The stageposts along Toussaint’s career have all made their mark – the Caribbean, New York, and London. From a calypso band in his teens in St Thomas, Toussaint moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music where fellow students included Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby, and Jeff Watts.
In 1982, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. ‘I learned more in four years with Art than I’d have learned in ten had I not got through that audition,’ says Toussaint, who played alongside Mulgrew Miller, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison and Lonnie Plaxico. While in New York, Toussaint also worked with Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner and Gil Evans, and regularly led the jam session at New York’s Blue Note club. Touring with the Messengers, he always looked forward to London where he made friends amongst the capital’s young musicians. ‘I met Cleveland and Trevor Watkiss, Steve Williamson and Julian Joseph. Being of Caribbean descent myself, I saw similarities in the blend of musical influences – jazz, African, calypso and reggae.
In 1987, Toussaint accepted an invitation from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to teach improvisation for three months. He’s still here. From London, Toussaint works extensively in Europe and the US with his bands: Nazaire and the Jean Toussaint Quartet.
In the last few years he has toured Europe with Max Roach, headlined at the world-famous Sweet Basil in New York, joined Cedar Walton in London and worked with Horace Silver. With a commission for composition from the Arts Council he has toured the UK with old friends Mulgrew Miller, Terence Blanchard and Reginald Veal.
Jean Toussaint has been touring with ShivaNova from the beginning of 2003.