National Obituary Review

Allen Toussaint – A Remembrance (RIP)

Comments Off 10 November 2015

When you talk about heavy hitters in the music that is most influential in my life you don’t get any heavier than Allen Toussaint.

The first time I came in contact with Toussaint and his music was a fortuitous coincidence. Many moons ago on my first trip to NOLA for Jazz Fest I was instructed by a very nice vagrant women in the Quarter that it was in my best interest to catch Toussaint’s show at some bar down on Frenchman street that night. Always up for adventure and never one to turn down advice from a vagrant I grabbed some shrimp and looked the place up.

The name of the place escapes me now but I CAN tell you it was a hole-in-the-wall place that seated MAYBE 30 people. To my surprise the place was PACKED. Luckily they had a tiny bar/anteroom at the front of the venue that was simulcasting the show on a few TVs that were non-strategically placed. Waves of people were milling around, getting drunk and excited for the show. All shapes, sizes, ages & colors (in true New Orleans fashion).

Everything was both starting to make sense and getting more confusing. As I mentioned the advice of a vagrant had never let me down. But when I caught a glimpse of Toussaint on the TVs as he was warming up I was somewhat perplexed that SO MANY people were turning out to see this old guy play piano by himself. I wasn’t very bright back then and have made little improvements since. Either way I did have that thought.

The next 2 hours were one of the handful of live performances that I will remember until the day I die. I got to see him the next afternoon at Jazzfest too. It was a hairy conglomeration of all the different sounds I was into at the moment but listening to separately. Jazz, blues, funk and heavy, heavy beats & rhythm. I was hooked.

Of course, the more I investigated I learned about The Meters and I’ve been enjoying the audio bath ever since.

The other somewhat notable memory of Allen Toussaint happened in Disney World of all places. I was subjected to that rat’s nest for a work conference many years ago. Three nights into the trip I was at a dinner with some colleagues and clients at a middling Italian restaurant. Not much to tell here other than I had about 7 of those small Sutter Home bottles of red and told a few off color stories.

After dinner I snuck off to one of those piano bars where two pianos face each other and the two pianists sort of ‘battle’. You know what I mean? Anyways, at least this place had liquor so my companion and I immediately ordered a few rounds of 1800. I was feeling good and full of zest.

The pianists were smug and putting together the worst list of music I’d ever heard. So I did what any of you would have done and started heckling. Well, to be fair, I was just aggressively suggesting they mix up their playlist of crap and include a few Allen Toussaint songs. I was also sitting in the front row….maybe 10 feet away from these guys. And I was drunk, so do the math.

Their shitty set went on as did my insistence on a Toussaint tune. Things boiled to a head and one of the guys stopped and asked what my ‘problem’ was. So I told him that as a professional pianist he should be more than happy to play a Toussaint song. His response was that he’d never heard of Allen Toussaint. Needless to say I didn’t leave at his insistence. I left in disgust.

I come out of this with a few conclusions:

  1. Allen Toussaint is a legend
  2. Assholes are everywhere
  3. Particularly in Disney

RIP Allen Toussaint and thanks for everything

Norm.

- who has written 511 posts on The Shade.


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