December 26, 2015


Allen Toussaint: January 14, 1938 - November 10, 2015.

Not only one of the great New Orleans keyboard professors, in the local parlance, but a multiphasic musical master and category transcender for the ages. Long may he jam in the Great Beyond and be remembered by those he left behind.

Update (1/10/2016) - Listen to George Ingmire's New Orleans Calling radio documentary, Allen Toussaint: Say Yes To Music (Part 1), produced for WWOZ. Part 2 is coming. As they say in the UK, brilliant!

And speaking of the UK, see this short BBC documentary.

For many years, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to regularly offer props to Mr. Toussaint (AT), and play his music on my radio shows - first at WEVL 89.9 FM in Memphis, TN (1988 - 2004), and currently at KRVS 88.7 FM in Lafayette, LA (2014. . . .). Also, since 2004, this blog has allowed me to delve deeper into the details of his endeavors in any number of roles - musician, vocalist, composer, arranger, producer, label-owner.

Due to the prodigious scope of his world-class talents, accomplishments, and influence from the mid-1950s onward in New Orleans and American popular music, AT stands out among other praiseworthy local peers such as Dave Bartholomew, Wardell Quezergue and Eddie Bo. He built his reputation almost solely on a large body of recording studio based work, created and organized over the decades mainly to advance a varied roster of featured artists rather than himself. For the most part, he kept a relatively low public profile, managing to avoid the limelight for much of his lengthy career by recording and performing infrequently on his own. [Regular annual Jazzfest appearances, such as the one pictured above, and other occasional concerts being notable exceptions.]

As a result, until the last decade, AT's most avid admirers were almost exclusively music business insiders, record collectors, researchers and serious fans who followed his trail of credits and treasured his few but impressive releases. That inherent hesitancy to engage in self-promotion and live entertaining did not abate until late in life when Hurricane Katrina and the resulting Federal Flood disrupted his life and forced him from his Crescent City comfort zone. Only then did he seize opportunities that arose and come into his own as a front man, a fine one in fact, and begin to enjoy the rewards of higher name recognition and appreciation of his talents on the world stage.

Such is the cultural richness of New Orleans that even AT's prolific musical abilities certainly never have been the only game in town, which is why Home of the Groove has pursued so many different musical threads over the years; but, as I have said more than once, a blog could easily be devoted entirely to detailing his contributions. I wish there were one, since he deserves way more attention than I could ever have time and energy to pay. As well, it amazes me that such a luminary has yet to be the subject of a thorough, well-researched biography. Sad to say, that should have been done long ago, when AT was still around to participate; but maybe he turned down some offers in his humility. I can't say for certain.

While we await more thorough evaluations of his life and art, let me offer links to a few of the over 30 pieces I’ve done through the years about various of his compositions and recording projects. Some of these postings have links to others that you can follow for more information, if you see fit. I’ve been working on updating them (even correcting typos!) and hope {it springs eternal, ya know} to reactivate select audio links in due time, which I will note here.

Whether you read any of these appreciations or not, I hope you will listen to more of Allen Toussaint’s manifold music. Now that he’s gone, it’s the best way to keep his enriching legacy alive and ensure that the high regard he has rightfully earned continues to spread.

When Lee Met Allen

Winter Of Her Discontent

Toussaint 2.0

Sansu 70s

Three Bells

Defining Success In the 1970s

Toussaint: Footnotes and Follow-ups

Note: Coming up in January on Funkify Your Life, it being AT's birth month, I'll be playing even more cuts he wrote, arranged, produced, or performed, along with plenty of Carnival related music, as Mardi Gras comes fairly early this year. So tune-in or stream online, if you can.

Happy New Year, y'all, with hopes of new posts to come in 2016. . . .