The stately side of the Crescent City
The funkiest man this side of Zigaboo Modeliste, Allen Toussaint is a one-man repository of New Orleans music, having produced or played with everyone from—oh, what’s the point? He’s worked with everyone. And now, at 71, he’s made a solo album as genteel as a Garden District mansion. It’s called The Bright Mississippi, and it does indeed shimmer. Toussaint leaves the producing to Joe Henry, freeing himself to play dignified piano and, on one track, sing. He also leads a crack band: Don Byron plays trilling clarinet on Sidney Bechet’s “Egyptian Fantasy,” Marc Ribot shreds an acoustic-guitar solo on Django Reinhardt’s “Blue Drag,” and Brad Mehldau tangles with Toussaint in a four-handed piano-only blues crawl called “Winin’ Boy Blues.” Like New Orleans itself, the album understands how to strut. But it also knows its manners. For all his funky pedigree, Toussaint comes off as a picture of elegance.