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong, he performed “I Got a Woman” and the gospel hymn “When the Saints Come Marching In”, ending just before 3:00 a.m.
Brazil’s legendary singer and guitarist Gilberto Gil and American chanteuse Melody Gardot are booked on Tuesday night at the two-week festival which closes on Saturday.
Gil, a former Brazilian culture minister and Grammy winner, who stars in the “Viramundo” musical documentary produced by Emmanuel Getaz being released soon, also recorded an album at the Swiss studio “Dinemec” over the weekend.
($1 = 0.9764 Swiss francs)
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Paul Casciato