October 18, 2004

James Booker Wth The Lloyd Price Band

"Pan Setta" (James Booker)
James Booker with the Lloyd Price Band

This first offering is taken from a rare LP released in 1963 by the Lloyd Price Band called This Is My Band on the Double L label, which was operated by Lloyd and his partner, Harold Logan. The organist for this session was none other than the late, eccentric New Orleans keyboard genius,
James Booker. The LP is an all instrumental outing for the band; and, incredibly, Booker is featured on four tracks as a soloist doing his own compositions, never recorded anywhere else, as far as I know: "Number Four"; "Ooh-Pee-Day"; "Soulful Waltz"; and "Pan Setta".

I've selected "Pan Setta" and "Ooh-Pee-Day" as the best of these. I think the tracks stand up well with Booker's other instrumental organ recordings, mostly done for Peacock or Duke between 1960-1962. The most famous of these is his one 'hit', "
Gonzo". The Lloyd Price Band recordings present big band arrangements of the tunes, which work well, for the most part. Those familiar with Booker's piano work will note that his organ playing is much more subdued and straightforward than his radiation on the 88's. If you haven't heard him on the piano, you are missing a mixture of dazzling expertise, humor, soul, and abandon that, at its best, is mind-blowing. I have some never issued board recordings of Booker on piano in NOLA that I'll dig out later on. Until then, it's James Booker on the organ.


"Pan Setta" has a swing groove; and "Ooh-Pee-Day" has a taste of Latin (the title sounds like pig-latin, actually). Neither of these tracks will be heralded as being proto-funk, nor could they be said to be otherwise identifiably New Orleans in sound. But, since Booker was a product of that city (as well as his own peculiar inspirations and delusions), and because Lloyd Price, himself a New Orleans native, retained other home town talent in this band (though it was located in Los Angeles at the time), I think, we can safely say today's two selections reside in the Home of the Groove.

I first heard this LP in the late 1980's when
Emerson Able, a Memphis musician and educator, called me on my show and asked if I had heard it. When I told him I hadn't, he loaned me his well-worn copy. After that, I searched for years for that record, finally finding one in a little neighborhood record store in Seattle, when I was visiting. It was worth the search for those Booker tracks. The rest of the album cuts, while fine performances, aren't particularly of interest to me. You may feel differently, should you choose to seek it out.


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