When Allen Toussaint passed away in 2015 at the age of 77 the United States lost a cultural icon, but no place felt his loss as hard as his home (and the town whose sound he helped define) New Orleans. These days there may be no harder working musician in that city than Stanton Moore and when his trio ( David “Tork” Torkanowsky – keys and James Singleton – bass) heard about his death they put their planned record on hold and worked up arraignments of a vast array of Toussaint numbers.
Inviting the city’s musical greats to join them, they recorded With You In Mind as a tribute to the legend himself. What they achieved is a tasteful homage, an experimental exploration and a celebration all at once.
“Java” is an excellent example of all of these things. The original recording of the track was a slim minute fifty three with a wooly, upbeat boogie-woogie vibe. Here Moore and the trio slow down the tempo while the horns of Nicholas Payton, Donald Harrison Jr and Trombone Shorty take the role of piano. Never wanting the track to end, the brass blows til dawn and that looseness is infectious. Vibrant opener “Here Come The Girls” also features Shorty as well as Cyril Neville’s vocals while “Life” showcases Neville again with an overdriven calypso vibe powered by Payton and Skerik.
Stanton Moore’s drumming owns the funky “Night People” as none other than Maceo Parker blows into town for this get down jam while the rhythm stays at the forefront as Neville takes a spoken word approach to “The Beat”, a poem that Toussaint had never published yet it speaks volumes.
Great cuts show up late on the disk starting with the effervescent cool instrumental take on “Riverboat”. The jazz horns of Payton and Harrison Jr. would make Allen smile while Parker returns for the offbeat head bopping of “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky”. The tone dramatically shifts for an emotionally stunning instrumental interpretation of the title track by just the trio while a completely reimagined “Southern Nights” welcomes Wendell Pierce to the party ending things on a poetry slam/jam vibe.
The one detriment to the album is that Moore and his trio have a tendency to always go long. Toussaint was a pro at getting to the point and getting out of a track while these players (all excellent) love to just keep on partying. On tracks like the Kiki Chapman sung torch song “All These Things”, at least a minute could be cut off, but fans of the original will have a new elongated version to now digest.
Allen Toussaint is an American treasure and a New Orleans Superhero. Moore’s trio and the amazing guests interpret his songbook with clear imagination, respect and gusto; if this opens a few ears to the legends greatness their job is a success.