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New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live!

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Editors’ Notes

As part of his rediscovery in the late '70s, James Booker started traveling to play festivals and various dates around the world, turning every stage into a New Orleans barrelhouse. This particular set was recorded in November 1977, when Booker flew to Switzerland to play at the Boogie Woogie and Ragtime Piano Contest. One wishes for a short sampler of the contest’s other entrants, if only to show how gutsy and innovative Booker was by comparison. He was by no means a mere boogie-woogie pianist, although he could play the straw out of old ragtime and barrelhouse numbers like “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “Something Stupid.” Booker always gave the audience more than they expected, and he was particularly fond of blindsiding them with a gut-wrenching blues ballad. It’s amazing to think of Booker playing before an audience of boogie purists and unleashing “Black Night,” “Please Send Me Someone to Love," and “Let Them Talk,” songs driven by his raw-boned voice. He was famous for his instrumental prowess, but what left audiences truly stunned was his unpredictable emotional intensity.


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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New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live!, James Booker
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