Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky From Now On" /
Allen Toussaint

I'm off to New Orleans today for a week's adventure (say bye-bye!), but I'll leave you with this delectation from the master of Crescent City soul-pop. Sorry for the crap quality of the video (WHY do people insist on chatting blah-blah-blah while a great musician is performing?) but Allen Toussaint is disgracefully under-represented on YouTube.

I've said this before, so often that I bore myself, but Allen Toussaint is THE most elegant performer in show business today. Tall and thin, with a distinguished touch of gray at the temples, every time I've seen him he's been dressed in a well-cut suit, crisp shirt, silk tie, pocket square, cuff links, the whole bit (I can attest to the cufflinks because he has a habit of shooting his cuffs as he sits down to play). Sure, one of those times he was also wearing sandals -- with black dress socks -- but this guy has so much style, he could even carry that off.

Moving with the sort of perfect posture my piano teacher always demanded from me (and never got), Toussaint strolls across the stage like some kind of diplomat, in no hurry, smiling a eye-crinkling smile of amused forbearance (think Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty). He settles onto that piano bench like a pro golfer casually swinging a nine-iron, so cool, so relaxed. And then he lifts his beautiful, supple hands and drops them on the ivories like it was the easiest thing in the world -- still smiling, torso barely moving, but the notes are just pouring out, rippling, dancing, as if he'd simply bewitched the piano into playing three notes for every key he strikes. The complete opposite of the Jerry Lee Lewis school of sweat-pouring manic piano playing.

I'm going into such detail on his stage presence because A) you can't see much from the video, and B) there's not much to say about the song that you can't get from the title. It's kind of like that Archie Bell and the Drells song, "Tighten Up" -- it just is what it is. "Jus' a be myself, do my thang, / A little soul can't do no harm. . . " -- a declaration of independence for the funky beat, if you will. The guitar twangs, the drums whomp, the Crescent City horns toot, the backing singers testify.

"Some may say that I've got no class / But I'm doing what I wanna do / So groove with me if you can / Or just do what you can do / Aw shhhhhhh---ucks." I can just imagine the knowing grin on his face as he sings that.

What more is there to say, anyway? Allen Toussaint is the epitome of grace, and a lesson to us all.

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