Congrats to one of my very favorite piano players on receiving America’s most prestigious arts award; The National Medal of Arts. New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint was at the White House last month as Prez Obama honored and placed the well deserved ribbons and medals on Allen Toussaint and a marvelous gang of Americans including Renee Fleming, Herb Alpert, George Lucas and Elaine May.
Allen Toussaint is part of a rather long, impressive line of New Orleans pianists and trailblazers that runs from Jelly Roll Morton, Professor Long Hair, Fats Domino, and Dr. John to Toussaint. With tunes like “Mother-in-Law”, Working in the Coal Mine”, “Southern Nights and “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?” he has written or had an arranging hand in some of the Crescent City’s best stuff. Elvis Costello, Aaron Neville, Eric Clapton, Boz Scaggs and Paul McCartney have all admired and worked with this legend. I’ll never forget Allen sitting down at the piano and joining us in the studios of the CD 101.9 in New York. It was June 8, 1998 and while broadcasting the Pat & Ray Morning Show he broke into a very funky N.O. styled version of Happy Birthday for yours truly. One of my coolest memories…EVER. Allen, you’re the man!
Here’s one to add to your collection—his 2009 Bright Mississippi release on Nonesuch. It’s about as funky, down home and original as an album can be. There is truly nothing like a New Orleans piano player at the top of his game. It’s like a musical history lesson pouring out of the speakers.