Allen Toussaint‘s final recordings will be the focus of the upcoming LP American Tunes. The late New Orleans legend’s first posthumous release features Toussaint paying tribute to his musical hero Professor Longhair with 14 interpretations of tracks written by Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd (a.k.a. Professor Longhair) and more. American Tunes is due out June 10th via Nonesuch, which also offered up the first taste of the LP: an instrumental, solo piano rendition of Earl King’s “Big Chief.”
“Our father approached this project with great care and understanding of the songs selected and paid true homage to Professor Longhair, his musical hero,” Toussaint’s children, Alison Toussaint-LeBeaux and Clarence Reginald Toussaint said in a statement. “He wanted to bring as much of the Toussaint touch as he could to these wonderful classics.”
The album was recorded over a pair of sessions with producer Joe Henry: The first was Toussaint simply on piano at his home studio in New Orleans in 2013, while the second found Toussaint supported by guests like Van Dyke Parks, Bill Frisell, Rhiannon Giddens, Greg Leisz and more during a Los Angeles session in October 2015. Toussaint died the following month in Spain after suffering a heart attack.
“He seemed as energetic and buoyant and focused as he ever seemed to me,” Henry told the New York Times of the second recording session. “Nothing gave away a notion that he might not be well, or that we might be writing his last statement, as it were.”
American Tunes will be available in a variety of formats including a two-LP vinyl version that features three bonus tracks. Fans who preorder via Nonesuch receive an instant download of “Big Chief.”