Monday, July 20, 2009

Living legend at the Jazz Cafe

If anyone can be called a living legend of New Orleans music then Allen Toussaint must surely be that person. He produced, composed and played brilliant piano on numerous New Orleans R and B classics in the late 50s and 60s by the likes of Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, Benny Spellman, Irma Thomas and Chris Kenner, moved on to be the godfather of N'Awlins funk in the late 60s and early 70s, and made his mark as a solo performer, along with numerous later collaborations with the likes of Frankie Miller and, a couple of years ago, Elvis Costello.
Now 71, and looking fit and smart (despite wearing sandals and socks), Allen's one man show at the Jazz Cafe last night showed just how good he was, and still is. New Orleans has produced many great piano players over the years, from Archibald to Professor Longhair to James Booker, but Allen showed that he's every bit as good as any of them. He kicked off with a selection of his classic New Orleans hits - from Ernie K-Doe's A Certain Girl, to Benny Spellman's Fortune Teller to Lee Dorsey's Working In a Coal Mine - and played several jazz standards from his new album The Bright Mississippi, including one originally by Django Reinhardt (he pronounced it D-Jango). Along the way he played a superb medley of just about every musical style you could think of, including R and B, jazz, country, boogie woogie - even a touch of the classics, all done with a virtuosity that made it all seem so simple. He slipped in one or two of his more obscure R and B compositions, including Art Neville's All These Things (made before the Nevilles realised that they were the Neville Brothers, he said) and Chris Kenner's Packing Up, and included Lee Dorsey's Get Out Of My Life Woman which, he said, rather surprisingly, was his most covered song. The whole show was done in an easy going, laid back manner with amusing asides and tales of his childhood. Naturally he finished off with Southern Nights, his best known solo recording. It's a long way to the Big Easy, but Allen Toussant made it feel as though it was just round the corner.


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