ALLEN TOUSSAINT’s “The Bright Mississippi”
After his high-profile collaboration with Elvis Costello on 2006’s “The River in Reverse,” New Orleans music godfather Toussaint serves up a curve ball. Eschewing R&B, Crescent City soul and pop, the pianist jumps into the jazz world with both feet, tackling time-honored nuggets from Jellyroll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and more. He is surrounded by some great players – including Albany’s Don Byron on clarinet, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and guitarist Marc Ribot – but producer Joe Henry makes sure that the spotlight is focused squarely on Toussaint’s talented fingers. There’s nothing virtuosic here, but that seems to be the whole point. Everything is right in the pocket. Classic stuff.