You never know when you are going to witness history in the making. It just happens, and when it does, there is a moment, somewhat akin to enlightenment, when the mere act of watching something unfold before your eyes, becomes a moment of a brand new awareness. That is what happened last night when Allen Toussaint performed at City Winery Napa.
Toussaint, with over 50 years in the music business, is a seasoned professional, to be sure, but to see him perform up close and in the intimate setting curated by the City Winery people, expectations of a good performance are simply blown out of the water. Though my familiarity with his music is limited to just a couple albums, I had a pretty good idea that Napa was in for something special. What I didn’t expect, was a nearly capacity crowd, almost all of whom were perched on the edge of their seats, repeatedly alternating between tears and boisterous laughter as Toussaint wove tales of a life lived, good times and bad, and everything in between, while noodling on the piano and slipping into and out of iconic New Orleans-style rhythm and blues tunes. The whole thing was simply effortless, and it was one of the most generous performances I have ever seen. One gentleman in attendance reminisced about how last night’s performance reminded him of the fortunate and life-changing occasion when he saw Ella Fitzgerald perform in Copenhagen in 1979. Though I can only imagine what that was like, I do know what I experienced last night, and that was pure magic.
As the evening approached the inevitable end, the crowd was utterly transfixed and hanging on every word and note put out there by Toussaint, he made a request for anyone in the audience who plays piano to join him on stage. A man named Charlie Thompson stood up, slid a chair up against the grand stage of the old opera house, stepped on up, and took his place next to Mr. Toussaint on the piano bench. At this point, the entire crowd was standing and cheering as a mad four-hand boogie-woogie throwdown exploded from the shiny, black Steinway.
City Winery Napa at the Historic Napa Valley Opera House is located at 1030 Main Street, right in the middle of downtown Napa. For more information about upcoming shows, click here. To get social with City Winery Napa visit their Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter pages.