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When: Fri., Nov. 8, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. 2013
Price: $24-$74
As a songwriter, producer, pianist, and label owner, Allen Toussaint has been a defining force in New Orleans R&B and American pop for more than 50 years—he’s written or produced songs recorded by LaBelle, the Pointer Sisters, and even Glen Campbell (1977’s “Southern Nights”), plus of course Crescent City stalwarts such as Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, and the Nevilles. He’s been in high demand as a performer for years, but it was only recently that he began considering himself a solo act; his latest release, Songbook (Rounder), documents a time in his life when he was finally making peace with facing a live audience onstage. Recorded in 2009 at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, where Toussaint was living after being displaced by Katrina in 2005, the album features impeccable and deeply felt renditions of the classics “Mother-in-Law,” “Yes We Can,” “Working in a Coal Mine,” and “Southern Nights” (recast as a nostalgic, magnolia-scented ode to his roots), among others, as well as relatively obscure numbers such as “It’s a New Orleans Thing” (based on Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina”) and the sardonic “Optimism Blues.” Toussaint’s piano work is dexterous yet tasteful and straightforward, powered by the inevitable second-line strut but imbued with an orchestral depth and sweep that gives it a distinctive elegance; his vocals, understated yet richly emotional, are likewise shot through with tenderness and warmth. —David Whiteis

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