Tonight’s rousing concert includes six selections from the orchestra’s spring 2019 release, Songs-The Music of Allen Toussaint. The honoree was a singer/songwriter/pianist/arranger/talent scout/record producer/studio owner/and flame bearer for Crescent City’s indigenous music until his death in 2015.
A sizable group of musicians, the orchestra’s jazz take often veers from melody allowing individual “voices” to have their say, creating a wall of sound. One can grasp rhythm but not much else. Jelly Roll Morton’s “Kick the Bucket” begins this evening with tradition as the men repeatedly call out its title. (Always welcome.) Three successive sax contributions ride outlaw. Not until the brass comes in swinging does the classic achieve cohesion, however.
Toussaint’s familiar “Working In a Coal Mine” starts infectious, then gets lost. The writer’s “Southern Nights,” with trombonist Michael Watson on vocal, is notable for Steven Glenn’s dancing-with-tuba. Watching the musician at any point one feels genuine spirit. Nothing about the arrangement speaks of southern climes.
Highlights of the evening come from its guests. Rene Marie’s “It’s Raining” (written by Toussiant for Irma Thomas) emerges on such expertly kneaded notes it’s visceral. The vocalist holds the microphone with one hand while circling and pumping the other. She bends almost in two as music courses. “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” (Eddie DeLange/Louis Alter) is a cool stroll, an amble, Victor Atkins’ piano deft. Marie is sultry, savoring memory. Sax provides wah-wah shadow. Like the unfurling of a bolt of silk.
John Boutte has a small, but thoroughly committed voice. Phrasing is personal, often elongated. The artist’s surprise offering “It’s a Wonderful World” (Bob Thiele/George Weiss) arrives a fervent hope. “We can make it a wonderful world. You know what you gotta do – vote!” (Applause.) Brushes and piano carry the understated material. Lovely.
A few holiday songs include the pop “This Christmas” (Donny Hathaway) during which Rene’s fine vocal gets lost and “The Christmas Song” (Robert Wells/Mel Torme) with mellow orchestra and bright, bright sax.
Photos by Ayano Hisa for Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Opening at center: John Boutte, Adonis Rose, Rene Marie
Adonis Rose & The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
Guest Vocalists: Rene Marie and John Boutte
The Appel Room at Time Warner Center
December 13, 2019
Jazz at Lincoln Center Events