James Booker 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.
These 22 tracks, which include 9 never-before-released performances, range from the pure rhythm and blues of Grits Ain t Groceries, to the classical Warsaw Concerto and Madame X, to his astonishing version of the jazz standard Angel Eyes. 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. It is also worth noting that Lily Keber s film, Bayou Maharajah, The Tragic Genius of James Booker, has been playing to rave reviews, and that interest in James Booker is expanding beyond his devoted cult fan base.