Allen Toussaint – Live @ Scullers Jazz Club

Allen Toussaint
Live @ Scullers Jazz Club
Boston – August 20, 2009
Matt Robinson

“Hello, Second Setters!” … Cordial and audience aware, songwriter / arranger / producer / snappy dresser Allen Toussaint took the later night Boston audience  through a whirlwind tour of songs he wrote/arranged/produced and even a few he didn’t but “wished I had.”

 

Starting off with the patriotically fraternal ballad “We Are America,” Toussaint accelerated through “Yes We Can Can” to see if his enrapt audience could keep up (and they did!). Once he knew the crowd was fully with him, Toussaint ran through a medley of chart- topping hits that careened from “Mother In Law” (written for his infamous fellow New Orlenian Ernie K-Doe) to “Fortune Teller” (made famous by the Rolling Stones and more recently by Robert Plant, among others) to “Sweet Touch of Love” (which has become the “theme song” for a chocolate-covered TV pitchman for an item Toussaint could not recall). Amidst dedications to local radio legend Holly Harris, fellow Crescent City key-man Professor Longhair and everyone else in New Orleans, Toussaint swung on a moment’s notice from Baroque to Barrelhouse to Blues and back, demonstrating the diversity and musical command that has made him one of the most popular and prolific artists of our age.

 

The set spanned most of Toussaint’s career, bringing know-every-note fans and recent initiates all the way up to his latest album, “The Bright Mississippi” (Nonesuch) by way of a creeping take on “St. James Infirmary” and the self- describing Monk-penned title tune. In addition to this “cover,” 

 

Toussaint also played “Mama You Been On My Mind” by Bob Dylan, a fellow master of song of whom Toussaint admitted some good-natured jealousy by expressing a desire to “punch him in the mouth.” Violence was the furthers thing from his mind, however, as he wafted his wispy voice over his firm and learned hands- hands which are far more attuned to creating and sharing music than bopping anybody. When it was all over, the audience showed what their hands could do, offering an ovation that called Toussaint back for “the second half of the show” even though the time bell had long since rung.

 

“There’s more to come,” he promised after sharing a story of his battered but never broken Bayou home. And from the time they spent shaking hands and talking with the master, it was clear that the audience could not wait to hear it!