Legendary New Orleans artist/songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint has teamed with producer Joe Henry for his next album, a collection tentatively titled "The Bright Mississippi" due out in early 2009 o
Legendary New Orleans artist/songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint has teamed with producer Joe Henry for his next album, a collection tentatively titled "The Bright Mississippi" due out in early 2009 on Nonesuch.
"It's all old standards Joe chose for me to do, along with some wonderful musicians," Toussaint tells Billboard.com, explaining that his relationship with Henry dates back to the Henry-produced 2005 soul compilation "I Believe To My Soul: Session 1."
"He said, 'What about me producing something [for] you one day?' and I was totally open to it," Toussaint says. "And I must say he came up with a direction I never would have chosen, but I'm so glad he did."
Among the songs on "The Bright Mississippi" are traditionals such as "St. James Infirmary" and "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," Duke Ellington's "Solitude," Thelonious Monk's "Bright Mississippi," Django Reinhardt's "Blue Drag" and "West End Blues," which was popularized by Louis Armstrong. Toussaint plays piano throughout the album but is joined by Brad Mehldau on Jelly Roll Morton's "Winin' Boy Blues," while Joshua Redman plays tenor saxophone on Ellington's "Day Dream."
The main band on the set is Henry staples Marc Ribot on acoustic guitar, David Piltch on upright bass and drummer Jay Bellerose, along with clarinetist Don Byron and trumpeter Nicholas Payton.
"Suffice to say that this project, as is my friendship with Allen, was life-changing," Henry says. "Who else of his age and stature would put themselves out -- would engage the universe and do something so wholly different than is their usual -- so fearlessly? No one, that's who."
Toussaint adds that he's also still "writing constantly," and he holds out hope of getting together again with Elvis Costello for a sequel to their well-received 2006 collaboration "The River in Reverse."
"I feel that we probably will," Toussaint says, "especially 'cause of how good it felt. I would gladly look forward to something like that, even though we haven't planned anything yet."