Sunday, April 16, 2006:

The Roots Canal: James Booker

James Booker -- Good Night Irene
This is the wildest version of Good Night, Irene you'll ever hear. (Well, I can't speak for you, but it's certainly the wildest version I've ever heard.) I wouldn't even try to describe this guy's piano style. Here's how allmusic does it:
Booker's left hand was simply phenomenal, often a problem for bass players who found themselves running for cover in an attempt to stay out of the way; with it he successfully amalgamated the jazz and rhythm & blues idioms of New Orleans, adding more than a touch of gospel thrown in for good measure. His playing was also highly improvisational, reinventing a progression (usually his own) so that a single piece would evolve into a medley of itself.
James Booker was a classically trained New Orleans piano player who became an R&B legend in his own time until his death in 1983. One of his claims to fame was that he spent time in both Louisiana's Angola prison and a mental institution. In the introduction to this song, he comments that both he and Leadbelly spent time "partying at the Ponderosa" (his nickname for Angola). I can't resist quoting allmusic again about this guy's flamboyant style:
Booker's performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festivals took on the trappings of legendary "happenings," and he often spent his festival earnings to arrive in style, pulling up to the stage in a rented Rolls Royce and attired in costumes befitting the "Piano Prince of New Orleans," complete with a cape. Such performances tended to be unpredictable: he might easily plant some Chopin into a blues tune or launch into a jeremiad on the CIA with all the fervor of a "Reverend Ike-meets-Moms Mabley" tag-team match.
Incidentally, Booker had a hit song in 1960 called Gonzo, which may well have inspired the use of this word by Hunter Thompson.

[Junco Partner] (This album is also available on emusic if you're a subscriber.)

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At Shea Stadium on Saturday, they played a brief clip from the Buddy Johnson song I posted last week, Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? It was Jackie Robinson Day in the major leagues. Before the game started, they played a Jackie Robinson tribute video featuring some awful, awful "inspirational" music. I sat there listening and wishing they were playing the Buddy Johnson song (or at least the Natalie Cole cover) instead. Wouldn't you know it, but a few innings later they played a few seconds from it between innings. I think it was the original, too, although it might have been the similar Count Basie version.
This is completely insane and I love it. I love the halting, jagged delivery, like it's recorded from a record that skips a bit.

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