Garcia with James Booker
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Jerry Garcia and James Booker

Cat's Down Under the Stars - Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia w James Booker  

Reflections - Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia in the studio with James Booker

Jerry Garcia - Studio '76

The essay/notes below are courtesy of Tim. He is quite familiar with James Booker who had some studio session sessions with Jerry Garcia in January 1976. Perhaps you have some of those sessions and performances on tape, they do circulate. 

I am a great James Booker Fan. I saw him several times in England playing solo piano at the 100 club in Oxford St London, during the late 70s (and possibly 80s) . Booker became very popular over in Europe at that time, along with other New Orleans / Cajun Artists (e.g. Professor Longhair, Rockin Dopsie, Clifton Chenier, Neville Brothers, etc.) and had several solo albums released. He also appeared on various other albums including Geoff Mulduar ' s wonderful - 'Having a Wonderful Time' on which he played Piano and Hammond. I guess you would say he was of the same generation as Dr John, Allen Toussaint, and Art Neville.

I also saw him play in the foyer of a New Orleans Theatre in 1982 -- he was drunk as a skunk and miserable when he started playing at 8:00PM and over the course of 3 or 4 1/2 - 3/4 hr sets played himself sober and happy again -- leaving us all with a barnstorming after midnight set. On the same visit I also saw Tuts Washington (who was about 80 something at the time) -- who was the guy who taught Longhair. He was playing in the lounge bar of the Ponchetrain (check the spelling!) hotel, and complained miserably about the loud-mouth punters who knew nothing about music.

Booker was apparently a fairly unhappy person - in jail at least once on a heroin possession charge and also appeared to have a manic-depressive personality. This effectively meant his career never ran smoothly and he was never as successful as his playing deserved.

In terms of Piano Style, he was classically trained and had an incredible technique, using a lot of filigree decoration in the right hand -- not in quite the same ' lazy rolling baroque' N.O. style as Dr John. However it was his left hand style that sort of set him apart. He used a sort of syncopated stride style a lot - but instead of doing a root note jump to chord, fifth jump, root jump, fifth jump style , he would either:
1) Break the root note octave quite heavily into 2 notes (from the thumb down to the little finger) i.e. ba-doom jump chord ba-doom jump chord --- best exemplified on say his version of On the Sunny Side of the Street. A lot of piano players will break the root octaves a bit when doing a stride piano style, mainly out of laziness etc (it seems to make accuracy a bit easier) - but Booker's break was really pronounced and heavy. 
OR 
2) Uses a double bounce on the root and jump chord like so dum-dum (root or fifth) da-da (top chord) dum-dum (root) da-da. (top-chord) (Like doing a stride piano -- in a 16ths shuffle rhythm ). This style was his real trademark and he used it on his versions of Junco Partner and Goodnight Irene. Of course this style would possibly not transfer very well to a band situation !! 

He had one minor instrumental hit in the late 50s called GONZO. He was also renowned for playing bluesed up versions of chopin waltzes etc. (The Black Minute Waltz) ......

I guess Jerry may have got to hear of Booker through the Dead working with the Neville Brothers (and Jerry playing on one of their albums -- apparently not one of their best!!!) -- or possibly via John Kahn (who was / is ? married to Maria Muldaur -- and would therefore probably known Geoff Muldaur - who had used Booker as a session man). 
Written by Tim Penn

 
Thanks for reading our Jerry Garcia and James Booker notes.

JamesBooker Websites
An article about James Booker from the San Francisco Chronicle.
James Booker Discography

James Booker with Jerry Garcia
1-7-1976 Club Front, San Rafael, CA
Rehearsal (93 minutes)
Instrumental (1)
Tico Tico
Don't Try To Be Your Brother's Keeper
Something You've Got >
Just A Closer Walk With Thee >
Goodnight Irene >
Just A Closer Walk With Thee
Goodnight Irene
Goodnight Irene
United Our Thing Will Stand
Classified >
Right Place, Wrong Time >
Right Back Together (1)
Right Back Together

1-9-1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA
Set 1 (54 minutes)
All By Myself
Goodnight Irene
Fur Elise (1)
Right Back Together
Please Send Me Someone To Love
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
Tore Up Over You
Set 2 (68 minutes)
Neighbor, Neighbor
United Our Thing Will Stand
Classified >
Please Come Home
Fandango
Let It Rock
(I'm A) Road Runner
Notes

1-10-1976 Sophie's, Palo Alto, CA
Set 1
All By Myself
Right Place, Wrong Time
You Are My Sunshine
Tore Up Over You
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
Let It Rock
Set 2
Right Back Together
(I'm A) Road Runner
Notes
James Booker on piano and vocals. This was a two-set show, but all that is available are the songs from Set 2 above. Right Back Together is spliced and the end of Road Runner is cut. Set 1 provided by ftp.gdead.berkely.edu. Slowly But Surely is now correctly titled Right Back

Source for the setlists from www.thejerrysite.com

Thanks for reading our Jerry Garcia and James Booker notes.
Thanks for reading our Jerry Garcia and James Booker notes.

 

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