Jean Toussaint

“It’s like a lot of the students who are in school now, they don’t know about that music, because they just check out the newfangled stuff that’s out there. But a lot of that stuff is missing the heart man… They need that engine, which was Art Blakey you know; Art Blakey was the swing – that’s the engine, the Soul of the music” – Jean Toussaint

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Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure

Tenor saxophonist and former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Jean Toussaint agreed to ‘Take Five’ prior to his participation as part of drummer David Lyttle’s band at The Spice of Life, London to give Michael J Edwards a brief heads-up on his illuminating series of gigs honouring the memory and supreme artistry of Mr Art Blakey as well as his thoughts on the current Jazz scene and its musicians.

Michael J Edwards: Greetings Mr Jean Toussaint, I understand you have some live dates forth-coming paying homage to the legendary Jazz drummer and leader of the Jazz Messengers, one Mr Art Blakey?

Jean Toussaint: Yes, it’s called Roots and Herbs “The Blakey Project”. We’ll be paying homage to the spirit of the great Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

Michael J Edwards: And who is featuring alongside you on those tour dates?

Jean Toussaint: It features Byron Wallen on trumpet, Dennis Rollins on trombone; the cream of the crop man! Andrew McCormack is on piano on some of them, Jason Rebello is on piano on some of them. Shane E Forbes is on drums on most of the dates. I’m doing a special ‘Root and Erbs’ at Ronnie’s (Ronnie Scott’s) with Jason Rebello on piano, Byron Wallen on trumpet and Cleveland Watkiss on vocals; and also Troy Miller is on drums. That’s going to be a special one, a special project. It’s twenty-five years this year since Art Blakey passed away, so something needs to be done to get him back in the minds of the people, of the youth! Because they don’t know, they don’t know, and they need to know! And that music isn’t being played so we need to play it. We need to play it and let them know that it’s there and they can check out the records and learn it. In fact a lot of the students who are in school now, they don’t know about that music, because they just check out the newfangled stuff that’s out there. But a lot of that stuff is missing the heart man; they need the heart, the engine! They need that engine, which was Art Blakey you know; Art Blakey was the swing – that’s the engine, the Soul of the music.

Michael J Edwards: And that would emanate throughout the rest of the band no doubt?

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Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure

Jean Toussaint: That’s right! So we’re trying to keep that music alive you know.

Michael J Edwards: What are your thoughts on the Jazz music scene nowadays?

Jean Toussaint: It’s great that a lot of young musicians are coming up, a lot of musicians are coming up in the colleges and stuff, but the music that they’re playing is almost like the emperor’s new clothes. It’s like, “We’re doing the new thing!” What is the new thing? If you don’t know the old thing then you’re not going to have a new thing.

Michael J Edwards: As Ziggy Marley sang in ‘Tomorrow People’, “If you don’t know your past, you don’t know your future.”

Jean Toussaint: That’s right! If you don’t know what came before you man. You can’t start to build a house by building the roof first, you’ve got to put in the foundation; and they don’t have no foundation. They’re all trying to play 13/8 and 7/6 and this and that; they don’t know how to play in 4/4.

Michael J Edwards: As we’re here tonight at The Spice of Life, can you give us the lowdown on Mr David Lyttle whose band you’re playing with this evening?

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Photo: Courtesy of Ben Amure

Jean Toussaint: Oh man! David blew me away when I heard him, because he’s looked at the history of the music, and he’s checked it out, and he has his foundation. And so now he can do his other things you know, but he has his foundation. And he’s a very creative musician and that’s what it’s about. I like playing with creative people.

Michael J Edwards: Thank you for your time Jean. Like you no doubt I’m looking forward to tonight’s performance.

Michael J Edwards

Essential Websites:
http://jeantoussaint.com/
http://www.turacomusic.com
http://www.spiceoflifesoho.com/

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