James Booker: Put Out the Light


Put Out the Light


James Booker (piano)


Junco Partner (Hannibal 1359)

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James Booker (piano).

Composed by James Booker III


Recorded: New Orleans, Feburary 1976


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

As the story goes, 18-year-old James Booker was invited to play piano for the great concert hall virtuoso Arthur Rubinstein, who told the teenager afterward: "I could never play that." In all honesty, who - outside a small coterie of seasoned New Orleans players - would dare? The rolling, syncopated style of pianism that goes by the name of "New Orleans style" is hard to pin down. Sometimes it is reminiscent of boogie-woogie or stride, but never falls into the predictable rhythmic patterns of those idioms. The sound is less rock and more roll, an ebbing and flowing that always seems to move around the beat rather than sit on top of it. Booker is the master of this two-handed approach, and crafted one of the most persuasive keyboard styles of the late 20th century. This track also shows off his unconventional harmonic sense - when he shifts from A flat major to A minor, listeners with acute ears may feel their cochleas rebelling. But don't despair: Booker always makes it right in the end. Like Ornette Coleman and Son House, James Booker made up his own rules, and even if (like Rubinstein) you dare not imitate, you definitely need to listen.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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