Allen Toussaint: Waltz for Debby

I miss Allen Toussaint. He was utterly unique, whether shaping the New Orleans soul and funk sound in the 1970s, or producing artists all over the spectrum, or collaborating with artists one would never think of, like Elvis Costello. It’s no accident that he is in both the rock and blues halls of fame, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2013.

It’s fitting, then, that his last album would come back to New Orleans jazz roots, with Toussaint playing piano in a trio format, covering his own as well as a cornucopia of songs from across the American landscape, and infusing them with a gently swinging character that is unmistakably New Orleans. I understand that Waltz for Debby has become something of a jazz standard and has been done many times on many records. Even Bill Evans’ Village Vanguard version recorded on that fateful Sunday in June 1961 (Scott LaFaro, the bassist, would be dead 10 days later, thus ending one of the most empathic units in jazz history) was actually a remake of the solo piano version on Evans’ first album. The problem is, the Sunday Village Vanguard session is so iconic that all other versions, to me, fall somewhat flat. 

Until now. 

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