This is a wonderful CD, and so also a sad one, as it is the last to be recorded by Mr. Toussaint. It had just been completed when Allen passed in November of 2015. The tunes are beautifully sparse and richly played. Allen wrote only two, the others are covers, well chosen to be sure. He covers “The ‘Fess” twice. In a turn of events, that changes to four if you purchase the vinyl version. I don’t believe I would have known I was hearing Mardi Gras in New Orleans had I not had the CD case in front of me. With the touch of the keys, a less party and more introspective Longhair is revealed. The CD is as masterful as one would expect, but that level of brilliance shines so bright, you can't ever be but overwhelmed we it hits your ears.
If you play this in your living room, then the musicians are there in your living room. This stuff is so fantastically played there isn’t any noticeable processing or effects, you can hear fingernail on piano key. The notes dance across the piano on “Big Chief.” This was produced by Joe Henry, who I first became aware of when he brought Solomon Burke out of unappreciation and back to rock star status which endured until his passing.
These songs are instrumentals as they are presented here, with the exception of three. Two Duke Ellington songs sung by Rhiannon Giddens, and the song from which the album title was derived, Paul Simon’s “American Tune” is sung by Allen in the final session two weeks prior to his death. This CD takes the subtle difference between brilliance and beauty right there where it hides in plain sight and exposes it buck naked in the darkness. It is as elegant as a king’s composition and as raw as a field holler in the same instant. Likewise, Mr. Toussaint is both admired and missed for this achievement and his legacy of shaping New Orleans music into something the world respects.