John Autin is one of those unsung New Orleans musicians who goes about his work (assorted gigs across the French Quarter, including a residency at Chophouse after recently ending a long run at the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar) and plays his ass off with little recognition or fanfare. His new record, Piano Town, reflects this in that it is a straight-ahead, no-frills New Orleans record. It has some great rhythm and blues songs and jazz standards. Throughout it, Autin plays original yet still familiar piano lines that any fan of Dr. John or Professor Longhair will love. Autin sings on most of these tracks, and he has an inviting voice that adds wonderful warmth to the songs.
One can also judge the quality of musician by the company he keeps, and the band that Autin and producer Cindy Scott have assembled is top notch. Bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Herlin Riley fill out the rhythm section and they are right in the pocket here, never showing off or playing too flashy. Other guests include saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who riffs in a beautiful give and take with the piano on “Into the Mystic,” guitarist Brian Seeger, who adds well-placed fills on “Sunny Side of the Street,” and trombonist Rick Trolsen, who puts an additional layer of mystery on “Don’t Explain.” But it’s all Autin’s show here, and even with all the guests, his singing and piano playing stand out as fine examples of New Orleans-oriented jazz and R&B.