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Allen Toussaint: American Tunes

Jakob Baekgaard By

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The mighty river of American songs flows in many different directions: blues, gospel, jazz and funk are part of the muddy water that makes up the music.

Pianist, composer, arranger and record producer, Allen Toussaint, who sadly passed away in 2015, was an important part of the ongoing legacy of American music. He was one of the architects of New Orleans R & B, but his musical horizon was much broader than just a single genre. More than anything, his final album American Tunes shows Toussaint's ability to connect many different genres with an empathic understanding of tradition.

The album includes songs by such diverse composers and songwriters as Duke Ellington, Professor Longhair, Earl Hines and Paul Simon, whose "American Tune" is echoed in the album's title.

Toussaint's reading of pianist Bill Evans' romantic "Waltz for Debby" is a fine example of his personal take on the music. A sophisticated Latin rhythm underscores the music and the waltz becomes more pulsating than the original without losing its lyrical sweetness.

There is also room for two compositions penned by Toussaint himself: "Dolores' Boyfriend" gives a nod to Professor Longhair's rolling piano licks while "Southern Nights" is fleshed out in all its lyrical beauty in a ballad reading that is far from the version made famous by singer and songwriter, Glen Campbell.

These are just two songs out of many that Toussaint has contributed to the treasure chest of American songs. American Tunes is an album that confirms Toussaint's place in the canon of American music.

Track Listing: Delores' Boyfriend; Viper's Drag; Confessin' (That I Love You); Mardis Gras In New Orleans; Lotus Blossom; Waltz For Debby; Big Chief; Rocks In My Bed; Danza op. 33; Hey Little Girl; Rosetta; Come Sunday; Southern Nights; American Tune

Personnel: Allen Toussaint: piano and vocals; Jay Bellerose: drums and percussion; Bill Frisell: electric guitar; Greg Leisz: weissenborn; Charles Lloyd: tenor saxophone; David Piltch: upright bass; Adam Levy: gut-string guitar; Cameron Stone: cello; Amy Shulman: harp; Rhiannon Giddens: vocals; Van Dyke Parks: second piano and orchestral arrangement

Title: American Tunes | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Nonesuch Records

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