A lot of wonderful music has emerged from New Orleans, and much of it from the 1950s on bears the stamp of Allen Toussaint as songwriter, producer, arranger, and/or pianist. (He produced LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade.") He also has a career as performer. Toussaint has plied his trade for Paul Simon, the Meters, and many more, while his last disc was in collaboration with Elvis Costello.
The Bright Mississippi is Toussaint's first major-label foray into (nearly) all-instrumental jazz. It's a hometown New Orleans homage — pop, gospel, jazz, and blues songs written in or about, or associated with, the city. Rather than overproduced, Mississippi is gloriously underproduced — you practically feel like you're eavesdropping on a private session. Toussaint's piano, elegant and blues-rich, is out front — and while he has a busy style, his keys sound opulent rather than cluttered. Accompaniment is sparing and inspired — Nicholas Payton's crackling, emotive trumpet; Marc Ribot's delicate yet pointed guitar; Don Byron's soulful clarinet; and, on one track, the gorgeous, slightly rough, big-toned tenor sax of Joshua Redman. Recommended to all lovers of American music. (Nonesuch)
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