Allen Toussaint finished recording American Tunes just weeks before his death in November, and it is an elegant and fitting adieu from the New Orleans master.
Solo piano versions of tunes from the Professor Longhair canon such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Hey Little Girl sand down the edges without sacrificing passion. It also shows how Toussaint was deeply rooted in the musical tradition he inherited and expanded.
Accompanied by the likes of saxophonist Charles Lloyd and guitarist Bill Frisell, Toussaint also hits the mark with fresh interpretations of compositions by the likes of Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Billy Strayhorn and Fats Waller.
On Waltz for Debby, Toussaint, bassist David Piltch and drummer Jay Bellerose add some Latin grooves – you won't stop smiling.
The album closes with American Tunes, the last song of the sessions and Toussaint's only vocal. Every line gains poignancy – from "I'm just weary to my bones" to "And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly".