HOTG Summer Concert Series, Part 2
Toussaint At Tip's: Feelin' The Love
One of the best concerts by Allen Toussaint I've been to in quite a while was his headline appearance at Tipitina's 30th Anniversary Party last year. With Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen opening the show, it promised to be a helluva night and definitely delivered. I've seen Toussaint play live numerous times, mostly at outdoor events such as Jazzfest in New Orleans and Festival Internationale here - and he's always first rate, having become more confident and comfortable in the role of frontman over the years. Some of those shows had better, more wide-ranging set lists than this one - but, still, this night seemed a cut above. Maybe what set it apart was being at Tipitina's packed to the rafters in a throw-down party atmosphere, and close to the stage; it was intense. The band was tight and in da pocket; and the man himself was really on top of his game, having fun, and playing his tuchus off! I'm sure the noisy, undulating, adoring hometown throng helped his attitude immensely, so much so that at at one point he said, "This is heavy. This is not business as usual!" Mark it down as another one of those timeless New Orleans shows when you are so into the music that you can't imagine being anyplace else in the universe other than that sweet spot.
An anonymous benefactor recorded the show on some little hand-held digital voice device - nothing remotely high fidelity - and recently bestowed a copy to me. I've enjoyed reliving the experience. So, I decided to share the joy and feature a couple of songs in our "concert" series, to give you at least a glimmer of what it was like being there. I had to convert the tracks to mp3 from another format - so the audio has been through a digital sampling Cuisinart by this point - but I still think you'll get the idea. . . .
Some other Southern night....
Intro and opening song
Allen Toussaint, live at Tipitina's 30th Anniversary Party, 1/19/2008
Man, I can't figure out what instrumental this is - a Toussaint original, I'm sure - and have been having a week-long senior moment about it. It sounds so familiar; and yet I have been all through my archives and searching online for a recorded version and cannot find one. Now, I know that there are some stone Toussaint freaks and geeks out there who can help a brother out. What is the title of this one - and has it been commercially released?
As you can hear even through all the sketchy club acoustics and downsampled compressed audio approximation, Toussaint and the band just came out smokin'. His rippin' and runnin' keyboard comping was powerful stuff without a doubt. And saxman Brian 'Breeze' Cayolle really impressed me anew - blowing hard and soulfully throughout the entire hour and a quarter set- a force o' nature. The locked and loaded rhythm section was the same group that has been regularly backing Allen for while now: Herman LeBeaux, drums; Allen's son, 'Reginald' on congas; Chris Severin, bass; and Anthony Brown, guitar. As you can maybe tell, the crowd, including me and my wife, just went nuts with the force and funk of this kick-off.
"I Feel Some Love In Here" (Allen Toussaint)
Yes, there was love and respect in the air that night: from Allen to us, from us right back at him, and from everyone to Tipitina's for it's three decade history of significance in the community as a venerated music venue, and more. In the early days, there were some picnic tables in the un-airconditioned club for eating the hippie-cooked food dished up with the beers and mainly homegrown music on stage. Professor Longhair often played there in his final years - the place was named after one of his best known songs (with that added 's) and was sort of set up to give him a home base where he could do his stuff. Over the years, the food and seating disappeared, A/C was installed; and Tip's grew up to become the place to catch quality roots acts from around the world. Since it's inception, I've seen more amazing shows there than probably any one other establishment. After several changes of ownership, Tip's has now morphed into part of a meaningful foundation offering entertainment plus a multitude of services to the music community. But it's still sacred ground; and you can always rub off some of the good juju in there by touching the bronze bust of Fess near the front door as you pass.
More of an extended vamp really than one of Toussaint's finely crafted songs, "I Feel Some Love In Here" not only set the mood for the love-fest, but allowed the band to stretch out a bit and solo over the percolating strut of a groove. Allen used the majority of the verses to give shouts-out to many of the more unsung artists who where a part of the scene back when he was coming up and making a name for himself - spreading the love to those who didn't get the breaks but contributed much to the city's heritage - a characteristically generous gesture from a man who has been having quite a professional resurgence over the past few years, but obviously doesn't want the world to forget that truly worthwhile music is a continual collaboration in and across time.
To that end, about half of Toussaint's set was a musical history tour in the form of a long medley (at least 15 tunes) of the great hit records birthed in New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s, some of which he wrote and/or produced, some he didn't, from "Rockin' Pneumonia", though "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" and "Fortune Teller" to "Tell It Like It Is" and Cissy Strut" plus many in between. Then, he closed the show with two classics from Fess' repertoire, "Tipitina", of course, and "Big Chief", palpably summoning Longhair's spirit in the process - a fitting finale to a moving (in so many ways) night of celebration - and once again revealing Allen Toussaint to be not only a supremely classy act, but also a charming, disarming gentleman perfectly capable of getting way up into your funky business until you feel some love, too.