After a harrowing experience of administrative scandal, followed by near extinction, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of drummer Adonis Rose, rises phoenix-like from the ashes to release the first large orchestra consideration of New Orleans son Allen Toussaint. Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint is a celebration of the late composer, featuring nine selections either penned by or associated with him. Toussaint is NOLA royalty, whose name exists in the same breath as Cosimo Matassa, the Neville family, Antoine Domino, and Dave Bartholomew. Toussaint's presence was large and deep and more than appropriate for a big band consideration.
The disc opens with "Southern Nights," a hit recording for Glen Campbell in 1977, this version featuring trombonist/vocalist Michael Watson. This song demonstrates the cross-genre and cross-cultural reach of Toussaint's art within American music. Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater sings "It's Raining" and "With You in Mind," sharing the latter with Phillip Manuel. Rose's drumming and percussion provide the necessary agitation for a Gerald French performance of "Gert Town" (the NOLA neighborhood in which Toussaint grew up).
But it is the band that is the star here. Crisp arranging and crack execution characterize these performances. "Working in a Coal Mine" is fanciful and organic while "Tequila," although not a Toussaint original, was a favorite of his to perform. The horn section carries its water on the strutting "Java" while hitting a swinging stride on "Zimple Street." The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra has a formidable sonic presence, capably harnessed by Rose, who proves an empathic leader of the band.
Southern Nights; It’s Raining; Working in the Coal Mine; Ruler of My Heart; Java; Gert Town; With You in Mind; Zimple Street; Tequila.
Adonis Rose: artistic director, drums, cymbals (1, 3, 6, 7, 9); Ashlin Parker: trumpet; Leon Brown: trumpet, vocal (8); Barney Floyd: trumpet; Jonathan Bauer: trumpet; Khari Lee: alto sax; Jeronne Ansari: alto sax; Edward Petersen: tenor sax; Ricardo Pascal: tenor sax; Trevarri Boone: baritone sax; Michael Watson: trombone; Terrance Taplin: trombone; Chris Butcher: trombone; Victor Atkins: piano; Jason Stewart: bass; Gerald Watkins: drums, cymbals (2, 4, 5, 8); Alexey Marti: percussion; Michael Watson: vocal (1); Dee Dee Bridgewater, vocals (2, 7); Nayo Jones: vocal (4); Philip Manuel: vocal (7); Gerald French, vocal, percussion (6). Additional musicians – Aaron Fletcher: alto sax; Roderick Paulin: alto sax; Gregory Agid: alto sax; Jamil Sharif: trumpet; Jeremy Thomas: trumpet; Emily Mikesell: trumpet.