Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch/Warners)

 |   |  1 min read

Allen Toussaint: West End Blues
Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch/Warners)

This godfather and keeper-of-the-keys in New Orleans music has popped up quite a lot recently in a more mainstream popular culture context by appearing on albums with James Hunter and Elvis Costello (The River in Reverse), and would be well known to Elsewhere readers.

For this album however (produced by the remarkable Joe Henry) the pianist/arranger goes right back to the early jazz era of The Big Easy and in the company of superb players such as trumpeter Nicholas Payton, guitarist Marc Ribot and others (pianist Brad Mehldau and tenor player Joshua Redman guest on a track each) he conjures up the pre-swing grooves, sleepytime down South mood of the city in those now distant days.

The jazzy stylings have a pop economy (melodic brevity, choruses) and the material is wide ranging from a deep but spare treatment of St James Infirmary (can you hear Dylan's Blind Willie McTell in here as I do?) through to the old spiritual Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Duke Ellington's Solitude and Day Dream, Thelonious Monk's title tune and Django Reinhardt's Blue Drag.

Henry writes a typically lyrical, informative and evocative essay (his liner notes are always worth reading in themselves) in which he notes it is impossible to overestimate the significance of this source music: Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet etc. And of course he is right.

But this is no mere homage, this music is vital and vibrant in these hands, and even the most familiar tunes sound fresh and, in places, fun.

Of course there is a Southern melancholy everywhere, inevitable in the post-Katrina context, but this album is just plain, flat out wonderful on every count.

A gem. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band: Outer South (UN SPK)

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band: Outer South (UN SPK)

You don't have to get too far into this album -- maybe just a few chords in fact -- to click that this isn't the Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes) of previous releases, the guy who started by juggling... > Read more

Seth Haapu: Seth Haapu (Sony)

Seth Haapu: Seth Haapu (Sony)

Although this suffers a little, but only a very little, from the showcasing which often attends any debut -- and has one of those now customary intro tracks which seem de rigueur on hip-hop albums,... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

BOXER MAX SCHMELING REMEMBERED (2005): And a fighter by his trade

BOXER MAX SCHMELING REMEMBERED (2005): And a fighter by his trade

News of the death of Max Schmeling came through this weekend, a man who stood briefly in the spotlight of history. His name will not be familiar to you unless you are interested in boxing. I am.... > Read more

BONFIRE OF ROADMAPS by JOE ELY (2008)

BONFIRE OF ROADMAPS by JOE ELY (2008)

Joe Ely who grew up in Lubbock, West Texas (Buddy Holly's hometown) is something of a legend in Americana/alt.country rock: he was on the road in the early 70s hitching around to play gigs far... > Read more