Allen Toussaint Live in NYC Thursday September 29

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The first two Hurricane benefits sold out immediately and these are just now going on sale; the first show he did featured three duets with Elvis Costello. checkacheckacheckitout

Forksclovetofu (Forksclovetofu), Friday, 23 September 2005 16:04 (fourteen years ago) link

This sounds cool. Ry Cooder and Irma Thomas were terrific at Madison Square Gardens. I don't know anything about New Orleans music, though. I also liked Cyndi Lauper's stage presence.

youn, Friday, 23 September 2005 16:23 (fourteen years ago) link

Did you see Rebirth Brass Band?

Jordan (Jordan), Friday, 23 September 2005 16:24 (fourteen years ago) link

There was a neat feature on Toussaint in the New York times recently.

I need to find the link.

curmudgeon, Friday, 23 September 2005 21:25 (fourteen years ago) link

Hey Mr. Joe's Pub employee, did you see the criticism your joint got for Studio 54 like admission policies on the Village Voice Status Ain't hood blog?

curmudgeon, Friday, 23 September 2005 21:27 (fourteen years ago) link

Certainly did.
The Studio 54 comment is a bit wacky; we're all just music dorks on the office end. Bottom line is that when you have a place packed to (or coughpastcough) capacity, you can't let people in. That's not snobbery, that's the law.

Forksclovetofu (Forksclovetofu), Saturday, 24 September 2005 01:18 (fourteen years ago) link

But still. Sorry if you couldn't get in. I ended up missing that show myself as it didn't start till 1:30 or so and I was about to fall over after waiting for two hours. Getting weak in old age.

Forksclovetofu (Forksclovetofu), Saturday, 24 September 2005 01:19 (fourteen years ago) link

September 20, 2005
Heart, and Piano, Back in New Orleans

If the state of Louisiana were handing out an award for most dapper evacuee, Allen Toussaint would win hands down.

On Friday, two and a half weeks after he fled Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Toussaint, 67, a seminal figure on the New Orleans music scene, was decked out in a pinstriped suit illuminated by the pink and purple silk of a coordinated shirt, tie and pocket square. Gliding coolly through a Manhattan lobby, he ushered visitors into his temporary quarters near Lincoln Center, far from the sludge and heartache.

Hesitantly, Mr. Toussaint extended his tapered fingers to accept an envelope bearing pictures of his home taken several days earlier by a photographer from The New York Times, who had waded through hip-deep water down his street. It was to be his first post-hurricane glimpse of the shrimp-colored house in a once tidy neighborhood where he and his beloved Steinway piano have lived for decades.

"Wow," Mr. Toussaint said after an initial silence. "Good heavens. I'm getting drenched just looking at these pictures. The water is whipping my body."

Noting relief that the house was still standing, that the roof was attached and that the front door remained closed, Mr. Toussaint paused, taking in the putrid moat that surrounded his home and had surely ravaged its interior.

"This certainly helps me to face the music," he said softly.

He tapped out a few beats on a table, then said: "O.K. I can't wait to get back and start over. As soon as the powers that be say it's O.K., I'm going to be on the first thing smokin'. Give me a hammer. I'm ready to do my part to rebuild New Orleans."

Mr. Toussaint is a performer, songwriter, arranger and producer whose influence on New Orleans music, and on rock 'n' roll in general, cannot be captured by ticking off a few of the many hit songs that he wrote, like "Working in the Coal Mine," "Mother-in-Law" and "Southern Nights."

"He helped invent things we take as everyday in music - certain beats, certain arrangements," said Josh Feigenbaum, a former radio industry entrepreneur and Mr. Toussaint's New York-based partner in a music label, NYNO, dedicated to New Orleans music. "His impact on rock 'n' roll really can't be overstated."

In recognition of Mr. Toussaint's centrality to the New Orleans music scene, his music will be featured during this evening's Hurricane Katrina benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. Mr. Toussaint will perform, his band will back up other performers, and many artists - Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Cyril Neville, Art Neville, Paul Simon and Irma Thomas - will sing his songs.

While Mr. Toussaint is not a household name, the breadth of his songwriting and the range of his compositions are undeniable, if sometimes overlooked. Mr. Costello, an admirer, said on Sunday that he was baffled that Mr. Toussaint's vast and varied oeuvre is often omitted when people refer to "the great American songbook."

After growing up in a segregated New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint began playing piano professionally at 17, released his first album at 20 and spent the 1960's churning out hits for Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Ms. Thomas and others. A range of musicians from the Rolling Stones to Glen Campbell covered his songs, and he collaborated with the Band (writing horn arrangements for the film "The Last Waltz"), Dr. John (producing, arranging and performing on "Right Place, Wrong Time") and Labelle (producing "Lady Marmalade," the still ubiquitous disco hit).

Mr. Toussaint also nurtured the Meters, a top-drawer New Orleans funk band started by Art Neville, and he continues to broaden his own performance repertory, mixing jazz, funk, soul and rhythm and blues with the vernacular sounds of Louisiana.

Quint Davis, producer of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and of the Katrina benefit at the Garden, said that the "very erudite" Mr. Toussaint was widely regarded as a landmark on the musical cityscape.

But in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint did not live like a legend. In the early 1970's, he settled into a modest house on a low-lying cul-de-sac called Frey Place in a quiet, predominantly black middle-class neighborhood near the New Orleans Fairgrounds. He liked it on Frey Place, he said, because "when you walk out the door, the world doesn't smack you in the face."

Some of Mr. Toussaint's neighbors felt their lives quietly enriched by living elbow to elbow with a man who could make his home anywhere. "Right next to me was one of the most famous people in New Orleans," Rommel Griffin, a U.P.S. employee and Baptist minister, said in a phone interview from Jackson, Miss. "That spoke volumes about our humble little neighborhood."

Mr. Toussaint said that his son, Clarence Reginald Toussaint, who is also a musician and producer, constantly urged him to move into fancier digs. "He's a cocky individual," Mr. Toussaint said. "He says, 'Live large.' But large is a spirit to me, not a place."

Staying put, not just in the Crescent City itself but in one's little corner of it, is a New Orleans thing. Until Fats Domino was evacuated from his rooftop as the water rose, he famously inhabited the low-income neighborhood of his childhood, across from a Family Dollar and cater-corner to a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Lower Ninth Ward.

That is why the evacuation of a devastated New Orleans is so wrenching to those artists like Mr. Toussaint who derive their inspiration from their hometown. As Mr. Toussaint said, "Some of us get homesick at the airport every time we're fixing to leave."

Mr. Toussaint had not, in fact, been fixing to leave this time. "I intended to ride it out as I have every storm of my life," he said. "I knew it would be bigger and badder, but hurricanes are my familiar archenemies."

The day before Katrina struck, Mr. Toussaint decided that it would be prudent to evacuate vertically, as they say in New Orleans, by checking into a high floor of a hotel on high ground. He brought an overnight bag.

Then the levees were breached, and Mr. Toussaint found himself sloshing through calf-deep water, "shaking a fist at the hurricane," he said. He bought a ticket for a bus that never materialized and finally bumped into a "pastor friend" who "for a fee" secured him another ride out of town.

Eventually, Mr. Toussaint flew to New York, where Mr. Feigenbaum helped him resettle in a temporary apartment near Lincoln Center. "It seems that Josh is not a fair-weather friend but a foul-weather friend," Mr. Toussaint, who often talks as if he's testing out lyrics, said.

Mr. Toussaint said that he did not want to think about what he might have lost - about his piano, his synthesizer, the sheet music that bore the ink-scratched history of his songs, the work cassettes that captured the evolution of his compositions.

"I don't want to flirt with hurt," he said. "What's lost is lost."

Mr. Toussaint is optimistic that New Orleans will flourish again. This moment, he said, is only an intermission. And the national spotlight on New Orleans's special place in American culture might even re-energize both the city and its music scene, he said.

Still, Mr. Toussaint said that he was not ready to address the hurricane musically. "I don't really know how to speak about it in a song yet," he said. "Except I keep thinking: New Orleans, New Orleans/ More than Mardi Gras, more than Bourbon Street/ A whole lot more."

Performing solo in a hurricane benefit at Joe's Pub on Sunday - a second performance is scheduled for next Sunday - Mr. Toussaint seemed taken aback by the repeated standing ovations offered him by a crowd that included Mr. Costello.

Staring at the audience, raising his eyebrows and smiling ever so slightly, he inquired in his velvety voice, "Is this because of the flood?"

Steve K (Steve K), Saturday, 24 September 2005 14:30 (fourteen years ago) link

Mr. Toussaint said that his son, Clarence Reginald Toussaint, who is also a musician and producer, constantly urged him to move into fancier digs. "He's a cocky individual," Mr. Toussaint said. "He says, 'Live large.' But large is a spirit to me, not a place."

"But large is a spirit to me, not a place."

I love that.

steve-k, Saturday, 24 September 2005 16:46 (fourteen years ago) link

I just read on some other blog that Toussaint had produced and written songs for bluesy soul singer ZZ Hill back in the early '70s. I didn't know that.

Steve K (Steve K), Sunday, 25 September 2005 14:41 (fourteen years ago) link

Saw his last matinee show today and Mr. Joe's Pub employee was fuckin' floored. Gorgeous, knock out show.

Forksclovetofu (Forksclovetofu), Monday, 26 September 2005 00:15 (fourteen years ago) link

How can I get him to come down to DC?

steve-k, Monday, 26 September 2005 12:08 (fourteen years ago) link

i wanna go so bad. just meeting him (at Joe's Pub during the Bettye LaVette show) was like a dream.

b8a, Monday, 26 September 2005 15:02 (fourteen years ago) link

two months pass...
So much for a bio of Toussaint:

From the Looka blog:
"Bad news. I got an email from Mary Katherine yesterday ... Stevenson Palfi, the New Orleans-based documentary filmmaker best known for his amazing film "Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together" (featuring performances from Tuts Washington, Allen Toussaint, and Professor Longhair two days before his death), took his own life a few days ago. He had lost his home, his office and almost all of his possessions, presumably including several years worth of work he had done on an unfinished in-depth biography of Allen Toussaint."

curmudgeon (Steve K), Saturday, 17 December 2005 06:32 (fourteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Saw Allen Toussaint with Marva Wright at Blues Alley in the Georgetown part of D.C. last night. At times he was great--telling a story about visiting his Creole relatives in rural Louisiana before he did "Southern Nights"--but he also just raced through many of his hits in medley form, and the show was real short (an hour and ten minutes including the songs where he accompanied powerful blues belter Marva Wright). Blues Alley might have had a hand in the shortness, as they wanted to get people in early for the second show. That place is nice in that it is small, but it is so expensive.

curmudgeon, Monday, 26 March 2007 16:30 (twelve years ago) link

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