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The Bright Mississippi
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|11. "Long, Long Journey"|
2009 release from the New Orleans legend. On The Bright Mississippi Toussaint continues to break new ground with his first Jazz-oriented set, displaying the same effortless swing and relaxed charm he brought to his classic Rock 'N' Roll sides. Backed by an all-star combo that sounds like a group of old friends, Toussaint reinterprets classic Jazz and Blues tunes popularized or written by such New Orleans greats as Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton and Joe King Oliver, as well as pieces composed by fellow travelers Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. He accedes the producer's chair to trusted friend Joe Henry, who sat behind the board for Toussaint's contributions to Our New Orleans, Nonesuch Records' best-selling 2005 benefit disc aiding Katrina hurricane victims.
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It's a pleasant amalgam of versions of classic compositions and jazz standards (ranging from Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt to Louis Armstrong and Thelonious Monk) which sometimes make the listeners rise to their feet and feel groovy.
The theme is Toussaint's acknowledgement and affirmation of the artistic, historical and spiritual connections that have made New Orleans the powerful jazz force it has become over the past decades.
The renowned producer Joe Henry (who had already worked with Toussaint on the CD "The River In Reverse" with Elvis Costello), suggested he revisit the city's jazz era.
For the new recording, which provides a stimulating exploration of Allen Toussaint's unique talents, the "Moses of New Orleans" teams with a cast of heavy weight cats : clarinetist Don Byron, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, guitarist Marc Ribot and, on a track a piece, pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman.
His piano versions of standards such as "Winin' Boy Blues" showcase his utter nonchalance and diplay that funk was always in the Big Easy's blood.
There are rhythms, which are elegant and infectious and spiritual, soulful vibes, in the spirit of a fine evening of Crescent City-inspired music.
The silky, lyrical piano touch and improvisational sweep from Toussaint can give even Herbie Hancock a run.
The results is a very enjoyable and relaxed listening: there was never any doubt Allen Toussaint's long awaited and almost first jazz solo album would be anything other than magnificent.
My favourite tracks: "Dear Old Southland", "West End Blues" and "Bright Mississippi".
Update. The album debuts at # 2 of the Billboard Top Jazz Albums.
Issue date: 2009-05-09
The Allen Toussaint Collection
The River in Reverse
Oddly enough for me, I was more intrigued with the cast than Toussaint himself, but he's won me over with smart selections and lovely playing. Each song has that majestical new orleans feel that one can only understand having come from that environment.
Great job Nonsuch too - for recognizing the need for a project like this... 4 stars...
"The Bright Mississippi" (12 tracks; 62 min.) is an amazing album. Opening with "Egyptian Fantasy" it immediately brings the "Mississippi" sound to the fore. Better tracks lay ahead, such as "Dear Old Southland", featuring the beautiful piano work from Toussaint. Other highlights for me are "Winin' Boy Blues", just Toussaint on piano; the pensive "Blue Drag"; the title track; and the album closer "Solitude". Allen takes vocals on just 1 track, "Long, Long Journey" and that is quite a nice track too. This is a "lazy" album, and I do mean that as a compliment, perfect to have as a soundtrack while you are reading a book.
So last week I was in Columbus on business and couldn't believe my good fortune to see that Toussaint was in town at the beautiful and intimate Southern Theatre. What a great show that was, with Toussaint playing several tracks of this album and also bringing many of his "greatest hits". The man has an amazing musical legacy indeed. After the show I picked up this album, and I can't emphasize enough how much I am enjoying this album.