“The Bright Mississippi” featuring Marc Ribot and Don Byron
When pianist Allen Toussaint recorded his 2007 instrumental album, The Bright Mississippi, the New Orleans R&B legend had never played the jazz classics selected for him by recording producer Joe Henry – songs by Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet and Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. And Toussaint had never played with any of the jazz artists gathered for the session, including brashly inventive guitarist Marc Ribot and clarinet virtuoso Don Byron. Leave it to the pianist, a walking encyclopedia of American music, to brilliantly re-invent himself, personalize songs such as “West End Blues” and “Dear Old Southland” and garner a Grammy nomination for his efforts.
As he demonstrated with his command performance at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Toussaint remains committed to the funkified soul he is best known for – as a singer, songwriter, keyboardist and producer. Backed tonight by Crescent City regulars Renard Poche (guitar), Brian Cayolle (saxophone), Roland Guerrin (bass) and Herman LeBeaux (drums), he will sing and play classics of his such as “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?” and “Freedom for the Stallion.”
But the revelations and highlight’s of the festival’s closing set promise to come from The Bright Mississippi instrumentals, which he will invest with an alternate New Orleans jazz sensibility with the impassioned support of Ribot and Byron. You can take Toussaint out of New Orleans – and we’re delighted you can – but you can never take the city with which Chicago has had such a glorious relationship over the decades, musically and in other ways – out of his playing.