This column was heading one way, noting Big Events that are right now on our doorstep, but then the news came from Spain. Allen Toussaint has passed.

What a grand man. What a talent. What a life force. This gentle genius did for New Orleans music what Paul Prudhomme did for New Orleans cuisine. He changed the entire landscape.

As the music culture of World War II transitioned to incorporate the rhythms of black Americans, which were now being accepted by mainstream white Americans, there emerged from the syncopation of Rhythm and Blues, “race music,” a sound not to be denied. At the forefront were New Orleanians Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and a “token white guy,” producer, Cosimo Matassa.

It seems unreal to think now that back in the 50s these astounding and outsized talents were ever relegated to the back of the industry. But the sounds created by these amazing people were just what the country needed after a World War and the Korean conflict. By the sheer genius of their musical concepts, radio airplay and, thus, public exposure, occurred. It did not hurt that talents like Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis picked up the banner and brought these new sounds to an eager consuming public.

At the core, Toussaint, Bartholomew, K-Doe, Spellman, Dorsey, Price, Domino and others paved the road from New Orleans to the world. It was no easy task. They not only had a “new” sound but they were of a different skin color. Big steps to overcome in those days.

This has not been a good year for New Orleans Legends. Prudhomme, Angello, Segretti, Brennan, Vodanovich, Seton, Ford and now Toussaint. We all have indeed enjoyed the rare privilege of walking among giants who are no longer in our midst.   

 

Big Events

It is obvious, to anyone that has spent more than an hour in New Orleans, that we are a town hitting way above our weight class when it comes to hosting and staging amazing events. There is not a weekend, nor even a week-day, when something of significant interest is not occurring. The usual bonus is we can all attend and it’s easily the most impressive and fun event of its kind staged anywhere.

Yes, that’s bragging, but it ain’t bragging if you really can do it. When it comes to putting on special events, you would have to truly search long and hard to identify another community that embraces festivals, theatre, musical performances, dinners, parades and grand celebrations more than this one. Factor in that we really aren’t very big – 46th largest metropolitan area in the US in terms of population – and that, in my humble opinion (or for you younger more Text-oriented readers, IMHO), makes our social calendar even that much more impressive.

This time of year grand events and celebrations are chock-a-block. Pick a day and then pick an event or two, it’s easy and fun is sure to ensue. Let’s look around a little bit and take a sampling of upcoming events in the wings, ready to dazzle.

 

Faux Real – Here is something very new, and it’s already very big. This celebration of varied events, which began November 4 and won’t end until November 22, is taking place at all times all over town. Central to the celebration is a focus on performing artists, chefs, mixologists and writers. Of special note is tonight’s Feed Your Senses event at Micholopoulas Studio, with food from 3 chefs, drinks from 3 bars and music from 3 bands for $50. On Sunday, November 22, is the Indigenous Thanksgiving Dinner with local culinary talents preparing a feast using local ingredients. Lots more going on with Faux Real every day and night. Check out www.fauxrealnola.com for a full calendar listing and how you can participate.

In One Direction, and Then Going AnotherUncork the Cure – The annual fund-raiser for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation features great wines – mostly wines with bubbles. This event takes place Thursday, November 12, at The Cannery (3803 Toulouse) behind the American Can complex on Orleans Avenue at Bayou St. John. Very reasonable cost at only $50 per ticket. 8:00 p.m. www.finest.cff.org.

James Beard Dinner – Being invited to create a dinner at the vaunted James Beard House in New York City is not just a challenge; it is an honor of the highest order. James Beard was a great American gourmand who spread the good word about cuisine, beverages, and fine dining. His mansion on 12th Street in Lower Manhattan has been converted to a temple of gracious dining and hosts many events each year to demonstrate that America is not a collected rabble of fast-food junkies, or at least not mostly so. An invitation to host a meal at the Beard House is a sign that the invitee has arrived at an envious pinnacle of their craft. Just a few weeks ago, New Orleans Chefs Neal Swidler of Broussard’s and Nathan Richard of Kingfish, along with mixologist Paul Gustings from the Empire Bar at Broussard’s, were the guests of honor at Beard House and prepared a dinner that, in the words of one likely jaded New Yorker, “blew the socks off” of everyone in the room. That dinner and the cocktails that accompanied the feast will be replicated by these talented local professionals for New Orleanians at Broussard’s Restaurant on November 19 at 7 p.m.  504-581-3866 for more information about the menu and for reservations, which are limited.

Christmas without Tears (Does this tree make me look fat?) – The outsize talents of transplanted New Orleanian, comedian Harry Shearer, and his wife, musician Judith Owens, once again take on the Holiday Season with all of its complications and humor at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre on Wednesday, December 23. This will likely be the best Holiday party you will attend, full of music, humor, pathos and love. It’s a family affair, made all the better because it’s a break from your family. Tickets are available at www.lepetittheatre.com.

 

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Read Happy Hour here on MyNewOrleans.com every Wednesday. You can listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show – hosted by Tim – every weekday from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com.