Jean Toussaint Allstar 6tet – Brother Raymond
(Lyte Records LR040. CD Review by Peter Jones)
Born on the Virgin Island of St Thomas, raised partly in New York and trained at Berklee, but resident in London since 1987, Jean Toussaint has history on both sides of the Atlantic. We are lucky to have him: the former Jazz Messenger been educating young musicians here for over 30 years, and he can take some personal credit for the current vibrancy of the London jazz scene.
Listening to his new album Brother Raymond is a rich and mellow experience – not least because these ten original compositions feature the cream of the capital’s talent – Jason Rebello, Ashley Henry and Andrew McCormack sharing piano duties, likewise Mark Mondesir, Troy Miller and Shane Forbes on drums, plus Byron Wallen on trumpet, Dennis Rollins on trombone and Daniel Casimir on bass, among others. For once, the term ‘all-star’ does not sound misplaced. As a result it’s far from being a ‘saxophone album’: Toussaint is a collaborator, and everyone gets to put their oar in somewhere.
Stylistically there’s nothing here that would have sounded out of place in the 1960s. The tunes possess a calm authority and warmth that tell of a soul at peace with itself. Even the title track, dedicated to Toussaint’s recently-deceased brother, is upbeat. The album is bookended by two versions of Amabo (I Shall Love), and as Toussaint points out in his helpfully illuminating sleeve notes, when you reverse the title you end up with the name of a much-missed American President. It’s a samba, played against a highly dance-friendly bass/piano riff that provides exactly the right carnivalesque spirit. The second version has been edited together from various takes, just so we can hear some additional solos from Ashley Henry and others.
Most of the tracks are extended, but there are also a couple of brief ‘Interludes’ – one for Idris (Muhammad), the New Orleans drummer, and the other for Eddie (Harris), the great groove saxophonist. I particularly liked the ballad written for Toussaint’s partner: Letters to Milena is one of those romantic, soufflé-light compositions that speak of true happiness, Toussaint and Wallen interweaving beautifully at the end.
In short, everything on here is a joy.
Peter Jones’ book ‘This is Hip: the Life of Mark Murphy’ is out now from Equinox Publishing.
The Allstar 6tet goes on tour across the UK from the end of September. DATES