Allen Toussaint: Java




Allen Toussaint (piano)


The Wild Sound of New Orleans: The Complete 'Tousan' Sessions (Bear Family 15641)

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Allen Toussaint (piano),

Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler (baritone sax), Nat Perrilliat (tenor sax), Justin Adams or Roy Montrell (guitar), Frank Fields (bass), Charles ‘Hungry’ Williams (drums)


Composed by Allen Toussaint


Recorded: New Orleans, February 26-27, 1958


Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

In 1964, Allen Toussaint was in the Army and walking through the barracks one day when he heard Al Hirt's version of "Java" on the radio. Toussaint told one of the soldiers to turn up the volume, because he had written this song. "Aww, of course you wrote it," was the skeptical response.

Hirt's record reached number four on the Billboard chart, while Toussaint had trouble even collecting royalties. At one point he found that money was going to a mysterious "Joe Friday" who was credited as co-composer. Of course, Toussaint was a mystery man of his own back then, having recorded this song for RCA under the name of "Al Tousan." But his piano style is immediately recognizable and blows his cover within the first few bars. His spirited rendition is full of the bouncing and rolling keyboard licks that are the calling card of Crescent City keyboard, and Toussaint adds to their exoticism by mixing in some open some open fifths that sound like a parody of Chinese music. I'm not sure how this all adds up to java, but the caffeine level is certainly high enough to give you a jolt.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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