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Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Jul 26th, 2016

Allen Toussaint: American Tunes

allen toussaintAllen Toussaint
American Tunes
(Nonesuch Records)

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Few musicians in the New Orleans jazz scene could play with such a depth of feeling as Allen Toussaint, the Saint of New Orleans, a passion he poured into every one of his projects as a songwriter (for The Pointer Sisters and Three Dog Night, among others) and solo artist, as well as a producer (Dr. John, LaBelle), arranger (The Band, Paul Simon), and session pianist (Fats Domino). It’s the feeling Toussaint put into every note that takes listeners along with him to a place of inner peace and joy, and a sort of fond nostalgia.

There is something soothing yet deeply energizing in the experience of listening to American Tunes, his posthumous release that includes some funkier versions of his older standards. From beginning to end, “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” to “Southern Nights” (a song he wrote for country superstar Glen Campbell), it’s as if Toussaint is just taking a Sunday stroll along the keys of his piano – this relaxed playing style hints at the quiet confidence in his own abilities, a self-assuredness achieved only through sixty-plus years of practice. “Rocks in My Bed,” a duet with Rhiannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops, glows like a Sarah Vaughan tune, taking our minds to much simpler times (and even times before our own). It’s hard to feel stress of any kind when you lend your ears to this kind of talent. A gift from above recently reclaimed, Toussaint’s indelible mark on New Orleans rhythm and blues (and American music in general) will not soon be forgotten.

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Allen Toussaint: American Tunes