Last night I saw Allen Toussaint in concert at the Dakota jazz club in downtown Minneapolis. It was a terrific show. I have to confess, my knowledge of Allen Toussaint's music is not that large, but he's someone that keeps cropping up. In the last couple of years, I've listened to Harry Connick cover "Workin' in a Coalmine," Paul McCartney's "Venus and Mars," The Band's live album "Rock of Ages," and Allen Toussaint's album with Elvis Costello, "The River in Reverse." At some point, I realized how much this guy has done. He wrote "Workin' in a Coalmine," played piano on "Venus and Mars," and did the horn arrangements for "Rock of Ages," among many other accomplishments. (Like writing "Southern Nights," one of my Mom's all-time favorite songs.) So when I heard he was coming to the Dakota I thought, I should check this guy out.
Toussaint played for a hour and a half with his amazing backup band. His guitar player was amazing, as was his tenor saxophonist, "Breeze." Breeze also played a mean clarinet. Toussaint is an amazing piano player, and a great singer as well. To hear him play his own songs was a treat, and he also played some songs from his latest record, "The Bright Mississippi." The band's version of "St. James Infirmary" brought the house down. Toussaint can play in pretty much any style, from ballads to rag-time and stride to rock-like funk. He also slipped in a couple of songs by other people, singing "Mama, You Been On My Mind," by Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon's "American Tune." It was a great show, it really felt like Allen could have stayed and played all night, but unfortunately, he didn't. He was clearly enjoying playing, and it's always fun to see people who look like they love what they are doing. Toussaint was dressed impeccably, as he is in every picture I've ever seen of him, wearing a beige suit with a check pattern, a striped dress shirt with a paisley collar, a green tie, and matching green handkerchief. Snazzy. The Dakota is one of the best places to see musicians, it's small and intimate, and the acoustics are great. Sadly, it was only about half full for the 9:30 show last night. If you ever get the chance to see this living legend in person, go see him, he puts on a terrific show!