Sunday, November 21, 2010

NEW ORLEANS NIGHTS with ALLEN TOUSSAINT - November, 2010

In the interest of full disclosure, be it known that my wife Cathey's mother's family were natives of New Orleans, that Cathey was born in New Orleans, and that I have visited the Crescent City on multiple occasions since the early 1970s. So while I'm a Yankee through and through, I have great appreciation for the music and the culture of that fair city. That's why Cathey and I were so excited when we learned that the Zoellner Center for the Performing Arts in Bethlehem announced 'New Orleans Nights with Allen Toussaint'. We immediately bought a pair of tickets.

I am obliged to say that the show was a disappointment.

Toussaint didn't arrive on stage until after the intermission. The Joe Krown Trio began the show - from New Orleans, true, but with a Hammond B-3 as the centerpiece, never a true New Orleans jazz instrument. It's also true that Wolfman Washington is a dynamite guitar player. But the blues tunes on which he was featured were just that, blues tunes that had no particular New Orleans flavor to them.

After three or four numbers, trumpeter Nicholas Payton joined the band. The three or four tunes that he fronted were straight ahead jazz, again without particular New Orleans flavor.

Allen Toussaint's set was about half and half. The tunes that came from the heart of New Orleans were spell-binding, including a lengthy bit of solo noodling on the piano and a touchingly sentimental duet with Payton.

Don't get me wrong, to the uninitiated the show was an unmitigated success. But it was not a show that presented the music of New Orleans. As Cathey put it, "It was a show for Yankees." And while the Yankees in attendance seemed perfectly satisfied, THIS Yankee felt it necessary to point out its deficiencies.

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