(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Allen Toussaint and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who between them encapsulate a century of New Orleans music, perform in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA on Thursday, October 23, 2014, at 8pm.
While names like Dr. John and the Neville Brothers may be better known than Allen Toussaint, he is in a sense the Quincy Jones of New Orleans — a brilliant pianist and the city’s premier composer, arranger, songwriter and producer whose influence – well beyond such hometown mainstays as Dr. John, the Meters, and the Nevilles – extends outward to rock legends like Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Warren Zevon, the Rolling Stones, and the Band, as well as Glen Campbell and Devo.
In the early 1960s, Toussaint wrote and produced a string of hits for New Orleans R&B artists such as Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Art and Aaron Neville, The Showmen, and Lee Dorsey (“Working in the Coal Mine,” famously revived by Devo). He produced Dr. John’s breakthrough album, “In the Right Time,” and wrote the horn arrangements for the Band’s two most famous concert recordings, “Rock of Ages” and “The Last Waltz.” He produced “Venus and Mars” by Paul McCartney and Wings, as well as “Nightbords” by LaBelle, which spawned their megahit, “Lady Marmalade.”
Rockers have long enjoyed covering his songs, including “A Certain Girl,” made memorable by Warren Zevon, and “Ruler of My Heart,” a favorite of the Rolling Stones. In more recent years, he has worked extensively with Elvis Costello as well as Eric Clapton.
On their current tour, the “Oh Yeah! Tour,” Toussaint cooks up authentic New Orleans jazz with the band that has been keeping it alive for over a half century. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band was born from the storied Preservation Hall music venue. The “Pres Hall” was established in 1961 to honor New Orleans music traditions and has since hosted six decades of the most influential musicians on the globe, many of whom have been Jazz Band collaborators.
Although briefly closed in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina, Preservation Hall maintains a reputation as the cornerstone of New Orleans music and culture. The persevering Pres Hall Jazz Band continues to tour nationally and internationally, and recently was honored with the highest award for artistic excellence in the country: the National Medal of Arts. Intimate, acoustic concerts are on the bill nightly at Pres Hall, while the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s musical reach has expanded through its collaboration with other marquee acts, including Toussaint, The Blind Boys of Alabama, My Morning Jacket, and the Del McCoury Band. Its current group of NOLA all-stars includes Ben Jaffe, Charlie Gabriel, Freddie Lonzo, Ronell Johnson, Joe Lastie, and more.
Allen Toussaint and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band take the stage in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Thursday, October 23, at 8pm. Fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, and tasty burritos – as well as thematic dinner specials – are available from Lickety Split before and during the show. A full bar serves Berkshire Brewing Company beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Members receive a 10% discount. In advance, tickets are $28 mezzanine, $24 orchestra, and $70 preferred. On the day of the show, tickets are $36 mezzanine and $42 orchestra. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am – 5pm six days a week; closed Tuesdays through spring 2015. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased on-line at MASS MoCA.