One of the most underrated musicians of modern American music, Allen Toussaint is vintage New Orleans personified. His silky speaking voice is as smooth as the music he has so eloquently orchestrated for the past five and a half decades. In addition to the lush and lavish beauty that comes from Toussaint’s genius, he also serves as a key to an incredible musical past, rich with a history that rivals any exhibition at the Smithsonian.
An incredible pianist, Toussaint’s influence is far-reaching and his career as a composer has seen him collaborating with an array of icons such as Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Dr. John and B.B. King, for whom Toussaint will open a Oct. 13 concert at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“I’ve been a fan of B.B. King since I was a boy, and it will be a pleasure to be in his presence,” Toussaint said of the weekend’s concert. “The man has put so much music on the planet for so long and is almost single-handedly keeping the blues alive. I’ve even written a song about B.B. King and his legacy, which I plan to record in the very near future.”
Having grown up in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans with a mother who loved music and encouraged him to follow his passion, Toussaint became a product of his colorful environment. Although years removed from performing at the nightclubs along Lasalle Street, Toussaint still delicately glides his fingers across the black and white ivory keys on an almost nightly basis. After spending a few years operating out of New York City, Toussaint has been touring, sharing his definitively American music with the world. He recognizes how music from New Orleans is translatable to listeners throughout the world.
“We do have our own special thing, and I know that our city operates at a pace unique in its own way,” Toussaint. “We hold onto the old world charm ... but I really think it’s just the peace of New Orleans” that people are drawn to.
Performing live is second nature to Toussaint.
“It’ll just be me and a piano,” he said. “I appreciate being in front of all of these people and I appreciate the music; their feedback is just wonderful and inspiring. The ultimate aim is to reach the people, and when I’m on stage, there they are. It doesn’t get better than that.”