How lucky we are in the greater Lansing area. Tomorrow we will have in our midst a living legend of American popular music, playing alongside a band considered to be the most important interpreters, protectors and advocates of traditional New Orleans jazz. On October 8th, in the Cobb Great Hall, Allen Toussaint joins forces with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB), as part of the “Oh Yeah! Tour.” New Orleans is the place where jazz was born, rhythm and blues was raised, and rock and roll found its cool. Following his formula you can consider Allen Toussaint to be one of R&B’s most important parent/guardians, as well as the Director of Cool at the School of Rock. He wrote and produced such hits as “Working in a Coalmine,” “Mother-in-Law,” and “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley.” The Yardbirds, Glen Campbell, Jerry Garcia, The Pointer Sisters, Bonnie Raitt, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Al Hirt are just a few of the artists that have covered his songs. In addition Toussaint has also lent his music production talents to Little Feat, the Band and Paul McCartney. More recently he has taken part in successful collaborations with Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton. For over 50 years The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been preserving the traditional jazz music of New Orleans. What began as a well-received string of concerts at one of the only integrated performance spaces in New Orleans at the time, became a touring ensemble and eventually the national institution it is today. PHJB received initial national attention performing in a San Francisco music festival with rock music greats Santana, Steppenwolf and the Grateful Dead. They continue to have festival popularity, and earlier this year collaborated with Arcade Fire at the Coachella music festival. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has performed and recorded with many notable musicians including Tom Waits, Ani Defranco, Peter Seeger, Dr. John, My Morning Jacket and The Blind Boys of Alabama. In just one year we will observe the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Both of these musical legends were greatly affected by its devastation. Allen Toussaint’s home and studio were flooded forcing him to relocate, and the damage done to Preservation Hall caused it to close its doors for almost a year. It brings me great joy to know that these American treasures survived the storm, returned home and have continued to produce fantastic music. On October 8th I will be excitedly watching these masters practicing their craft. I hope to see you there.
– Benjamin Hall is the Coordinator for the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival here in East Lansing.