[Dixielandjazz] New Orleans Music
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Sep 20 06:17:16 PDT 2005
Sometimes we fixate on OKOM as the "only" New Orleans contribution to music.
We are ignorant of the contributions of New Orleans musicians to many other
genres. The below article if for those who might wish to understand why
there are Rock Musicians, and Funk musicians, and Gospel musicians
performing at so many of the Hurricane Relief Concerts.
Caveat: "IT IS NOT ABOUT OKOM - IT IS ABOUT NEW OLRLEANS MUSIC. So delete
this long article now if you are not inclined to expand your mind. And
please forgive me for posting about the music genres other than Dixieland,
that make New Orleans a unique place in the world of music.
But then, perhaps the article will help us understand just why it was, in
the first place, that New Orleans became the birthplace of jazz.
Allen Toussaint? Who? Read on.
Heart, and Piano, Back in New Orleans
By DEBORAH SONTAG - September 20, 2005 - NY TIMES
If the state of Louisiana were handing out an award for most dapper evacuee,
Allen Toussaint would win hands down.
On Friday, two and a half weeks after he fled Hurricane Katrina, Mr.
Toussaint, 67, a seminal figure on the New Orleans music scene, was decked
out in a pinstriped suit illuminated by the pink and purple silk of a
coordinated shirt, tie and pocket square. Gliding coolly through a Manhattan
lobby, he ushered visitors into his temporary quarters near Lincoln Center,
far from the sludge and heartache.
Hesitantly, Mr. Toussaint extended his tapered fingers to accept an envelope
bearing pictures of his home taken several days earlier by a photographer
from The New York Times, who had waded through hip-deep water down his
street. It was to be his first post-hurricane glimpse of the shrimp-colored
house in a once tidy neighborhood where he and his beloved Steinway piano
have lived for decades.
"Wow," Mr. Toussaint said after an initial silence. "Good heavens. I'm
getting drenched just looking at these pictures. The water is whipping my
Noting relief that the house was still standing, that the roof was attached
and that the front door remained closed, Mr. Toussaint paused, taking in the
putrid moat that surrounded his home and had surely ravaged its interior.
"This certainly helps me to face the music," he said softly.
He tapped out a few beats on a table, then said: "O.K. I can't wait to get
back and start over. As soon as the powers that be say it's O.K., I'm going
to be on the first thing smokin'. Give me a hammer. I'm ready to do my part
to rebuild New Orleans."
Mr. Toussaint is a performer, songwriter, arranger and producer whose
influence on New Orleans music, and on rock 'n' roll in general, cannot be
captured by ticking off a few of the many hit songs that he wrote, like
"Working in the Coal Mine," "Mother-in-Law" and "Southern Nights."
"He helped invent things we take as everyday in music - certain beats,
certain arrangements," said Josh Feigenbaum, a former radio industry
entrepreneur and Mr. Toussaint's New York-based partner in a music label,
NYNO, dedicated to New Orleans music. "His impact on rock 'n' roll really
can't be overstated."
In recognition of Mr. Toussaint's centrality to the New Orleans music scene,
his music will be featured during this evening's Hurricane Katrina benefit
concert at Madison Square Garden. Mr. Toussaint will perform, his band will
back up other performers, and many artists - Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Costello,
Lenny Kravitz, Cyril Neville, Art Neville, Paul Simon and Irma Thomas - will
sing his songs.
While Mr. Toussaint is not a household name, the breadth of his songwriting
and the range of his compositions are undeniable, if sometimes overlooked.
Mr. Costello, an admirer, said on Sunday that he was baffled that Mr.
Toussaint's vast and varied oeuvre is often omitted when people refer to
"the great American songbook."
After growing up in a segregated New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint began playing
piano professionally at 17, released his first album at 20 and spent the
1960's churning out hits for Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Ms. Thomas and others.
A range of musicians from the Rolling Stones to Glen Campbell covered his
songs, and he collaborated with the Band (writing horn arrangements for the
film "The Last Waltz"), Dr. John (producing, arranging and performing on
"Right Place, Wrong Time") and Labelle (producing "Lady Marmalade," the
still ubiquitous disco hit).
Mr. Toussaint also nurtured the Meters, a top-drawer New Orleans funk band
started by Art Neville, and he continues to broaden his own performance
repertory, mixing jazz, funk, soul and rhythm and blues with the vernacular
sounds of Louisiana.
Quint Davis, producer of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and of
the Katrina benefit at the Garden, said that the "very erudite" Mr.
Toussaint was widely regarded as a landmark on the musical cityscape.
But in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint did not live like a legend. In the early
1970's, he settled into a modest house on a low-lying cul-de-sac called Frey
Place in a quiet, predominantly black middle-class neighborhood near the New
Orleans Fairgrounds. He liked it on Frey Place, he said, because "when you
walk out the door, the world doesn't smack you in the face."
Some of Mr. Toussaint's neighbors felt their lives quietly enriched by
living elbow to elbow with a man who could make his home anywhere. "Right
next to me was one of the most famous people in New Orleans," Rommel
Griffin, a U.P.S. employee and Baptist minister, said in a phone interview
from Jackson, Miss. "That spoke volumes about our humble little
Mr. Toussaint said that his son, Clarence Reginald Toussaint, who is also a
musician and producer, constantly urged him to move into fancier digs. "He's
a cocky individual," Mr. Toussaint said. "He says, 'Live large.' But large
is a spirit to me, not a place."
Staying put, not just in the Crescent City itself but in one's little corner
of it, is a New Orleans thing. Until Fats Domino was evacuated from his
rooftop as the water rose, he famously inhabited the low-income neighborhood
of his childhood, across from a Family Dollar and cater-corner to a Kentucky
Fried Chicken in the Lower Ninth Ward.
That is why the evacuation of a devastated New Orleans is so wrenching to
those artists like Mr. Toussaint who derive their inspiration from their
hometown. As Mr. Toussaint said, "Some of us get homesick at the airport
every time we're fixing to leave."
Mr. Toussaint had not, in fact, been fixing to leave this time. "I intended
to ride it out as I have every storm of my life," he said. "I knew it would
be bigger and badder, but hurricanes are my familiar archenemies."
The day before Katrina struck, Mr. Toussaint decided that it would be
prudent to evacuate vertically, as they say in New Orleans, by checking into
a high floor of a hotel on high ground. He brought an overnight bag.
Then the levees were breached, and Mr. Toussaint found himself sloshing
through calf-deep water, "shaking a fist at the hurricane," he said. He
bought a ticket for a bus that never materialized and finally bumped into a
"pastor friend" who "for a fee" secured him another ride out of town.
Eventually, Mr. Toussaint flew to New York, where Mr. Feigenbaum helped him
resettle in a temporary apartment near Lincoln Center. "It seems that Josh
is not a fair-weather friend but a foul-weather friend," Mr. Toussaint, who
often talks as if he's testing out lyrics, said.
Mr. Toussaint said that he did not want to think about what he might have
lost - about his piano, his synthesizer, the sheet music that bore the
ink-scratched history of his songs, the work cassettes that captured the
evolution of his compositions.
"I don't want to flirt with hurt," he said. "What's lost is lost."
Mr. Toussaint is optimistic that New Orleans will flourish again. This
moment, he said, is only an intermission. And the national spotlight on New
Orleans's special place in American culture might even re-energize both the
city and its music scene, he said.
Still, Mr. Toussaint said that he was not ready to address the hurricane
musically. "I don't really know how to speak about it in a song yet," he
said. "Except I keep thinking: New Orleans, New Orleans/ More than Mardi
Gras, more than Bourbon Street/ A whole lot more."
Performing solo in a hurricane benefit at Joe's Pub on Sunday - a second
performance is scheduled for next Sunday - Mr. Toussaint seemed taken aback
by the repeated standing ovations offered him by a crowd that included Mr.
Staring at the audience, raising his eyebrows and smiling ever so slightly,
he inquired in his velvety voice, "Is this because of the flood?"
More information about the Dixielandjazz