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Bio - Allen Toussaint

Allen Toussaint

 

 

Allen Toussaint (born January 14, 1938) is an American musician, songwriter and record producer and one of the most influential figures in New Orleans R&B.

 

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Like the Mississippi River that gives New Orleans its crescent shape, the city harbors a free-flowing music scene, awash in its own history and ever open to outside streams of influence. Time is fluid there as well – sounds of the past flow amicably with newer musical styles. An inordinately high percentage of music-makers reside there. Regardless of instrument or style, many command the same admiration other municipalities reserve for civic leaders and sports heroes. To this day in New Orleans, high school boys carrying a trombone or trumpet – more than a football – get the girls. And the city’s top piano players are still addressed as professors.

Allen Toussaint is a senior member of that titled fraternity, a renowned songwriter and producer, who’s celebrated for his distinctively deft and funky feel on the piano and still active after more than fifty years in the business. No fading golden oldie is this piano professor, though many of his successes reach back that far.

The list of those who have benefited in one way or another from the Toussaint’s touch is staggering in its historic and stylistic range, stretching from the late 1950s to the present day, with no end in sight. His studio productions have sold millions of discs and downloads. His catalog of songs has generated hits on the pop, R&B, country and dance charts – many remain on heavy rotation in various radio formats. His tunes continue to pop up as TV themes and advertising jingles. He has an ever-growing international circle of fans, and though normally reluctant to tour, he’s become a more familiar figure at music festivals and popular nightclubs around the world.

Though Toussaint has begun to travel far and wide as of late, he never stays away from New Orleans for long – and his music never does. In so many ways, his enduring career serves as an ongoing tribute to the city of his birth.

Allen Toussaint’s biography begins humbly. He was born in 1938 in New Orleans’s Gert Town, a working class neighborhood that straddles Washington Avenue between Earhart Boulevard and Carrollton Avenue, and was raised by his mother Naomi and father Clarence. He’s the “C. Toussaint” credited as songwriter on some early tunes; she’s the “N. Neville” whose name appears more often. Toussaint inherited their love of music, taught himself piano, and caught a couple of breaks as a teenager – joining a local R&B band that also featured guitarist Snooks Eaglin; sitting in for Huey “Piano” Smith with Earl King; laying down piano parts at a Fats Domino session that the Imperial Records star could not make.

Like many musicians of his generation (and those to come) Toussaint drew heavily on the syncopated blues and trill-filled patterns invented in the 1940s by Professor Longhair, aka Henry Roeland Byrd. To this day, most in New Orleans simply refer to him as “Fess”; with musical accuracy and a typically deft turn of a phrase, Toussaint hails him “The Bach of Rock”. When onstage, Toussaint rarely fails to credit his mentor, offering a rendition of “Tipitina,” Fess’s signature tune, mentioning the debt all modern piano professors share.

If Fess is New Orleans’s Bach, Toussaint is its Amadeus: an instrumentalist of uncanny sure-fingeredness and a prodigious inventor of melodies that remain fresh in the ear for years. The parallel is furthered as he also happens to be a master crystallizer of traditional and innovative styles; those classic New Orleans street parade rhythms never sounded more modern than they did after he was done updating them.

Toussaint later proved to have a poet’s ear for lyrics, plus a honey-toned singing voice – unusually smooth and upper-register for one who is essentially a bluesman. Yet his debut on record was an album of instrumentals for the major record company RCA. In 1958, The Wild Sound of New Orleans by “Tousan” included “Java,” later a huge pop hit for trumpeter Al Hirt, and the boogie “Whirlaway,” a marvel of top-gear piano precision.

The late ’50s were the wild and fiercely competitive days of R&B and early rock and roll. “Indie” labels were popping up all over. One would make a bundle for a moment, then disappear; others persevered. Toussaint learned fast – about publishing and song copyrights, and how to hang on to them. In the early ’60s, he assumed the position of session supervisor for Minit and Instant Records, writing and producing singles for a variety of local artists. Some – like Irma Thomas’s “It’s Raining” and Art Neville’s “All These Things” – became local hits. A few – Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-In-Law” and Chris Kenner’s “I Like It Like That” – broke big on the national charts.

From the outset, Toussaint was able to imbue his songs with an ageless quality that successive, melody-savvy generations appreciated – and covered. His tune “A Certain Girl,” a 1961 single by K-Doe, was the B-side of the Yardbirds debut single in ’64; in 1980, Warren Zevon – no slouch himself as a songwriter – chose to record it too. Impressively evergreen among Toussaint’s songs is the single-chord gem, “Fortune Teller.” Initially a Benny Spellman hit in ’62, the Rolling Stones and the Hollies recorded it in their early years, and the Who performed it on their famous Live at Leeds album in 1970. As recently as 2007 Robert Plant and Alison Krauss made it a part of their Grammy-winning album Raising Sand.

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.
By the height of the ’60s, Toussaint was New Orleans’s premier producer. Partnering with record promoter Marshall Sehorn, a veteran of independent R&B companies, he built his own studio, dubbed it Sea-Saint, and established a series of record labels.  As popular black music styles evolved from 1950s R&B to more soulful sounds and became powered by ever-funkier rhythms, so Toussaint’s productions – with Lee Dorsey (who served as Toussaint’s primary muse and voice), the Meters, Dr. John and others – morphed into a progressively heavier sense of syncopation, drawing heavily on New Orleans’s distinctive street parade beats.

Toussaint’s songwriting as well assumed a broader, sophisticated perspective. Some tunes focused on daily, workaday realities and urban life: “Workin’ In The Coal Mine,” “Night People,” “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley.” Others were more reflective, delivering messages of social protest and racial uplift: “Yes We Can,” “Freedom For The Stallion,” “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further.”

One song in particular – “Get Out Of My Life, Woman” – was so effective in defining a new, relaxed kind of beat, that for a number of years every touring ensemble and house band seemed to have it in their repertoire; it remains an R&B perennial, favored by the likes of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Iron Butterfly, Jerry Garcia, and most recently, the Derek Trucks Band. In the early ’70s, Toussaint wrote “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)” for Scottish pub rocker Frankie Miller; with its equally funky groove and irresistible lyric it inspired versions by Three Dog Night, Maria Muldaur and B.J. Thomas.

Through the ensuing decade, Toussaint’s schedule book was never empty, as a litany of rock, R&B and even country stars made their way to Sea-Saint. His ability to write, produce and conjure radio hits from performers in any popular genre – or to simply come up with just the right horn line or song structure – made him an in-demand producer, composer and arranger. He worked with local New Orleans acts as well as such luminaries as Paul McCartney, LaBelle, the Band, Albert King, and Little Feat, on whose 1975 tour Toussaint performed as the featured opener.

During this period, Toussaint’s star as a recording artist began to rise, as he released a number of albums on major labels – From A Whisper To A Scream, Life Love and Faith, Southern Nights, Motion – that are all considered essential New Orleans classics today. They were filled with tunes that revealed a highly individual, astute worldview: “What Is Success,” “On Your Way Down,” “Southern Nights,” “What Do You Want The Girl To Do,” “Night People.”

Soon, many of Toussaint’s most personal songs became fodder for the pop and rock world, covered by Boz Scaggs, Lowell George, Bonnie Raitt, and Robert Palmer among others  – not that he or his accountant were complaining. Even Toussaint’s most autobiographical composition – the atmospheric and wistful “Southern Nights” – was retooled as a bouncy, barroom number by Glen Campbell in 1977. It was a crossover smash, topping both the pop and country charts and earning a nomination for Country Song of the Year.

After the high-flying successes of the ’70s, the following two decades saw Toussaint primarily focusing on hometown productions and performances, serving as musical director for Vernel Bagneris’s off Broadway play Staggerlee in 1985, and generating but one album under his own name –  Mr. Mardi Gras: I Love A Carnival Ball – in ’87. In ’94 Toussaint joined a New Orleans R&B dream team that included old friends Earl Palmer, Red Tyler, Lee Allen, Mac Rebennack, and Edward Frank, to record The Ultimate Session under the moniker Crescent City Gold.

Two years later,  with new partner Joshua Feigenbaum, he launched NYNO Records, producing critically hailed albums that delivered an overview of New Orleans’ best, rising talent of the day including gospel singer Raymond Myles, trumpeter James Andrews, R&B veteran Oliver Morgan, zydeco guitarist Paul “Lil’ Buck” Sinegal, and the New Birth Brass Band.

In the last fifteen years, Toussaint has experienced a growing resurgence of activity and recognition. Since ’96, he’s recorded seven albums and collaborated with the likes of Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton. He’s been sampled by such hip-hop heavyweights as O.D.B., Biz Markie, KRS One and Outkast, and appeared nationally on TV and radio – often on the urging of such longtime fans as Paul Shaffer and Harry Shearer, and on the HBO series Treme. He’s been Grammy® nominated and inducted into a number of Halls of Fame. Most recently, President Obama himself awarded him the National Medal of Arts in a special White House ceremony.


The weight of all these awards and appearances could not compare to the impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; Toussaint wryly calls the storm his booking agent, crediting it for rebooting his career as a performer after flooding him out of home and studio. Urged by Feigenbaum and other friends up north, 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.”

But over time, Toussaint developed his act – resurrecting material he hadn’t touched in years, taking chances and improvising on established melodies, weaving personal anecdotes into his stage patter. He laced his music with memories of street characters and soul sisters, funky clubs and big-time successes. His show became his story, and his story came together and began to flow – which brings us to the musical treasure before you.

The what, when and how of this collection is comprehensively explained by its creator Paul Siegel – a veteran video producer, and lifelong enthusiast of Toussaint’s work. As this DVD is an important historical document and an overdue personal testament from a musical genius to his fans, it also stands as a tribute to Siegel’s passion for a man who – like too many of New Orleans’s heroes – often evades the national radar.

What the world needs to be reminded of, New Orleans never forgets. The wild sounds of Toussaint are inextricably interwoven into the city’s legacy; he’s still unveiling new songs, taking on projects and making appearances – like guesting on Trombone Shorty’s breakout album Backatown in 2010. He stands as one of the city’s most storied citizens. Strolling in the French Quarter, dropping into Tipitina’s or the House of Blues, Toussaint is always recognized and addressed with respect. He carries himself with an understated nobility – understated that is, save for the bright, color-coordinated suits and fisherman sandals: a Southern gentleman with Caribbean flair.

Nearly eight years after Katrina, New Orleans continues to recover, and Toussaint has returned permanently to the city he never truly left. Give him the heat and the humidity, the spice and the rice, the funky sound of a Second Line and the cool feel of a southern night. “I apologize,” Toussaint sings, with the hint of a wink, “to anyone who can truly say that he has a found a better way.”

 

 

 

Clarence "Reginald" Toussaint


 

Clarence “Reginald” Toussaint began his musical journey 30 years ago as an audio engineer alongside his father, the late great, Allen Toussaint at the Sea-Saint Recording Studio.  It was there he developed his musical tastes as a percussionist, writer, producer, and engineer and musical aficiando. Reginald, as he is familiarly known, for the past 32 years until his untimely death his father’s Personal, Business, Tour and Production Manager as well his the percussionist in the band, a feat he considers his ultimate pleasure and honor.  Reginald has become a staple figure for the Festival Production-New Orleans Inc. and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for the last 30 years.  Because of his tenacity and hard work he is now the Stage Production Executive Director. 

As his confidence grew and his style developed, Reginald started producing a number of artists such as Allen Toussaint, Keith Claiborne, Daniel Ramos, and a host of other independent artists.  He has had the pleasure of performing for and sharing the stage with Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello just to name a few; his resume can speak for itself. 

 When he is not performing, he is engineering a number of artists both locally and nationally.  He has won several accolades such as the Ampex Award for Engineer New Edition. 

Clarence studied  International Business with an emphasis in music law at Loyola University in New Orleans.  He continues to grow in his craft and credits his father for his lifelong passion and career trajectory in the music industry.  Life, Love & Faith!

 

Herman LeBeaux Jr

Herman LeBeaux is a percussionist, composer, arranger and educator — the New Orleans native emerged on the music scene in the early 80's. LeBeaux holds degrees from Xavier University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  While completing his masters’ degree program at UMass, LeBeaux had the honor of studying under the tutelage of the famed Max Roach.

 

While LeBeaux’s main area of musical works has been primarily in the jazz idiom performing with famed jazz musicians, he has made the transition effortlessly into all genres of music. Upon joining Allen Toussaint’s band in 1996, Herman has toured and been the drummer on several recordings and DVD projects namely, the Katrina inspired, From the Big Apple to the Big Easy and the Keep it Funky, chronicling the life and music of New Orleans funk masters Allen Toussaint, Art Neville & Dr. John.   Taking his talents to the big screen, Herman was a cast member for the Oscar winning movie, Ray, where he played the drummer in the Ray Charles’ band

 

Herman LeBeaux has performed and/or shared the stage with legendary performers: Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino, Max Roach, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, The Platters, The Drifters, the, The Doobie Brothers, The Time, Cameo, Marilyn McCoo, Lloyd Price, Mose Alison,  Irma Thomas, Charles Neville, Kermit Ruffins and the list continues. He has made appearances on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and Late Nite with Conan Obrien.

 

When not performing in the US and abroad, Herman lives in New Orleans where he has taught at the famous NOCCA institute; Xavier University and currently UNO.

   

Roland Guerin

Roland Guerin grew up in a musical family. His father was a great lover of jazz and classical music; his mother, a blues and zydeco bass player, taught him that you can’t make it in music without a strong groove and feeling. 

Introduced to the bass by his mother and intrigued by its deep resonance, Guerin began playing at the age of 11. Growing up, Guerin was strongly influenced by pop, rock and R&B music of the 70’s and 80’s. The first songs he learned to play on bass were Lakeside’s Your Wish Is My Command, Dazz Band’s Let It Whip, YYZ by Rush, and Stomp by Brothers Johnson. During his years in High School, bands and artists such as Gerry Rafferty, America, and Booker T & The MG’s seeded his love for great songs and inspired him to write music of his own.

By the time he got to college, Guerin had taken in a wide variety of popular music from an extensive list of musical genres. While studying Marketing at Southern University in Baton Rouge, he joined legendary jazz educator Alvin Batiste’s Band, The Jazztronauts. Guerin inherited much of Batiste’s musical innovations and concepts, and developed ways to bring his own musical voice to life.

Upon completion of his degree, Guerin began to tour the world as a member of jazz guitarist Mark Whitfield's band. During this time Guerin explored the jazz genre, which ultimately proved to be an avenue toward success. He had the opportunity to perform with such greats as George Benson, Jimmy Scott, Frank Morgan, Vernel Fournier, and Gerry Mulligan, as well as to participate in the recording of numerous albums, including Twelve's It by Ellis Marsalis; Mark Whitfield's Forever Love and Mark Whitfield; Blues for the New Millennium, Portraits in Blue, and In Honor of Duke by Marcus Roberts.

As a member of the Marcus Roberts Trio from 1994 to 2009, Guerin had the opportunity to perform at the head of symphony orchestras across the world, among which the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, and Seiji Osawa’s New Japan Philharmonic. From his collaboration with Osawa and Roberts, Guerin developed a deeper understanding and appreciation of orchestration and arrangement, both of which carry great importance in his own musical composition.

In 1996, while still in Roberts’s band, Guerin played bass on legendary musician and songwriter Allen Toussaint’s album Connected, an experience that revealed itself to be a turning point in Guerin’s musical journey. The recording of this album took place at Sea Saint Studio in New Orleans and was done in the same way in which many of Toussaint’s hit songs had been recorded in the past: to tape, on a Harrison mixing board. Being a part of this process gave Guerin direct insight into a method of recording that had been applied on many of the albums he had grown up listening to and learning from. This experience allowed Guerin to reconnect more fully with who he was as a songwriter and a multi-styled musician.

Guerin made his debut as a bandleader in 1998 with The Winds of the New Land, featuring Peter Martin on piano, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Donald Edwards on drums, and Mark Whitfield on guitar. The record was acclaimed for its innovative style of composition and arrangement. Jazz Review called it "a literal piece of art", while the New Orleans Magazine named Guerin a Contemporary Jazz All-Star. He followed up with an album from the Roland Guerin Sextet, Live at the Blue Note, released by Half Note Record. He released 3 more successful albums in the following decade, among which is to be noted Groove, Swing and Harmony; it was nominated by Critics' Choice as one of the top 50 Louisiana CD's of 2003. His most recent album, A Different World, which was released in September 2011, features Terrence Higgins on drums, Mike Esneault on piano, Khris Royal on saxophone, Shane Theriot on guitar, Denis Williams on saxophone and Bill Summers on percussion.

During the summer of 2009, Guerin went on a world tour with John Scofield and the Piety Street Band. Scofield had been one of Guerin’s long-time musical heroes and sources of inspiration. Touring with him provided Guerin with an opportunity to further develop his soloing on electric bass and to incorporate parts of Scofield’s phrasing and sound into his own style.

Upon his return from the tour with Scofield, Guerin joined Toussaint’s band, playing and touring with him until his passing in 2015. During the time with Toussaint, Guerin learned how details in music and in life go hand in hand, how to look at different interpretations of rhythms and melodies, as well as the art of keeping songs balanced.

Guerin has performed with his band at the Jazz Times Convention in 1998, as well as at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1999, 2003, 2006, 2012 and again in 2015.

Throughout his career, Guerin has studied and played many different styles of music. Inspired by Duke Ellington as one of the all-time greatest writers of popular music, and Miles Davis as one of the musicians who, throughout his career, most aptly embraced and adapted to the evolution of sound in popular music, Guerin offers an entirely new and singular take on this genre, one that integrates American folk melodies, blues, zydeco, African rhythms, rock, jazz soloing and orchestral arrangements.

At the heart of his music are stories, told through multiple layers of simple compositions that come together to create a complex yet lucid sound

 

 

Renard Poché

 

 

 

 

Renard Poche’, is a contemporary of some of New Orleans' funk greats, Renard Poche’ contributions can be counted among the defining factors of funk in New Orleans. Best known for his electrifying guitar work, Poche’s an accomplished multi-instrumentalist* whose been known to move effortlessly between guitar, trombone, percussion, flute, recorders and more, without missing a beat.

In addition to his live and studio guitar work with artists such as Dr. John, Zigaboo Modeliste (of the original Meters), Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and N'Dea Davenport (Brand New Heavies), Poch? trombone work can be heard on recordings by Peter Gabriel, The Indigo Girls, Terrance Simeon and The Neville Brothers, among others. Poch? original compositions have found their way to places as diverse as BET's Movie of the Week and the TaeBo Workout Video. Poch?as also shared his talent with renowned trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard in soundtracks for the films Dark Blue and Barber Shop.

As a writer, producer, arranger and performer, Poche takes a daring approach to his own music, preferring to throw out the rule book in favor of his own instincts. The result is a new sound that honors the revered funk and soul influences of his musical past while maintaining a contemporary freshness. The full spectrum of Poche's talents will be showcased in his upcoming debut release, which features some of New Orleans' finest tapped and untapped talent.

   

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