Friend of no notes Alex Rawls has a great piece about Allen Toussaint in the current Offbeat, check out the whole thing here.
I will of course just share you with the “SJI” moment:
He hadn’t performed any of the songs before including “St. James Infirmary,” despite the song’s status as a standard in New Orleans. “I hadn’t paid much attention to it, but it’s an easy song to remember,” Toussaint says. “I didn’t give it much thought, but for some reason the intro came to me like that. It was something I had done before on the piano, but never used.”
In that intro, he teases the melody with a little trilled, morse code-like figure before playing the melody as a series of single notes played only with the right hand. With each pass through the verse, he adds levels of complexity. “As far as my part is concerned, that’s the most unique thing about the song by this pianist—the intro and the interlude. That song is a good song on its own and is easy to remember. You just try not to ruin it.”
First: Rather charming modesty.
Second: I’ve always thought I could hear what sounds an awful lot to me like an “SJI” cameo within Toussaint’s “Tipitina And Me.” I thought I’d written about that once on this site, but I can’t find it in the archives, so maybe I just thought about it.