Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sneakin? through the alley

New Orleans maestros Dr. John and Allen Toussaint to play

Express Staff Writer

Dr John-Courtesy photo

Want to be in the right place at the right time this week? The Sun Valley Center will bring the voodoo daddy himself, Dr. John, along with legendary New Orleans music legend, Allen Toussaint, on 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, to the River Run Lodge near Ketchum.

These two men, colleagues for several decades, are two of the most influential musicians to come out of New Orleans' rich musical heritage.

The program, called "The Keys of New Orleans," is the last in this year's Sun Valley Center for the Arts summer concert series.

"This summer has been a great example of the kind of variety and quality we strive for in our concerts. The Keys of New Orleans is an amazing opportunity to see two legendary performers in one night," said Dan Mankin, Sun Valley Center director of performing arts. "When N'Awlins comes to the Sawtooths, even the mountains will be rockin'."

Dr. John, who began life as Mac Rebennack in 1940, began his career while still in his teens playing guitar with such New Orleans luminaries as Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex and Frankie Ford.

After his left ring finger was wounded by a gunshot, he gave up the guitar and concentrated on organ and piano where his boogie and blues piano playing was augmented by a lovable growl of a voice. Rebennack headed to Los Angeles in the 1960s and dubbed himself Dr. John and continued to work as a session musician. His legacy is undoubtedly his ability over the years to fuse classic rhythm and blues, psychedelic rock, N'Awlins funk, Creole roots music and Mardi Gras madness. He's been nominated nine times for a Grammy and won four times.

Jack of all trades, pianist Allen Toussaint, who is only a couple years older than Dr. John, is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame songwriter, producer, arranger and bandleader. Inspired as a youth by Professor Longhair, his style includes elements of Fats Domino, Huey "Piano" Smith and Ray Charles.

He produced albums by such artists as the Meters, Etta James, Albert King, Pointer Sisters, Bonnie Raitt, The Judds, Robert Palmer, Otis Redding, The O'Jays, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Winter, Ringo Starr, Paul Simon, Chet Atkins, Lenny Kravitz and Joe Cocker.

Among the many hit songs he penned are "Working in a Coalmine" (Lee Dorsey) "Fortune Teller," (Benny Spellman and The Rolling Stones) "Yes We Can" (Pointer Sisters), "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley," "Southern Nights," (Glen Campbell) "Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)" and "What Is Success," (Bonnie Raitt).

His recent CD with Elvis Costello, "The River in Reverse," was nominated for a 2007 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album and named Album of the Year by Offbeat magazine.

Toussaint is also the co-founder of NYNO Records. The name refers to the label's twin homes in the Big Easy and the Big Apple. Toussaint and his partner, New Yorker Joshua Feigenbaum, founder of MJI Broadcasting, hope to increase the recognition of the indigenous music of New Orleans and its practitioners.

The concert will be held outdoors on the lawn, so dress appropriately. Picnic baskets and low-backed chairs are welcome. Pets are not. Gates will open at 6 p.m., and the music will begin at 7 p.m.

Tickets to the Keys of New Orleans concert are $35 adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. To purchase, visit, call 726-9491 ext. 10, or stop by The Center's Ketchum location.

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