American Tunes, the final studio album by legendary New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint, will be released by Nonesuch Records on June 10.
Toussaint had just completed the album when he passed away in November of last year during a European tour. Recording took place at two sets of sessions with producer Joe Henry: solo piano at Toussaint’s New Orleans home studio in 2013, and with the rhythm section of Jay Bellerose and David Piltch – joined by guests Bill Frisell, Charles Lloyd, Greg Leisz, Rhiannon Giddens, and Van Dyke Parks – in Los Angeles in October 2015.
The album comprises solo performances of Professor Longhair tunes and band arrangements of songs by Toussaint, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Paul Simon, and others.
The album is available to pre-order now at iTunes and nonesuch.com, where the album track Big Chief may be downloaded instantly; nonesuch.com pre-orders come with a limited-edition print. A two-LP vinyl version, also available June 10, includes three bonus tracks.
Toussaint’s children, Alison Toussaint-LeBeaux and Clarence Reginald Toussaint, who have long served as their father’s managers, said of the American Tunes album:
“Our father approached this project with great care and understanding of the songs selected and paid true homage to Professor Longhair, his musical hero. He wanted to bring as much of the Toussaint touch as he could to these wonderful classics.”
Joe Henry had first worked with Toussaint when he invited the pianist to join the sessions for I Believe to My Soul, a studio convocation of mature R&B stars. Henry subsequently acted as producer on Toussaint’s post-Katrina collaboration with Elvis Costello, The River in Reverse. Of the most recent sessions he says: “I have been working with Allen Toussaint – under his spell and subject to his influence – for a full decade now. He was a quiet radical, musically-speaking, and a prince of great humility.”