Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Ed Conway, Stanley Johnson, Andrzej Pilarczyk
Last year the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival hosted five acts – two local and three national. Last month at the 14th annual fest at the Corning Preserve Boat Launch Parking Lot, the numbers were flipped the other way around. And Those Jazz Purists amongst us complained that neither of the out-of-town acts really played jazz. But headliner Booker T. Jones – whose ’60s band Booker T. & the MGs actually invented the simmering southern soul sound of Stax Records – proved them wrong.
Backed by a solid quartet that included his son Ted Jones on second guitar, Jones and his Hammond B3 organ melded soul and jazz into a sizzling, savory stew, roaring into a 75-minute show with the MGs’ “Pigmy.” More than half of his set was culled from the instrumental hits of that classic band, including the soul-strutting “Hip Hug-Her” (updated with a serious mid-song rap by drummer Darian Gray), the sweeping spaghetti western theme “Hang ‘Em High” (with an all-aces solo by Jones the younger) and “Soul Limbo” (fueled by a cowbell-driven drum solo from Gray). Jones lost a bit of momentum mid-show when he switched to guitar for tributes to Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and Otis Redding, but he recovered with the MGs’ biggest hit, the timeless “Green Onions.” And they saved the best for last – a towering rendition of “Time Is Tight.”