Allen Toussaint – Jazz Café, London 16/08/11

September 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

A review we couldn't fit in the magazine! By Kate Pieroudis.

Allen Toussaint thrilled the crowd at the Jazz Café on a lilting Tuesday summer evening in Camden. His background as singer, songwriter, producer, arranger and supreme bearer of musical piano-playing gifts was more than apparent during this mesmerising solo show.

Kicking off with a stripped down "Party Goin' On" he stunned the crowd with his silken vocals notching up the pace to "Sneakin' Sally through The Alley". At times it seemed he was paying homage to his New Orleans piano influences as he entered into the tour de force that was Professor Longhair’s "Big Chief" during which he slipped into classical James Booker-esque melodies, interspersed with Longhair inspired rhumbas that had the crowd shaking. He’s a gentle piano player, but everything he hits is bang in the pocket, with his love for Longhair pretty much evident in every bar.

From dancing to laughter- the crowd giggled with images of devil-like women as he sang the tongue-in-cheek "Mother In Law", which was repeated as an encore as he invited Jose Feliciano on stage to reprise it to his piano backing.

A personal favourite, I shuddered as he sang "Southern Nights" – quite a feat without the synthesized vocals the song is famed for. Man and piano created sultry sweet lyrics of growing up in New Orleans, breaking off to talk for some minutes halfway through. He conjured up images of his childhood, recalling conversations ‘..with the old Creole folks on the porch at night, and the moonlight as it caught the edges of the leaves on the trees making them all look silver, and you know, it seemed they were shinin’, shinin’, just for us..” I certainly wasn’t the only misty-eyed member of the audience once this 10 minute rendition ended.

Ever the showman, he threw in pure Toussaint gold- including many of his greatest hits from the successful collaboration with vocalist Lee Dorsey, including "Everything I Do, Gonh Be Funky” the anthemic "Get Out My Life Woman" and "Working In a Coalmine".

We were incredibly lucky to be given songs spanning his 40 years in the industry. "Here Come the Girls" (written in the 60’s) also encouraged dancing and his wry, self-deprecating humour as he explained he couldn’t quite believe his fortune when he ‘got the call from England…you want to use that??!' referring to it being featured in a Boots advert. He demonstrated his phenomenal range of musical styles with the bluesy "Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)" combined with the hints of Northern Soul and funk of 'Fortune Teller'.

A youthful looking 73 year old, he dazzled in a sequined peacock inspired bright purple and blue suit, that reflected his still vibrant and at times mischievous personality. His involvement and accessibility to the audience after the show perfectly demonstrated the inclusive New Orleans connection of artist to audience. Understated playing, elegance and charm, Mr Toussaint, you dazzled in every way imaginable.

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