Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Allen Toussaint at Metrotech Park, Brooklyn NY 6/11/09

At age 70, Allen Toussaint is entitled to do whatever he wants. For his early 60s work as a New Orleans soul/pop producer, pianist and songwriter for Lee Dorsey and scores of others, he belongs in whatever hall of fame is big enough for someone of his stature (forget that stupid place in Cleveland who just inducted Journey and New Kids on the Block – or if they haven’t, someday they assuredly will). Despite grey skies and a very welcome chill in the air, Toussaint proved he still has his groove. And proof that good things sometimes actually come to those who wait: cover and drinks at his recent stand at the Village Vanguard with a dubious cast including Marc Ribot and Don Byron could have set you back something in the neighborhood of fifty bucks, while this show was free. With a five-piece band – guitar, rhythm section, percussionist and tenor sax – perfectly tasteful and in the pocket, Toussaint mixed familiar oldies radio standards, classic R&B, and a little funk along with a couple of lite FM hits.

Right off the bat, his chops were in full force. Toussaint isn’t flashy, never was – like many songwriters from his genre and his era, he doesn’t waste notes getting to the point, with a warmly chordal, staccato, even percussive attack. Nor is he a flashy singer, which was especially noticeable as the sound engineer fiddled with his vocals in the mix, but did a capable job nonetheless. He played the old stuff first: There’s a Party Going On, Here Comes the Girl and a long, tasty, fluidly soulful version of the minor-key We Got Love, which he wrote for Dorsey well over forty years ago. Then he did a medley including A Certain Girl, Mother-in-Law, Fortune Teller and Working in a Coal Mine. The Pointer Sisters’ hit Yes We Can Can was reinvented and vastly improved as yet another soul/funk number, as was another unfamiliar tune (at least to anyone who knows nothing about lite FM) apparently made famous by Bonnie Raitt.

Toussaint messed around, jazzing up some Grieg and Chopin before bringing back the groove with Get Out of My Life Woman (his most-covered song, he said, 35 times). Everything I Do Is Gonna Be Funky featured an impressively multistylistic guitar solo (his axeman had great chops, all too apparent on an ill-advised metal excursion during one of the early numbers). After over an hour and casual, warm takes of the oldschool soul tune Waiting at the Station (written for Aaron Neville, pre-Neville Bros.) and Something You Got (covered by every bluesman and woman in existence), raindrops started to appear and by then it was obvious that Toussaint wasn’t going to play anything from The River in Reverse, his superb (and perhaps career-best) collaboration with Elvis Costello. Then the band began the intro to the Glenn Campbell easy-listening hit Southern Nights, which made it easy to get up and leave. Something like that would leave a concertgoer feeling shortchanged at a pricy jazz club, but for free at lunchtime, who cares. This summer’s Thursday noontime outdoor shows at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn, put on by BAM, aren’t much: Rebirth Brass Band will be there on July 9, with Malian guitar siren Rokia Traore on August 6.

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June 11, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Marc Ribot and Don Byron “dubious”? I hope you’re kidding! (Musicians you rate highly value their collaboration: Elvis Costello with Marc Ribot, and Bill Frisell and Mamadou Diabate with Don Byron, to name just a few.)

    Some facts: Allen Toussaint wrote both “Southern Nights” and “Fortune Teller” — the latter under the pseudonym “Naomi Neville” (his mother’s maiden name). But Lieber and Stoller????????? Don’t know where you came up with that one!

    Finally, Village Vanguard prices for Allen Toussaint were NOT “$50”!!! Rather, they were standard Vanguard prices: Tues-Thu $30, Fri-Sun $35 — prices that INCLUDE the “drink minimum.” So the only added cost is to tip your server. Quite a reasonable price for an incredible 6-piece band plus 2 guest vocalists on most nights…

    No, I have no affiliation with the Vanguard — other than as a paying customer!

    Comment by Maren Marx | June 12, 2009 | Reply

  2. hey thanks for clarifying Fortune Teller, I’ve seen it credited to Lieber/Stoller and now I see it’s obviously not them. And glad the Vanguard is less pricy than assumed – I actually love that place – the point here is that if something’s free, carpe diem. As for Ribot, he has amazing chops but IMHO vastly overrated – I’ve seldom seen a colder, less soulful player. Byron is a different story – great technique but a little too eager to please I think, a fish out of water much of the time…

    Comment by lc | June 12, 2009 | Reply


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