Allen Toussaint – Jazz History Speaks

Jazz History SpeaksAllen Toussaint

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – May 2, 2009
Matt Robinson

After a brief introduction by local Jazz writer Bern Sandmel that paled in comparison to its object, multi-hyphened entertainer and devotedly New Orlenian musical sage Allen Toussaint bounced up the stairs to the stage in the pleasantly cool grandstand of the New Orleans horse track that has been home to the city’s world-famous Fest for nearly 40 years.


Dressed as diversely as his music in a sport coat and wild tie over simple slacks, white socks, and his trademark sandals, the award-festooned multiple hall of fame-r regaled the crowd with otherly-focused stories of his many lives on the road, including his interactions as a “sideman” with the legendary likes of Elvis Costello and the late Robert Palmer (all of whom he sang of more loudly than himself), as well as the team of talented types with whom he collaborate on his latest album, “The Bright Mississippi” (which includes reed master Don Byron, trumpeter Nick Payton, and guitarist Marc Ribot). In between these tales were tones and tunes that ranged from Gospely inspirations to contemporary funk fists and wide-handed “tens” (ten note intervals).


Saving his voice for the next day’s main stage performance, Toussaint only sang intermittently, but when he did, his smooth, mellifluous voice carried the crowd along on a rhythmic ride they did not want to get off. And as Toussaint hinted at what may yet be, the crowd literally yelled out for more. Not one to leave them unsatisfied, Toussaint seemed to realize that, as he has done so much with so many, every point is as much end as beginning.


And so, after taking a few questions and some volunteered blessings that left him nearly speechless, Toussaint bid his fans ado until next time.