When Hurricane Katrina forced Allen Toussaint out of New Orleans in 2005, he moved to New York, where he began an extended residency at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan. In September of 2009, he was recorded there solo over the course of two evenings. This deluxe CD/DVD set is drawn from those performances.
Toussaint’s compositions have helped define New Orleans music (and American pop music) for more than 50 years. He’s written and/or produced hits for Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, the Meters, the Nevilles, the Pointer Sisters, Labelle and countless others, even Glen Campbell (“Southern Nights”). Here he reprises some of his most notable creations, although it would take a box set to really do his oeuvre justice. His piano playing may lack the virtuoso flash of a James Booker or the second-line strut of a Professor Longhair, but it effortlessly incorporates their influences (as well as those of Tuts Washington and other Crescent City keyboard greats), and the orchestral depth and sweep of his playing adds a touch of elegance. His voice, likewise, isn’t a hard-soul instrument, but there’s a warm-hearted tenderness to his readings that’s both captivating and emotionally resonant.
Most important, as he eases through this set of songs both well known—“It’s Raining,” “Get Out of My Life, Woman”—and obscure—“Shrimp Po-Boy, Dressed,” “I Could Eat Crawfish Everyday”—Toussaint summons the essence of what the cultural heritage of New Orleans represents: celebration of life through good times and bad, laced with both romanticism and spiritual uplift and elevated further by artistic excellence.