James Booker: Classified


Recorded and released in 1982 on the Rounder Records label, this reissue is on 180-gram vinyl with the original LP sleeve design. Booker is a unique jazz and blues vocalist who plays piano as he sings, with a rough-edged but pulsating sound. Styled by the record company as “the piano genius of New Orleans”, throughout this recital he plays music flavoured by the jazz, blues and gospel music of that city.

The first track features him singing lustily in a blues-based style and accompanying himself on an upright piano. Fats Domino’s One For The Highway has him singing and playing R&B in a distinctive manner, backed by a tenor, bass and drum combo. King Of The Road has a personal, Booker slant on Roger Miller’s song and then we hear him in his piano player bag with a selection of Professor Longhair tunes. This is pure boogie and Booker takes to it like a duck to water so it is probably one of his favourite musical styles.

Baby Face has him rocking and swinging with the band behind him once again and they show up on side 2 on Lawdy Miss Clawdy as he rips into the Lloyd Price opus. Angel Eyes is pure piano improvisation in which Booker stretches out at the keyboard and this is my selection for best track on the album. The extended piano improvisation is certainly the finest pure-jazz piece on offer here. Hound Dog receives a personal vocal, interesting but completely different from the famous Elvis P rock version.

The album overall is a curious mixture of blues, gospel, R&B and boogie with splashes of jazz thrown in but it pulses along nicely, has plenty of variety and often swings, in the right places.

All Around The World; One For The Highway; King Of The Road; Professor Longhair Medley; Baby Face; Madam X; Classified; Lawdy Miss Clawdy; Angel Eyes; Hound Dog; If You’re Lonely; Three Keys (38.24)
Booker (p, v); Alvin “Red” Tyler (ts); James Singleton (b); John Vidacovich (d). New Orleans, 18-20 October 1982.
Craft CR00282 (vinyl)


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