Allen Toussaint / Preservation Hall Jazz Band
8th June 2007
The billing of this concert suggested that they’d be playing together, but basically it was two separate shows with Allen Toussaint as the support. He played grand piano solo and sang for just over an hour. The majority of the audience were there for trad jazz, so looked back to gathering their rosebuds in the late fifties rather than Toussaint’s heyday in the 60s and 70s. His anecdotes about Ernie K. Doe and Lee Dorsey went straight over their heads for the most part. He carefully explained that he was a producer, not a lead singer and that he had spent his life in the studio. Katrina had sent him out onto the road. Toussaint had three mics on the piano, and unusually had the left hand mic (i.e. bass keys) balanced unnaturally louder than mid-keyboard and treble. As a result, while the melody appeared to come from the centre of the stage, the bass notes resounded from the PA well over his head. I wondered if this was accidental, but the Presevation Hall pianist returned to a natural balance, so I assume it was deliberate. The guy has an astonishing left hand.
He opened with an instrumental, then threw some early hits into a medley … A Certain Girl / Mother-in-Law / Fortune Teller / Working in the Coalmine. He focussed strongly on his work with Lee Dorsey and Get Out My Life Woman was outstanding. He kept the stories rolling in … he always made more from white covers than the originals, with the Rolling Stones take on Fortune Teller being a special financial pleasure. He said that Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead’s version of ‘Get Out My Life Woman’ was the biggest earner. I’ve never heard it and doubt that it’s up to the Lee Dorsey original nor that it sold as well, but perhaps they accounted fairly. More to the point, he mentioned that Walter Payton from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band had played bass on the original ‘Get Out My Life Woman.’ So what a shame that he stayed backstage for Allen’s version.
He praised Bonnie Raitt’s version of ‘What Do You Want The Girl to Do?’ extravagantly, did it well, but failed to mention that Lowell George’s solo version existed (and was the definitive one). He closed with a long monologue to Southern Nights which broke into the song. Magical. Later his work with Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, The Meters, the Neville Brothers got listed. They failed to mention The Band or Robert Parker.
After the interval, we got rather a dull video on Preservation Hall before they came on. I found the PHJB a little dry and academic for most of their set, but I’m not into traditional New Orleans jazz. I noticed that while each of them took a vocal and spoke, none of them seemed to have the New Orleans accent of Toussaint. Hmm, the EPCOT Centre version of New Orleans, I thought. But then they took off. Walter Paynton on ‘Shake That Thing’ lifted them. Then Toussaint came on and joined them on piano for a long ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee’ which they did in two versions: the slow funeral version, which sounded like Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, then a fast version. Toussaint retired, and they got the audience dancing in a New Orleans second line then closed with ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ and they revealed their magic. They had people in at least their late 70s dancing on stage, and a young kid was allowed to pound on the piano, and you could see why they continue to continue.