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New Orleans Bowl           A.T. performs The National Anthem at The New Orleans Bowl NCAA Game December 21, 2013 
Allen Toussaint & Gibson Guitar Collaborations with / Songs covered by Elvis Costello, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Band, Paul McCartney, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Jerry Garcia, Phish, Plant / Krauss and scores of others.
Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello Collaborations with / Songs covered by Elvis Costello, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Band, Paul McCartney, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Jerry Garcia, Phish, Plant / Krauss and scores of others.

 Welcome

The Official Web Site of Allen Toussaint

Come in and enjoy the life and music of Allen Toussaint. You are about to experience one of the music

world's treasures.  The Southern Knight has led a surge of music

that spans five decades.  Collaborations with / Songs covered by Elvis Costello,

The Rolling Stones, Patti Labelle, The Who, The Band,

Paul McCartney, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Jerry Garcia, Phish, Plant / Krauss and scores of others.

 

Artist: Allen Toussaint

Song Playing: "Just A Kiss Awayt"

 

 
 

The House With 88 Keys

 

 A New Orleans music legend recalls his childhood piano and the love-filled 'shotgun' house where he grew up.

Allen Toussaint, 75, has written dozens of hits—including "Southern Nights," "Working in the Coalmine," and "Whipped Cream." In July, he was presented with a 2012 National Humanities Medal by President Obama. Mr. Toussaint's new album, "Songbook" (Rounder), was released Sept. 24. He spoke with reporter Marc Myers.

Rush Jagoe for The Wall Street Journal

Allen Toussaint in front of the home on College Court where he and his family lived in the Gert Town section of New Orleans. The house now bears a plaque recognizing its role in music history.

For the first 24 years of my life I lived with my parents in Gert Town—a poor section of New Orleans that was rich in spirit. All my young memories are in that dingy-blond 'shotgun' house on College Court. They called it a shotgun house because you could stand in the front and shoot a shotgun straight through it. That's how small it was.

The house had a front room, two bedrooms and a kitchen. My older brother, Vincent, and I slept on a Duofold sofa that opened to a bed, and my older sister, Joyce, slept in one of the two bedrooms. Everyone in the neighborhood knew each other. If your mother forgot to leave you the key to the front door, you bothered your neighbors, since everyone's skeleton key worked in all the locks.

When I was 6½ years old, my aunt's Story & Clark upright piano was brought to our house for my sister to play. My sister took several lessons but didn't take to it. Her teacher used to hit her hands when she made mistakes. Eventually I started touching the keys and picked out melodies that I had heard on the radio. Soon my sister showed me how the notes on the keyboard corresponded to music on the page, and I started making up songs.

Rush Jagoe for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Toussaint in his childhood neighborhood.

Our upright wasn't much of a piano—it was a half-step flat the entire time we owned it—but that piano was everything to me. It was dark mahogany, almost black, with rouge crimps all over it. I took about eight piano lessons before my teacher gave up on me. I loved boogie-woogie and hillbilly music and gospel too much.

Everything changed for me when I heard Professor Longhair, a New Orleans blues singer and piano player. I dropped everything, and just played piano and wrote songs. Fortunately the radio was very close to the piano, so I could turn the dial, listen and play along. I stayed on the piano all the time. When company would come over, my mother had me come out to play a boogie-woogie.

The first song I wrote on that piano was a simple little duet for trombone and trumpet. I was about 10. I was inspired by a trombone duet solo on Benny Goodman's "Love Walked In." I never named my song—I wasn't that bold yet. I've not heard it played to this day. I wouldn't even know where it is at this point.

At home, I was treated royally, and my parents were very encouraging about my playing and composing. My parents—Clarence Toussaint and Naomi Neville—loved each other very much. I felt loved and even liked. We all felt we belonged to each other, to our family, instead of to the outside world.

My daddy was a mechanic on the L&N Railroad. He fixed locomotives. He was strong-willed and a strong man physically. He loved fixing things. Anything that was broken in our family came over to our house for repairs, including cars. My dad and I talked a lot. He was a very serous, wise man. I beat him at checkers only once. It brought a smile to his face.

One day when I was 13, I went into his bedroom where he was reading and showed him a trombone part I had written. My dad had been a professional musician but had to drop the trumpet to get a better job and take care of his family. He didn't improvise but he could read music. My trombone part was for a small ensemble: trombone, trumpet and sax. When my father looked over the music, he gave me a compliment that from then on made me feel very positive about what I was doing. He looked up, kind of smiled and said, "You're a genius." To a little boy that word felt great.

On my 14th birthday, I was playing piano and suddenly stopped. I turned my body to the left, straddled the seat and rested my elbows on my thighs. For whatever reason, I said to myself, "I'm 14 and every 10 years I'm going to check back with this 14 year old and tell him how I'm doing." I have no idea how I came up with that, but from then on I had those chats. They don't last long. I talk to myself as though that 14-year-old is still at the piano. I often say how surprised I am at how far I've come. The 14-year old at the piano just listens—but he always seems as surprised as I am.

A version of this article appeared September 27, 2013, on page M12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The House With 88 Keys.

 

 

Allen Toussaint receiving the Medal of Honor for the Arts from President Obama July 10, 2013 at the White House

                            

  President awards Louisiana artists

 

July 11, 2013

President Barack Obama on Wednesday bestowed prestigious National Medal of Arts to famed New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint, Louisiana author Ernest J. Gaines, and Lake Charles-raised playwright and “Lincoln” screenwriter Tony Kushner.

“Star Wars” creator George Lucas was among nine others also honored in White House ceremonies.

Obama called it a special treat to honor all the musicians, writers, directors, artists and others who have inspired him and the rest of the nation.

“Frankly, this is just fun for me, because I feel like I know you all because I’ve enjoyed your performances,” Obama said. “Your writings have fundamentally changed me — I think for the better.”

Obama singled out Gaines, 80, who is best known for his novels “A Lesson Before Dying” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” along with singer and pianist Toussaint, 75, for their inspirations.

“Somebody like Allen Toussaint, who is being honored here for his incredible contributions to the rhythm and blues and jazz music of his beloved New Orleans,” Obama said. “After his hometown was battered by Katrina and Allen was forced to evacuate, he did something even more important for his city — he went back. And since then, Allen has devoted his musical talent to lifting up and building up a city. And today, he’s taking the stage all over the world, with all kinds of incredible talent, doing everything he can to revive the legendary soul of the Big Easy.”

Obama then praised Gaines for rising up and thriving after being born into a sharecropper family on a plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish.

“He did not let that define his future. Instead, he took that experience and used it to help fill in gaps in American literature with the stories of African-American life,” Obama said. “And then, Ernest moved back to Louisiana, onto the very same land he and his family had once worked. And he spent more than 20 years teaching college students to find their own voices and reclaiming some of the stories of their own families and their own lives.”

Afterward, Toussaint called the day historic and said that getting the Medal of Arts from the president was the greatest award he could receive.

“I’m so glad that America treats its own in such fine fashion,” Toussaint said. “It’s absolutely wonderful. And the president and the first lady as hosts, they are impeccable.”

“Me being from Louisiana, I feel all of where I’m from wherever I am,” he added. “As I was there receiving my award, I was thinking of New Orleans and Louisiana, etcetera.”

Although Toussaint, Gaines and Kushner had never met before Wednesday, Toussaint said it is “wonderful” for multiple people with state ties to receive recognition and get a chance to learn more about each other. “When the saints go marching in, here we are,” he said.

Kushner, 56, grew up in Louisiana and graduated from Lake Charles High School. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner for his play “Angels in America,” and has been nominated for an Academy Award this year for his screenplay for “Lincoln.” Kushner first met Obama last year when he visited the White House for a private screening.

“Out of any award I’ve ever gotten, this is the most meaningful by far,” Kushner said of the Medal of Arts. “It’s thrilling for me to be honored by the government of my country and that it’s a national award means a lot.

“I’m incredibly thrilled to be honored by President Obama, who I consider to be one of our genuinely great presidents. Other than Abraham Lincoln, I can’t think of another president I’d rather receive a medal from,” Kushner added.

Kushner also spoke fondly of growing up in Lake Charles.

“It was a great blessing to grow up in Louisiana, and I think it heightened my awareness of the beauty of the world because it’s such a beautiful place,” he said. “I love the people I grew up with. I think being a Southern writer had an enormous impact on the way that I speak and the kind of lyricism that I aspire to.”

Kushner said he also was influenced by growing up in the state during the civil-rights era and witnessing school integration and busing.

“I got to see the federal government in action, and I got to see that you can mandate certain social transformation and that people can surprise themselves with how much more advanced they are than they actually realize,” Kushner said.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by the Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. The endowment has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities

 

   

The Song Book

 BLU NOTES

Larry Blumenfeld on jazz and other sounds

BLU NOTES: Larry Blumenfeld on jazz and other sounds

      

Allen Toussaint Sings His Own Songbook

 
 

 

I’ve encountered Allen Toussaint in the middle of the Fair Grounds, the site of the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, on a sweltering day, looking nonetheless cool and unruffled in a blazer and ascot. I remember running into him in Manhattan, as light snow fell, in 2006, after he’d been forced to relocate to New York City, hailing a cab in a neat suit and polka-dot tie, seeming serene despite all else. I’ve heard him whip up old-school R&B frenzy at the Fair Grounds, listened to him stun a packed house into observant silence at Manhattan’s Village Vanguard jazz club.

Last month, President Obama awarded Toussaint the National Medal of Arts for “his contributions as a composer, producer, and performer,” according to the White House website, and “sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues and lifting it to the national stage.” At 75, Toussaint embodies the New Orleans tradition of blending styles to create timeless hits, picking up whereFats Domino left off in the 1950s. Since the 1960s, he has created scores of hits for a stunningly wide range of musicians, from the Lee Dorsey’s 1960s classic “Working in the Coalmine” to 2006’s “River in Reverse” with Elvis Costello, and including Dr. John, Patti LaBelle and Glen Campbell (“Southern Nights”).

There’s a great recent chapter to Toussaint’s career—as a solo performer and bandleader. This will be highlighted when he performs at Lincoln Center Out of Doors (8/11) and through the release of the CD/DVD set “Songbook,” due from Rounder September 24.

This latest chapter began in 2005. As writer Ashley Kahn explains in the liner notes to “Songbook”:

With a honed sense of dry humor, Toussaint calls 2005’s Hurricane Katrina his booking agent, crediting the storm for rebooting his career as a performer after flooding him out of home and studio. In order to recover – financially, musically, spiritually – Toussaint relocated to New York City and began to perform solo concerts, using Joe’s Pub on Lafayette Street as a home base. Buoyed by a groundswell of support, he worked at something that years of success in the studio had allowed him to avoid: getting truly comfortable on the stage by himself, laying claim to his own songs.

Modesty had a lot to do with it; Allen Toussaint still is not the first person one would go to for information on Allen Toussaint. “I’m not accustomed to talking about myself,” he once explained during a gig, “I talk in the studio with musicians. Or through my songs.”

And there’s some great, compact history included by Kahn in his track-by-track notes, like this bit:

With Toussaint, no experience was wasted, not even a two-year stint in the military that began in 1963. In ’64, he took his army band into the studio and under the name of The Stokes recorded “Whipped Cream,” a snappy instrumental with a jaunty horn line and a distinctive trumpet lead. Herb Alpert jumped on the melody a year later for the Tijuana Brass, recording it note-for-note, creating a hit single, a memorable album cover and a theme song for the TV sensation The Dating Game.

Toussaint talks about this in the DVD portion of “Songbook” (the CD documents two performances at Joe’s Pub, from 2009); he’ll also discuss it at Lincoln Center in a pre-concert interview with Nona Hendryx. Bill Bragin, who formerly programmed Joe’s Pub and who was responsible for Toussaint’s long residency there, produces this weekend’s Lincoln Center show. He formed a bond with the pianist as general manager of NYNO Records, which Toussaint founded in the 1990s with Joshua Feigenbaum. I’m sorry I’ll be out of town for this weekend’s performance and interview. But I’m about to dig into this new release, and I’m sure to speak at length with Toussaint about it.

Photo: Glade Bilby II

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JULY 2013: Allen Toussaint To Be Awarded National Medal Of Arts By President Obama


          

 

Allen Toussaint will be awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Obama at the White House on July 10, 2013, with the First Lady also in attendance. In addition to Allen, this year's recipients are George Lucas, Herb Alpert, RenĂ©e Fleming, Lin Arison, Joan Myers Brown, Ernest Gaines, Ellsworth Kelly, Tony Kushner, Elaine May, Laurie Olin, and Washington Performing Arts Society. Below is Allen's award citation which will be read at the ceremony:

"Allen Toussaint for his contributions as a composer, producer, and performer. Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint has built a legendary career alongside America's finest musicians, sustaining his city's rich tradition of rhythm and blues and lifting it to the national stage." 
(see The White House Press Release)

 

 

see links below for more info 

White House Honors

Allen Toussaint & Ernest Gaines 


 

   

Ladies & Gentlemen Dr. Allen Toussaint


 

May 18, 2013 Allen Toussaint along with Dr. John, received honorary doctorate of fine arts, Natasha Trethewey, the United States poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama received doctor of humane letters.  Congratulation to The Southern Knight!

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Steinway Pianos

Allen Toussaint and Steinway Piano

Gibson Guitars

Allen Toussaint and Gibson guitars

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