James Carroll Booker III was an unheralded genius of American music, a New Orleans pianist whose dizzying technique and mastery of the keyboard was matched only by his imagination and his soulfulness. His short and often flamboyant life was also marked by struggle and lost opportunity.
Classified, recorded in October, 1982, was one of only two studio albums released during his lifetime, and this remixed and expanded edition offers a poignant and often surprising look at his music, for if James Booker is often cited in the piano lineage that passes from Jelly Roll Morton to Professor Longhair to his own student, Harry Connick Jr., New Orleans tradition was only his jumping-off point.
The expanded volume’s 22 tracks, which include nine never-before-released performances, range from the pure rhythm and blues of “All Around the World,” to the light classical “Madame X,” to his astonishing version of the jazz standard “Angel Eyes.” Among the unreleased songs is the slow blues instrumental, “I’m Not Sayin’,” and his syncopated reading of Nino Rota’s “Theme From the Godfather.” Whether playing solo or accompanied by saxophonist Alvin “Red” Tyler, bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich, Booker ties together a giddy array of musical influences with virtuosity and an often quirky sense of humor. Included are new notes by co-producer Scott Billington and several new photographs.
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