Aside from being one the most respected (and covered) songwriters and musicians of our times, Allen Toussaint is the man who singlehandedly did more for his home town of New Orleans than any government, aid organization, corporation or individual did. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, one of the many things he did was to raise awareness AND to raise $9 million to benefit the long-term relief efforts through a huge concert held at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall (two locations, at the same time!).
MSG (the network channel) presents a one hour documentary called “The Concert for New Orleans Remembered” (premiering Wednesday August 29th at 10pm, on MSG of course) featuring behind the scene and concert footage by himself, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Irma Thomas, Elton John, Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz, Cindy Lauper, Elivs Costello (whom I had seen Toussaint perform with two years ago during their duo tour in occasion of a private performance within the Tribeca Film Festival) and many others.
To promote the premier of this wonderful documentary (which I urge you to see on TV or get on DVD), MSG hosted a private & performance at the newly (not yet officially) opened jazz club Lola Is Soul.
Although poorly amplified and drowned in disrespectful chatter by people who were obviously there for the free food (which was delicious) and the open bar, the performance itself was fun and touching at the same time. Mr. Toussaint is a great piano player, talented singer and superb songwriter. He is one of the smartest individuals you’ll meet and he does everything he does genuinely and with the heart. The same passion went into tonight’s solo piano & voice performance of his, during which he manned the sustain pedal with his left foot (which I never saw anyone else doing), hit the 88 keys in all ranges of dynamics and pitch and poured his heart out while singing some of his most memorable compositions into the non-boom microphone stand on his right side.
As a cake-topping cherry, Mr Clarence “Frogman” Henry (who was in the house for the event) took the stage with his walker, sat down, and sang a few pieces (in his regular, falsetto and super-low frog voice) accompanied by Allen.
Truly a memorable event, filmed on site by a camera crew (so we might see some of it on TV at some point) and luckily immortalized (in a more grand version) in the MSG Originals documentary, where Frogman and Toussaint also played together.
I highly recommend you check out the concert, which has great footage, photography etc and I just as strongly recommend that you check out this new (yet historical) jazz/soul/blues venue in town (in its new and gorgeous downtown re-incarnation). They have a great food menu which is sure to please, great staff and management, beautiful interior design and hopefully a good sound system.