By Fred Rudofsky
The best bands move one’s feet, dazzle the brain and speak to the soul.
Allen Toussaint, acclaimed singer-songwriter-pianist-producer, died at age 78 last week of a heart attack following a concert in Spain. Though his name is not evoked verbally, the grooves of the Joe Krown Trio speak to his profound influence.
All three musicians are virtuosos from the Big Easy and have a history with native son Toussaint. As their website points out: “In November 2010, the Trio was invited to be part of 15-city U.S. tour called ‘New Orleans Nights.’ The Trio performed a feature set and then backed up Nicholas Payton and Allen Toussaint.” For singer-guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the loss must be acute: he knew the genius back in the 1960s, when Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and Ernie K. Doe were recording classics under the supervision of Toussaint, who wrote those early songs under the pseudonym “Naomi Neville,” his mother’s maiden name.
At Albany’s Parish Public House, Russell Batiste, Jr. plays with power and finesse, slicing and dicing time like it’s a big sweet onion, readying it for the sonic gumbo. Washington, seated and dapper (his beret, silver shoes and fine threads that would have made the late Toussaint smile in approval), fires off smooth solos and tangy rhythms from his guitar; his raspy vocals attest to decades of singing from the heart for the people. Joe Krown, perched behind his Hammond B-3, cooks up some meaty hooks and swirling fills. In 90 minutes, the band mesmerizes with instrumentals like “Trio’s Anthem” and “Another Day in the Life” from 2013’s Soul Understanding and reaches way back in the day for Ray Charles’s “Mary Ann”, Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” and Bobby Bland’s “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby.” George Jackson’s “Last Two Dollars” sounds like it was written just for Washington to sing – he owns it.