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King of the New Orleans Keyboard

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The provenance of this particular session is sketchy, but the music is superb. Some experts say it was recorded in Hamburg in 1977, but it could just as easily have come from one of James Booker's myriad appearances at New Orleans nightspots during the same period. There's a lot of pep to these performances, and they don’t delve into the languid, rough-edged melancholy that would become a signature—and sometimes pinnacle—of Booker’s hometown performances. (Then again, after hearing this rendition of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” you might beg to differ.) Instead, you get him in hammering, propulsive mode with “Classified,” “One Hell of a Nerve,” and “Harlem in Hamburg,” the last of which resembles some unholy union of James P. Johnson’s stride piano and Chuck Berry’s bumpkin exuberance. Booker was so virtuosic that songs like “Put Out the Light” sometimes get overlooked. The essence of timing and simplicity, this brief instrumental crystallizes the Crescent City style.


Born: December 17, 1939 in New Orleans, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Certainly one of the most flamboyant New Orleans pianists in recent memory, James Carroll Booker III was a major influence on the local rhythm & blues scene in the '50s and '60s. Booker's training included classical instruction until age 12, by which time he had already begun to gain recognition as a blues and gospel organist on radio station WMRY every Sunday. By the time he was out of high school he had recorded on several occasions, including his own first release, "Doing the Hambone," in 1953....
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King of the New Orleans Keyboard, James Booker
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