There almost too many highlights to recall during the memorial service for New Orleans music legend Allen Toussaint on Nov. 20, 2015, at the Orpheum Theater — not the least of which being the memories shared by other music legends. One after another, greats such as Jimmy Buffett, Boz Scaggs and New Orleans’ own Irma Thomas remembered the musician and the man.
And then there was Elvis Costello, whose post-Katrina collaboration with Toussaint, Grammy nominee “The River in Reverse,” is a cherished piece of audio healing around these parts. Costello, wearing one of his trademark fedoras, read simply from his script in recalling how he joined a cavalcade of other musicians seeking out wisdom from Toussaint like pilgrims.
“To me he seemed like an elegant prince out of history, gracious, generous, ever curious about what came next, but so modest,” Costello said. It should come as no surprise that Costello, a brilliant songwriter in his own right, should pen such a lovely tribute, so I’ll just post the audio and let you enjoy his seven-minute soliloquy.
His story about Toussaint’s natty attire is worth the listen alone, filled with vivid detail and knowing humor that had the audience laughing through the tears. I won’t spoil the moment. Enjoy for yourself.
Costello returns to New Orleans on Thursday (April 28) for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, performing from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gentilly Stage. It also should be noted that on Friday, you might consider checking out “The Life and Music of Allen Toussaint,” with Irma Thomas, Cyril Neville, Renard Poche, Herman LeBeaux, and C. Reginald Toussaint, interviewed by Ben Sandmel. It’s at 1 p.m. at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage.