Hopes for 2006: Allen Toussaint

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Musician Allen Toussaint performs at Madison Square Garden in September at a Katrina benefit.

Allen Toussaint performs at Madison Square Garden in September at From the Big Apple to the Big Easy, New York City's Benefit Concert for the Gulf Coast. Frank Micelotta/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Musician Allen Toussaint is a native son of New Orleans. He plans to return in the New Year. He lost a piano the storm. As for his next one: "I'm going to put it on the second floor this time... we won't be flirting with water anymore."


What you're hearing now is a voice from the past and future of the New Orleans music scene, legendary R&B musician Allen Toussaint. We first spoke with him shortly after he evacuated the city. When we reached him recently in New York, he was seated at the piano. I asked him if there was a song that has given him special comfort since the hurricane and his fingers started flying.

Mr. ALLEN TOUSSAINT (Musician): When it's just an instrumental, it's called "Tipitina and Me." And I find that very comforting because it has so much of the spirit of New Orleans in it as far as I'm concerned.

(Soundbite of music)

ELLIOTT: Toussaint's been busy these last few months. He and Elvis Costello recorded an album in New Orleans. Costello added lyrics to this tune and it became "Ascension Day." And Toussaint has been traveling a lot between New York and the Big Easy.

Mr. TOUSSAINT: Of course, in the back of my mind is always getting back to New Orleans, the Garden where I have my roots, and they're still there.

(Soundbite of music)

ELLIOTT: From his balcony in New Orleans, Toussaint used to be able to sit and listen to the jazz festival his city is famous for. In this new year, he says he'll repair that flooded home and replace his beloved Steinway.

Mr. TOUSSAINT: However, I'm going to put it on the second floor this time. We won't be flirting with water anymore.

ELLIOTT: And as for New Year's itself?

Mr. TOUSSAINT: I plan to usher this new year in in New Orleans, God willing, and it's the first New Year's after our uninvited guest, Katrina; may you return never again. I would like to be there to say, `Here we are looking forward optimistically towards a new year like never before.' And it's sort of maybe shaking a fist at Katrina in a way.

ELLIOTT: Where will you go? Where will you be?

Mr. TOUSSAINT: Well, I will probably be with my family, my daughter and my son. He is in Houston, Texas, right now. He may come down, but I will be with my daughter and grandkids I'm feeling...

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TOUSSAINT: ...and looking forward eagerly.

ELLIOTT: Well, thank you so much for speaking with us, Allen Toussaint, and we wish you a very happy New Year.

Mr. TOUSSAINT: And a happy New Year to you and to all.

(Soundbite of music)

ELLIOTT: Over the course of this hour, we have heard from Khalil Bashir, Mayan Yadai(ph), John Hope Franklin, Gregory Bright, Mary Anderson Pickard and Allen Toussaint. To hear more from them, as well as other memorable moments from 2005, go to our Web site, npr.org.

From all of us, we wish you a happy New Year.

That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

(Soundbite of music)

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