Tag Archives: Cosimo Matassa

Toussaint, Ziants & NOLA Memories~Reflections

A young Allen Toussaint, back in the day, recording with Cosimo Matassa at J & M Studios, NOLA
A young Allen Toussaint, back in the day, recording with Cosimo Matassa at J & M Studios, NOLA

Allen Toussaint & I first met in 1992 backstage at the New Orleans Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show in the bowels of the now long-vacant Municipal Auditorium at the foot of Orleans Avenue.

Allen was there to accept yet another award and, as the show’s live announcer (a job I enjoyed for ten straight years) it was my duty that night to introduce him to the packed house.

Allen at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, getting to know President Obama
Allen at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, getting to know President Obama

Warm, engaging, self-deprecating, soft-spoken, and  impeccably dressed, Allen Toussaint truly defined the word – Gentle-man, with qualities that truly belied his most amazing and breathtaking list of rather heady and remarkable musical accomplishments.

That night we laughed and got to know each other. In fact, after recognizing my voice from years on local television, he asked me, “Mike, would you do a few of those ‘Tonight on Fox Night at the Movies’ promos for my lady?” Laughingly, I agreed.  And did.

November 10th in 2015 at the age of 77, across the ocean in Madrid, while performing and doing what he loved, Allen suffered a heart attack and proceeded to drop his body… and move on.

As he left us with  musical memory after memory after memory. Is it even possible to pick a favorite? From “Mother in Law” to “Southern Nights”, “Working in a Coal Mine” to “Lady Marmalade”, and these are but some of the radio ‘hits’. They just go on and on and on….

Epic & Legendary New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer Cosimo Matassa Service Prayer Cards ~ September 16th, 2014

I last talked with Allen Toussaint in September 2014, at Lake Lawn Funeral Home, as the NOLA music world all showed up to pay homage to our just-departed friend, mentor, and seminal recording visionary Cosimo Matassa.

You see, the Coz was the one behind the huge mixing console down in NOLA’s French Quarter in the ’50s & ’60s who made all that musical magic happen with Allen and so many others back in the day.

That day – and this is so Allen – the entire crowd, and it was sizable, was all dressed in funereal black. Except for Mr. Toussaint. Ask anyone who was there. Allen wore the most amazing shade of iridescent blue!

Now, we’re the ones who are… blue, that is.  As Allen Toussaint belongs to the ages. And pages of musical history.

Oh, and no minor footnote here, he also posthumously loaned his name to a major New Orleans thoroughfare formerly known as Robert E. Lee Boulevard.

Brother Allen, rest in power and musical paradise, thanks for all you brought us and taught us through all those years.  

And for all that MUSIC!

Our ‘Southern Nights’ will never be the same.

** Allen Toussaint waves “Bye, Bye”, as only he could, via YouTube **


Nathan, while recording at Airlift Productions, October 2019

“Mike is a master of his craft, a true audio artisan. The long days I spent recording my audiobook with him were a joy. First and foremost, he is a meticulous professional who wants to make sure that the production achieves the best possible quality. Because of his extensive background as a voice actor, he can coach you in exactly how to make something sound serious, credible, and powerful. And because he built the whole studio himself, he knows how to get the most out of his equipment and produce exceptional recordings.

But more than that, Mike is not just a skilled producer. He’s a great guy, with a tranquil life philosophy that will put you at ease and make you feel comfortable enough to give your best effort. He knows how to make you feel good, from the mood lighting to his calming presence in your headphones. He’s funny, too, and has lots of great stories from his long career in radio. I truly had a blast working with Mike and will write another book just to do a new audiobook with him.” 

— NATHAN J. ROBINSON, Editor in chief of Current Affairs magazine and author of ‘Why You Should Be A Socialist’


Airlift Productions New Orleans Logo Re-boot 2012 by Ethan AndersonAirlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Cosimo Matassa Remembered ~ Part II

Epic & Legendary New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer Cosimo Matassa Service Prayer Cards ~ September 16th, 2014 ~ and this card pretty accurately summed-up the way Cos lived his life


I’ve only just now returned from the service at Lake Lawn for our old friend & mentor Cosimo Matassa, and came here to just unpack a few things.

The crowd was really something!  A veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of New Orleans and New Orleans music — I had the chance to talk & reminisce with Dr. John (who flew in special from NYC), Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Deacon John Moore, Benny Grunch, Bobby Cure … 

And fellow recording engineers – Jay Gallagher & Dave Farrell of Ultrasonic Studios (which opened it’s doors in 1974) & Gary Edwards of New Orleans Sound.

Even N.O. Jazz Fest impressario Quint Davis and Councilwoman & mother of actress Patti Clarkson – Jackie Clarkson were there to pay their respects.

And Karen V’s stories of visiting Cosimo in his final hospice days at Notre Dame ~ wherein she played CDs of Italian music…from opera to Prima, in his final days to elicit smiles ~ were especially poignant.

‘Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep.  I am the thousand winds that blow; I am the diamond glints of winter snow; I am the sunlight that ripens grain; I am the gentle autumn rain… Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.’ ~ Ziants


Airlift Productions ‘Airlift Mike’ Twitter Page Screenshot featuring my re-tweet of Dr. John’s Cosimo Sentiment & Testament ~ “Cosimo was the one real guy in a world of make believe.  We will always miss his spirit.”

R&B Grandpa Cosimo Matassa Exits the Stage

Legendary, Seminal New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer COSIMO MATASSA Exits the Stage at 88 {1926-2014}

I was deeply saddened last night watching the ’10:00 Blues’ to hear of the extinguishing of one of New Orleans brightest and enduring lights – Cosimo Matassa.

Is it even possible for one blog to begin to capture this gentleman’s contributions to not only New Orleans history, but the collective musical soul of America? Too bold a statement? Run with me….

In 1945, at age 18, young Cosimo opened J&M Recording Studio at the back of his family’s shop on Rampart Street in our French Quarter. And went to work.

As engineer & producer, Mr. Matassa quickly became the seminal driving force behind the Rock ‘n Roll and Soul sounds of America in the ’50s & ’60s!  Really.

Together with Fats Domino, he took us to ‘Blueberry Hill’ and then mixed fruit salad with Little Richard in ‘Tutti Frutti’!  The Cos steered and engineered the biggest chart-topping hits of the day – from Sam Cooke to Jerry Lee Lewis …  from Dr. John to Ray Charles.

New Orleans R&B/Soul Grandpa COSIMO MATASSA putting in ‘another day at the office’ ~ What a talent. What a guy!

Think about it – every time you hear ‘Mother-In-Law’ by Ernie K. Doe, ‘Barefootin” by Robert Parker, or ‘Working in a Coal Mine’ by Lee Dorsey – take your hat off to Cosimo Matassa!

Together with Dave Bartholomew & Allen Toussaint, he created ‘The New Orleans Sound’, recording the Neville Brothers, The Meters, and Irma Thomas.   And ‘the Cos’ was performing at this level long before Berry Gordy even dreamed of the Motown Sound. 

A member & inductee of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame AND the Blues Hall of Fame, Cosimo’s contributions to both the history of music and the collective Soul of America are both wide and deep.

I’ll never forget the night we first met. It was the Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show at the Fairmont Hotel.  I was honored to be performing as Live Announcer for the show, and that night in 1998 we paid homage to Cosimo and his talented ears, fingers … passion and spirit!

What a guy.  Quiet, reserved and humble, with a ready smile, contagious laugh, and a most gregarious spirit.  We shared a table that night – and along with Harry Shearer, more than a laugh or two.

But let us not weep over his passing – let’s celebrate his life and uniquely creative accomplishments.  And the fact that we even ever had a chance to bask in his talents in the first place.

So the next time you’re toolin’ down the highway with the oldies station cranked-up on the radio, tapping the steering wheel or thumping the dashboard to Frankie Ford’s ‘Sea Cruise’ or Aaron Neville’s classic ‘Tell It Like It Is’ … smile, tip your hat – and thank ‘the Cos’!

GodSpeed brother Cosimo … and Thank You for your service!

Cosimo Matassa sharing a table with Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants at the Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show, Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans, 1998


Airlift PROductions & Airlift Mike – making NEW memories from NEW Orleans every day … since 1984!