piano prince

The name James Booker should really be up there with the greats of New Orleans piano playing.

Professor Longhair, Dr.John, Alain Toussaint.

But for all sorts of reasons – mostly to do with his unreliability – it’s not.

Now nearly 30 years after his death, Booker may soon get the plaudits he deserves.

Thanks to a tweet from writer and critic Ted Gioia (@tedgioia), I can tell you about a new documentary that’s being made.

Like all projects that are essentially ‘labours of love,’ musician and film maker Lily Keber is scrimping and scraping the budget together to make a doc from 45 hours of material.

As a Booker fan and documentary maker, I hope she succeeds.

I’m the proud owner of a great Booker album – ‘Junco Partner,’ produced by Joe Boyd and John Wood in New Orleans in 1976.

As revealed in Joe’s liner notes, he and John were in New York working on a Geoff Muldaur record and booked Booker for a session, recording the old Huey Smith song ‘High Blood Pressure.’

They were so amazed by what they heard that, there and then, they agreed to split the costs of a two-day recording session with Booker alone in New Orleans.

Having got Booker’s agreement, it was money well spent.

The resulting album captures the genius of the man, navigating his way through standards like ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ and ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ plus his own tunes like the wonderfully complex ‘Pixie.’

When I first heard it, I could hardly believe it was the product of just one man, playing ‘live’ in the studio.

If you come across a copy on EBay or elsewhere (Hannibal 1359), snap it up.

Your musical life won’t be the same again.

James Booker – Pixie

Reviving James Booker – NPR article

Ted Gioia – official website

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