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CRITICS' CHOICES

POP MUSIC

HOUSE CALL

Some know Mac Rebennack from back in the psychedelic '60s, when he wore weird headgear, called himself Dr. John, the Night Tripper, and sang numbers like "Iko Iko" and "Walk on Gilded Splinters" which were half gumbo and half voodoo. Some know him as a jazzy pianist full of the infectious rhythms of his native New Orleans. Some know him as a sidekick of the legends of rock (his last visit here was with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band in 1989). And some know him from his marvelously soulful television commercials.

"Long ago a guy in a booking agency said I should do commercials, movies and Broadway musicals, and I thought, 'This guy's out of his mind,' " Rebennack drawled over the phone from New York City as he took a break from working up a number for his next album. "Twenty years later, here's what I'm doing, and I think now I was out of my mind. I think now that stuff really sounds like fun. I just did a whole slew of new commercials. I don't remember what they are, but the good part is they don't want me to be an ad agency guy."

Variety is the byword in his performing career as well. Apart from Ringo, he spent the past year working with jazzmen Art Blakey and David (Fathead) Newman before Blakey passed away. When he comes to the Marquee at the Tralf for shows at 8 and 11 p.m. next Friday "to put some smokin' hot funk on those people," he'll bring along his New Orleans rhythm section and one of his longtime session sidekicks, jazz guitarist Hugh McCracken. "For me," Rebennack said, "everything's a change of pace."

-- Dale Anderson

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