Allen Toussaint The Bright Mississippi

Allen Toussaint was born in New Orleans, the Birthplace of Jazz, but is better known as a rhythm & blues, rock and soul musician. He wrote a roll of hits and many of his songs got covered by others - Robert Plant, The Rolling Stones, Aaron Neville and Boz Scaggs among others. In the 1970s Glen Campbell took one of his songs to the Number One position on the Pop, Country AND Adult Contemporary charts. In 1998, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011.

However, this album is a Jazz album - with jazz standards from Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhart, Billy Strayhorn and Jelly Roll Morton. Allen was accompanied by jazz stars such as clarinetist Don Byron, pianist Brad Mehldau, and saxophonist Joshua Redman.

The Bright Mississippi had its genesis during a studio session with music producer Joe Henry - Toussaint was amusing himself between takes by blowing freely through a song by Fats Waller. Henry said, "I was stunned. It was a revelation to hear this music interpreted through Allen's very unique point of view. The song, inherently rhythmic as a composition, was transfigured by a left hand schooled in New Orleans, and by the melodic sensibility of a most particular kind of songwriter."

Recorded in the famous Power Station (now Avatar) Studios, it has a wonderful live, fresh sound. As noted by Toussaint, "This isn’t the kind of assembly line music where somebody put the wheels on here and somebody put the top on there. Everything got done at the same time, so everybody fed on each other, their personality and tonality."

A truly wonderful album - I thought that the CD was great, but I am glad that I took the time to hunt down the vinyl. It is one of those rare albums that distribute the music across four sides at 33 1/3 rpm instead of cramming everything into two. As a result, the pressing and production does justice to the fabulous music and musicianship.

Get it on CD. The vinyl is as elusive as the yeti. I have been trying to find a spare copy at a reasonable price - unfortunately the scalpers on Amazon want $1,300 for a new copy, and $800 for a used one.

Mono & Stereo friend Gary Koh of Genesis Advanced Technologies, Inc.