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Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi (2009)

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Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Pianist, writer, producer and arranger Allen Toussaint can justifiably be called a living legend. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he helped define the New Orleans R&B sound of the '60s and '70s through his work with Lee Dorsey
Lee Dorsey
Lee Dorsey
1926 - 1986
vocalist
, Irma Thomas
Irma Thomas
Irma Thomas
b.1941
vocalist
, The Meters
The Meters
The Meters

band/orchestra
and Dr. John
Dr. John
Dr. John
b.1940
piano
, then went on to collaborate with rock giants like The Band, Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Simon
b.1941
composer/conductor
and Little Feat
Little Feat
Little Feat

band/orchestra
. He also produced the funk classic "Lady Marmalade" for LaBelle and wrote "Southern Nights," a number one hit for, of all people, Glen Campbell.

Toussaint's first solo effort in more than a decade is a heartfelt tribute to his hometown of New Orleans and the classic jazz on which he grew up. Producer Joe Henry, a jazz-loving rocker who also produced The River in Reverse, Toussaint's 2006 album with Elvis Costello, surrounds Toussaint here with a talented and eclectic crew including guitarist Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
b.1954
guitar
, clarinetist Don Byron
Don Byron
Don Byron
b.1958
clarinet
, New Orleans-born trumpeter Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
b.1973
trumpet
and, from Henry's own band, bassist David Piltch and drummer Jay Bellerose. Pianist Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
and saxophonist Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
b.1969
saxophone
also sit in for a track each: the cerebral modernist Mehldau showing his earthier side on Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
1890 - 1941
piano
's "Winin' Boy Blues" and Redman offering gorgeous, rough-hewn solos on Ellington-Strayhorn's "Day Dream."

Although he's spent his career in other genres, the 71-year-old Toussaint, an heir to the rollicking New Orleans piano style of Professor Longhair
Professor Longhair
Professor Longhair
1918 - 1980
piano
, Fats Domino
Fats Domino
Fats Domino
b.1928
piano
and others, is clearly at home playing this music. And the rest of the band feeds off Toussaint's laid-back vibe and obvious joy in revisiting the music of his youth. Highlights include Ribot's spot-on acoustic guitar solos on Ellington's "Solitude" and Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt
1910 - 1953
guitar
's "Blue Drag" and Byron's moving clarinet work on the gospel standard "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." The set's most surprising and memorable number is the title track by Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
, which Toussaint and company turn into a strutting New Orleans shuffle.


Track Listing: Egyptian Fantasy; Dear Old Southland; St. James Infirmary; Singin' the Blues; Winin' Boy Blues; West End Blues; Blue Drag; Just a Closer Walk with Thee; Bright Mississippi; Day Dream; Long Long Journey; Solitude.

Personnel: Allen Toussaint: piano, vocals; Don Byron: clarinet; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Marc Ribot: acoustic guitar; David Piltch: bass; Jay Bellerose: drums and percussion; Brad Mehldau: piano; Joshua Redman: tenor saxophone.

Record Label: Nonesuch Records

Style: Dixieland/New Orleans/Swing


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