If there was a singer who embodied the very best of New Orleans, it was Allen Toussaint. Listen to his the version of “Yes We Can Can,” one of his finest songs, that he donated to a post-Katrina benefit album:
Toussaint’s vocal is warm, conversational and intimate. His piano work dances, bubbles and pops along behind that lovely vocal. About halfway through Toussaint takes a solo, and it’s brilliant, an amazing combination of infectious melody and rhythmic intricacy. Jack Hamilton called it a “perfectly exquisite love letter to New Orleans.” And that’s true, except that Toussaint’s whole life was a love letter to New Orleans, the place of his birth, the source of his inspiration and target of his love.
A wonderful composer, a stellar, self-taught pianist, a brilliant collaborator and a distinguished producer; WC heard him only once, at a Band concert on their Rock of Ages tour, where he sat in on a few songs. Magical, just magical.
But rather than write more, have a listen to “Yes We Can Can” one more time. It says more than WC can.
He will be missed.