James Booker
The Lost Paramount Tapes
DJM 10010

In 1973 James Booker -- the New Orleans piano genius known as "The Black Liberace" -- was playing a gig at a Los Angeles club named Dirty Pierre's with drummer John Boudreaux and bassist David Johnson. During the run they recorded some sessions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, joined by Jessie Hill, David Lastie and other New Orleans expatriates. The master tapes of these sessions were lost, but a mix tape was recently located and has now been released.

This recording has a loose, informal quality of many of Booker's recordings. One gets the impression that the musicians just sauntered into the studio and started playing. Of course, with Booker, it was hard to plan ahead in any great detail -- he practically defines mercurial.

The Lost Tapes includes many Booker favorites: "Goodnight Irene," his anthem "Junco Partner," "Tico Tico" and the self-referential "So Swell When You're Well." As usual, Booker plays jaw-dropping solos on his cheap spinet. On instrumentals like "African Gumbo," he piles one lightning-fast run on top of another. As enjoyable as his playing is, there's little new here for those who already own Booker's Rounder releases.

What is noteworthy, though, is Boudreaux's drumming, which really kicks up a storm. He's got his own version of the New Orleans backbeat loaded with unexpected accents and is the real discovery in these rediscovered sessions.

-- David Feld

This page and all contents are © 1997 by BLUES ACCESS,
Boulder, CO, USA.