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The Bright Mississippi

The Bright Mississippi cover art

Track Listing

Click tracks with speaker icon to listen
1Egyptian Fantasy (Sidney Bechet / John Reid )4:41
2Dear Old Southland (Raymond Bloch )6:19
3St. James Infirmary (Traditional)3:52
4Singin’ the Blues (Con Conrad / J. Russel Robinson)5:40
5Winin’ Boy Blues (“Jelly Roll” Morton)6:42
6West End Blues (Joe Oliver / Clarence Williams)3:52
7Blue Drag (Django Reinhardt)4:22
8Just a Closer Walk with Thee (Traditional)5:11
9Bright Mississippi (Thelonious Monk )5:08
10Day Dream (Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn)5:27
11Long, Long Journey (Leonard Feather)4:51
12Solitude (Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Eddie DeLange )5:31

News & Reviews

  • Dr. John and Allen Toussaint Awarded Honorary Degrees from Tulane University Along with Dalai Lama

    Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, two favorite sons of New Orleans, received honorary degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans at its 2013 Commencement held at the Superdome on Saturday. Both Grammy Award-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees received honorary doctor of fine arts degrees and performed together in a short set. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who delivered the keynote address at the event, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Natasha Trethewey, the US poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, was awarded a doctor of humane letters.

  • New Orleans Jazz Fest 2013 Kicks Off; Includes The Black Keys, Dr. John, Joshua Redman, Allen Toussaint

    The 2013 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, aka Jazz Fest, gets under way today as the first of two consecutive weekends of music unfolds. Included among this weekend's performers are Joshua Redman with his Quartet and New Orleans native sons Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. The Black Keys help close out the festival next weekend. Also in New Orleans this weekend is Fatoumata Diawara, who performs at the House of Blues. 

About this Album

Nonesuch Records released The Bright Mississippi, Allen Toussaint’s first solo album in more than a decade, on April 21, 2009. Produced by friend and frequent collaborator Joe Henry, the record includes songs by jazz greats such as Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Django Reinhardt, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Billy Strayhorn. Toussaint and Henry created a band of highly regarded musicians for the sessions: clarinetist Don Byron, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist David Piltch, and percussionist Jay Bellerose. Additionally, pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman each join Toussaint for a track. 

Growing up and learning to play the piano in New Orleans, Toussaint knew the music that is on The Bright Mississippi well, although his career tended more toward rock and popular music; he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, by his friend and collaborator Robbie Robertson of The Band. This return to the music of his roots was suggested by The Bright Mississippi producer Joe Henry, who had produced Toussaint’s 2006 album with Elvis Costello, The River in Reverse, as well tracks from as I Believe to My Soul, a collection of classic R&B and soul songs, and songs on Nonesuch’s 2005 Gulf Coast benefit album, Our New Orleans.

As Henry explains, “At the close of the day’s Our New Orleans session, Allen sat alone at the piano and played through an arrangement he’d devised of Professor Longhair’s Crescent City standard, ‘Tipitina.’ It sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before and like everything I’d ever heard.” He continues, “In the weeks that followed I worried over this brief piece of music like it was a rosary, and I wasn’t alone in my devotion to it. The principals of Nonesuch Records were thinking what I was: that a door had been nudged open, and behind it lay a room; and in that room there perhaps resided a particularly gifted and heretofore unsuspected executor of the broad musical amalgam born to New Orleans at the dawn of the 20th century.”

While Toussaint has always known material like “West End Blues” and “St. James Infirmary,” he admits that, as a performer, “I hadn’t tackled them on my own. ‘Tackle’ is a bad word—I hadn’t caressed them on my own, except to listen from time to time in passing. Even the gigs that I’ve done during my gigging days, I was playing whatever was on the radio at the time, boogie-ing and woogie-ing and the like. I hadn’t been through this standard bag. I always loved those songs, but I had never been in a setting where that is what I would do for a while. Until now.”

He calls the experience of making The Bright Mississippi “wonderful. Everything is live, of course. This isn’t the kind of assembly line music where somebody put the wheels on here and somebody put the top on there. Everything got done at the same time, so everybody fed on each other, their personality and tonality.”


Allen Toussaint, piano (1-12), vocals (11)
Don Byron, clarinet
Nicholas Payton, trumpet
Marc Ribot, acoustic guitar
David Piltch, upright bass
Jay Bellerose, drums and percussion
and special guests
Brad Mehldau, piano (5)
Joshua Redman, tenor saxophone (10)

Produced by Joe Henry
Recorded March 19-22, 2008, by Kevin Killen at Avatar Studios, New York
Assisted by Anthony Ruotolo
Mixed by Kevin Killen at Sevonay Sound and Avatar Studios, New York
Assisted at Avatar by Rick Kwan

Cover photography by William Claxton (New Orleans, 1960)
Additional photography: Michael Wilson and John Cohen
Design: Sequel Studios

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