Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Allen Toussaint at the Jazz Cafe

Having missed Allen Toussaint when he performed in London a few months ago I made sure that I caught his act at the Jazz Cafe last night, despite the high ticket price. I was not disappointed. Looking decidedly dapper in a smart pinstripe suit and sitting at a grand piano with no accompaniment, he ranged through a good selection of his many compositions, plus one or two others, for over an hour and a half. Kicking off with Java, made famous by Al Hirt, he launched into a medley of some of his New Orleans classic songs, including Ernie K-Doe's A Certain Girl and Mother in Law, Benny Spellman's Fortune Teller and Lee Dorsey's Working in a Coalmine.
Allen has recently recorded an album with Elvis Costello so naturally he played a couple of tracks from that, but it was the New Orleans R and B that made the show, including several Lee Dorsey numbers, Wrong Number, an early recording by Aaron Neville, and the wonderful Lipstick Traces, the A (or B side depending how you look at it) of Fortune Teller by Benny Spellman. He included a couple of Professor Longhair tracks - his 'patron saint' as he put it - and How Come My Dog Don't Bark, but mostly it was a demonstration of what a great songwriter, and fantastic pianist, he is. Never the greatest of singers, he nevertheless did justice to everything he attempted and Southern nights (a rare hit for him as a recording artist) was a highlight coming, as it did, after some fascinating reminiscences about the stories he heard while visiting relatives in the Louisiana bayous as a child.
Allen may be 68 but he still looks and sounds great. So many of those he made stars of have passed away that he remains one of the few remaining greats of New Orleans R and B which has always been my personal favourite style of music. Allen was one of the reasons I first visited the Big Easy and it was good to see and hear him once again.
Still with pianists I got round to buying the much hyped Last Man Standing at last. I agree with the favourable reviews Jerry Lee has received, although I have to say that I mostly preferred the upbeat numbers. He sounded rather old and tired on some of the country tracks.


At 9:41 pm , Blogger ken major said...

Thanks Nick for the informative review. I have always felt Alan is a musicians musician, respected more by the musos than the public. I never saw the publicity for the gig, nor was advised and still don't know what the price was. Howver basing on your review, if less than £20 would have attended.

At 10:11 am , Blogger Nick said...

Ken - you wouldn't have attended! It was £28.50 in advance plus booking fee and a whopping £35 on the door. A good evening though.


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