Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi [Nonesuch, 2009]
The weak link is the popmeister up top--Toussaint has always been the least improvisational and also the least percussive of the New Orleans piano masters. But Nicholas Payton, Don Byron, and Marc Ribot provide all the jazz he needs. Absolutely this not-quite-lite tour of New Orleans and vicinity touches down on Bechet and Morton, "St. James Infirmary" and "West End Blues." But it defines vicinity so broadly that you'll also find Beiderbecke and Reinhardt, two Ellington tunes, songs by a jazz critic and Ed Sullivan's bandleader. And bringing the album home is the not especially canonical Thelonious Monk title track, where percussiveness is a man's only option and everybody is compelled to improvise some, the percussionist included. A-