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.