“Everything I do gon’ be funky from now on,” Allen Toussaint once pledged. It became a statement of purpose for his entire career—which spanned session work in the 1950s through a posthumous album released in 2016—and on With You in Mind, Crescent City drummer Stanton Moore takes up the mantle. On this collection of 10 Toussaint classics, Moore and his band alternate between vivid re-imaginings and loving recreations, rarely relenting when it comes to swing, groove, and all-around funkiness.
It’s a testament to Toussaint’s gregarious, jovial spirit that With You in Mind feels more like a party than a wake. Moore drums for the rambunctious New Orleans band Galactic, so he’s no stranger to hosting big, raucous sing-alongs, and the album’s guest list is a murderer’s row of Nola luminaries—among then Trombone Shorty, Cyril Neville, and even the actor Wendell Pierce. What’s more, Moore connects with everything that made Toussaint special: its funkiness, yes, but also the way he preferred to charm and seduce listeners rather than desperately grab for their attention.
That much is evident in Toussaint’s ballads, such as the swaying romance of “All These Things,” performed here with admirable understatement by singer Kiki Chapman. You can hear Toussaint’s sly touch in the upbeat numbers, too, including the album-opening “Here Come the Girls.” The song’s locomotive groove feels seamless and natural, even as it shifts from big pop hooks to loose horn solos courtesy of Trombone Shorty. It’s an arrangement that respects both the composer’s logic and the musicians’ freedom.
Moore also does an admirable job of capturing the other sides of Toussaint. An instrumental jam on “Java” captures the earthy, spirited swing that Toussaint embodied on his latter-day jazz recordings. A moody, noir-ish version of “Riverboat”—dramatically different from Lee Dorsey’s famous rendition, which is lean and visceral—pays homage to Toussaint’s imaginative arrangements and his occasional interest in psychedelia.
Many of the songs on With You in Mind, however, are party jams pure and simple, with Moore’s drums turned way up in the mix, emphasizing the crack of his snare and the crash of his cymbals. “Everything I Do Gone Be Funky,” “Life,” and “Night People” skirt the line between R&B rhythms and free-for-all jazz explosions, celebrating the joyful ruckus of horns, voices, and clattering percussion—the sound of wild inclusion.
The lone misstep here is “Southern Nights.” One of Toussaint’s most famous compositions, Glenn Campbell turned it into a hit. Here, Pierce delivers the lyrics as a spoken-word monologue, killing the album’s momentum by sending it out on a note far more sober and self-serious than the crackling energy that proceeded it. Still, it’s a testament to the pliability of Toussaint’s tuneful, colorful compositions that they bear up to so many moods and arrangements, and that they never flag in their intelligence or charm.