[Dixielandjazz] Current New Orleans Music

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 6 07:17:43 PDT 2006

A CD review from the NY TIMES. May or may not be jazz, but it is the current
music of New Orleans. Interesting last sentence. Should Preservation Hall
(and others) consider an album with a message dedicated to the current New
Orleans situation?

Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint "The River in Reverse" (Verve Forecast)

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought sorrow, shock, anger, nostalgia
and a cultural tenacity disguised as party spirit to New Orleans. They all
run together on "The River in Reverse."

After the storm, Elvis Costello shared benefit-concert stages with Allen
Toussaint, the sage New Orleans songwriter, pianist and singer who had
worked with Mr. Costello in 1983 and in 1989. Late in 2005, they
collaborated for two weeks in Hollywood and New Orleans to record this
album: writing together, remaking songs by Mr. Toussaint and meshing Mr.
Costello's band, the Imposters, with Mr. Toussaint's Crescent City Horns.

It's Mr. Costello's project. He sings nearly all the lead vocals and
provides the new lyrics. But Mr. Toussaint's florid yet precise New Orleans
piano, the way he can make a horn section laugh or sigh, and the stubborn
idealism and canny humor of his songs temper Mr. Costello's convoluted
earnestness. True to New Orleans attitude, the album starts out accusatory
and ends up having a good time.

New songs on "The River in Reverse," are filled with images of destruction
and loss, but they are parables and personalized hymns, not chronicles. In
the title song, a disaster ‹ "They're chasing shadows in the dark and
counting widows" ‹ leads to bitter reflections on 21st-century America. For
"Ascension Day," Mr. Toussaint transposed a rollicking New Orleans standard,
Professor Longhair's "Tipitina," into a pensive minor key, while Mr.
Costello's words contemplate desolation and a chance to return. In "Broken
Promise Land," Mr. Toussaint's pumping horns answered by Mr. Costello's
shivering tremolo guitar make the anger start to strut. And the album
doesn't stay downhearted. Mr. Costello and Mr. Toussaint also wrote songs
rooted in New Orleans R&B and jovially celebrating music, "International
Echo" and "Six-Fingered Man."

Still, Mr. Toussaint's old songs are a hard act to follow. There are devoted
love songs like "Nearer to You," and philosophical songs written in other
troubled times ‹ "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?" (with Mr. Toussaint
singing lead) and "Freedom for the Stallion" ‹ that hit home again. The New
Orleans transmutation of trouble into revelry is most complete in "Tears,
Tears and More Tears." Its mambo-funk beat is utterly danceable, though it's
topped with jagged splinters of piano. And now, what had been a lonely
lover's plaint becomes a plea for all the city's exiles: "Baby won't you
please come home?" JON PARELES

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