Music in the Present Tense

October 20th, 2015, 2:00 pm by Greg
Booker T. Jones

Booker T. Jones

By Fred Rudofsky

He pauses, sets aside the marker that he’s been using to sign autographs for a small group of fans, some new and some old. His wife of 30 years is by his side, smiling with love and pride and displaying a variety of CDs and prized 180 gram vinyl reissues. His son, a terrific guitarist, is loading up gear 30 feet away. A cool rain pours steadily, while a round of pre-scheduled fireworks bursts in various shades down the river at an empty Jennings Landing. One cannot be thankful enough for the aegis of the I-787 overpass on this evening. Summer’s almost gone.

I mention recently watching a vintage concert clip of the Genius of Soul c. 1961.

Ray Charles! That man is the reason I got into music!” he exclaims with immediate reverence. He pauses again. He’s a Hammond B-3 master of several decades. He is a fan forever.

Booker T. Jones, who had just headlined the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival and paid tribute to the “beautiful spirits” of Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and the Beatles throughout an electrifying 90-minute set, scans his memory.

I imagine Jones is hearing echoes of his idol’s glorious string of 45s on Atlantic Records, the summit collaborations with Quincy Jones, the bold albums that took a 90-degree turn to embrace and innovate sounds in country and western. Imagine hearing “Georgia On My Mind” the day it came out. How great to be young at that time.

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LIVE: Albany Riverfront Jazz Fest @ Corning Preserve Boat Launch, 9/12/15

October 5th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
Booker T. Jones

Booker T. Jones

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.”

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