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Review: Booker T. Jones

Booker T. Jones. Photo credit: Frederick Bernas

Booker T. Jones
(Under the Bridge, 3th June. Part of Bluesfest London. Review by Frederick Bernas)

Roman Abramovich’s new venue is a welcome addition to London’s live music scene. A cross between Ronnie Scott’s and the kind of nightclub where you might expect to meet the more unruly Chelsea stars on a rumbustious night out, it is an intimate space and has accomplished sound engineers. The voluble Booker T. Jones – a veteran hard worker of the US music scene – looked right at home in his pork pie hat on the glittering stage.

Booker’s biography reads like a Who’s Who of R&B, soul and rock – it’s easier to count the big names he hasn’t worked with. While his groundbreaking MGs group produced classic cuts such as ‘Green Onions’ and ‘Soul Limbo,’ they also backed up a whole host of cult figures on the Stax Records roster throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Unsurprisingly, Thursday’s concert featured a rich vein of feelgood hits – cherished by a knowledgeable crowd – that was effectively combined with newer material from the 2011 album Road To Memphis, recorded in collaboration with The Roots, Philadelphia’s live hip-hop supergroup.

Bombastic organ grooves were Booker’s order of the day, characterised by his trademark minimal style and metronomic beats from drummer Darian Gray, who doubled up as MC on a couple of tunes. Highlights from the recent release included pulsating instrumentals like ‘Everything is Everything’ and ‘Harlem House,’ while the shameless spaghetti western hero music of ‘Hangin High’ was an unexpected treat.

Booker himself even exited the picture at one point, leaving guitarist Vernon Black completely alone to belt out an enjoyable cover of Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’.

The sizeable old school revival crew was not left wanting, however, as Booker’s band rounded off nearly two hours of music by returning to its prodigious historical repertoire: ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Take Me to the River’ were reeled off in quick succession to leave the audience partying like it was 1975.

www.bluesfestlondon.com / www.underthebridge.co.uk

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