Allen Toussaint American Tunes on 2LP w/ Bonus Tracks
Final Recording from Late New Orleans Legend!
Nonesuch releases American Tunes, a new studio album by legendary New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint. Toussaint had just completed the album when he passed away in November of last year during a European tour. Recording took place at two sets of sessions with producer Joe Henry: solo piano at Toussaint's New Orleans home studio in 2013, and with the rhythm section of Jay Bellerose and David Piltch – joined by guests Bill Frisell, Charles Lloyd, Greg Leisz, Rhiannon Giddens, and Van Dyke Parks – in Los Angeles in October 2015. The album comprises solo performances of Professor Longhair tunes and band arrangements of songs by Toussaint, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Paul Simon, and others.
Henry had first worked with Toussaint when he invited the pianist to join the sessions for I Believe to My Soul, a studio convocation of mature R&B stars. Henry subsequently acted as producer on Toussaint's post-Katrina collaboration with Elvis Costello, The River in Reverse. He describes the most recent sessions: "I have been working with Allen Toussaint — under his spell and subject to his influence — for a full decade now. He was a quiet radical, musically-speaking, and a prince of great humility."
Toussaint's work as composer, producer, arranger, and performer, especially in the 1960s and '70s, helped shape the sound of R&B, soul, and funk as we know it today. He collaborated memorably with artists ranging from Lee Dorsey and Ernie K. Doe to the Pointer Sisters and Labelle, from the Meters and Dr. John to the Band and Paul McCartney. The New York Times recently said, "In Mr. Toussaint's long career as songwriter, arranger and producer he has honed a piano style that's supportive and allusive; a little trill or tremolo sums up all the splashy joys of New Orleans patriarchs like Professor Longhair and James Booker, and a syncopated chord under right-hand octaves summons gospel. Mr. Toussaint has the two-fisted, rippling vocabulary of the city's piano legacy, but he uses it in dapper ways."
Toussaint's children, Alison Toussaint-LeBeaux and Clarence Reginald Toussaint, who have long served as their father's managers, said of the American Tunes album, "Our father approached this project with great care and understanding of the songs selected and paid true homage to Professor Longhair, his musical hero. He wanted to bring as much of the Toussaint touch as he could to these wonderful classics."