With several smashes under the umbrella of Booker T. & The M.G.’s, serving in the house band for Stax Records, a revered solo career, plus countless songwriting, arranging and producing credits for many of the most acclaimed artists of all time, Booker T. Jones is nothing short of an American treasure. At 71-years-old, the Memphis man possesses the chops and the drive a much younger man, releasing the entirely new album “Sound The Alarm” a few years back (featuring the likes of Mayer Hawthorne, Anthony Hamilton, Sheila E., Estelle, Gary Clark, Jr. and Vintage Trouble), while continuing to tour on a regular basis.
And of course, there was a shout out to “The Blues Brothers,” or more precisely, Sam & Dave once again for “Hold On, I’m Comin’” with the note for note perfection that could only come from one of the men behind the initial instrumentation.
This time through the always intimate and inviting City Winery, Booker T. served up a two hour helping of “A Stax Review & A Journey Through Soul, Blues and R&B,” divided between his own songbook, close knit collaborations and some adventurous covers. Following a few groove-building tunes behind the organ, the legend joked his doctor suggested to spend more time standing, which led to him strapping on a guitar for a soulful stab at Otis Redding’s “Respect” (enhanced by a marvelous vocalist and a tight three-piece band that included his son Ted, who’s surely a future axe-grinding great).
Surprisingly, Booker T.’s signature instrumental track “Green Onions” also came relatively early in the set, and though the players may have changed, the jovial essence remained. The cast also turned in mighty renditions of Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Hey Joe” and Sam & Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” switching seamlessly between upbeat soul, growling rock and smooth balladry.
Alongside his singer and son, Booker T. also tipped his hat to the late Prince with “Purple Rain,” though rather than painting strictly by the numbers, they turned the classic into a hauntingly beautiful blues tribute. And of course, there was a shout out to “The Blues Brothers,” or more precisely, Sam & Dave once again for “Hold On, I’m Comin’” with the note for note perfection that could only come from one of the men behind the initial instrumentation.
From his days with the MG’s, Booker T. and company also jammed through “Hip Hug-Her,” “Melting Pot” and “Time Is Tight,” before wrapping with The Staples Singers’ “Respect Yourself.” Not only was the latter yet another example of Stax’ classic cannon, but given the family band’s roots in Chicago, it hit another sweet spot in a constant highlight reel from the man who continues to be an integral figure in influencing multiple generations of musicians and genres.
Click here for more Booker T photos from City Winery.
For additional information on Booker T, visit BookerT.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at City Winery include Louis Prima Jr. & the Witnesses (Jul. 28); Michael McDermott (Jul. 29); Brandy Clark (Jul. 30); Marc Broussard Acoustic Duo (Jul. 31); Chicago Jazz Orchestra (Aug. 1); El DeBarge (Aug. 2); Bettye LaVette (Aug. 3); Will Hoge (Aug. 5); Berlin (Aug. 8); We Banjo 3 (Aug. 9); Popa Chubby & Matthew Curry (Aug. 10); The Fixx (Aug. 11); Billy Joe Shaver (Aug. 18); Al Di Meola (Aug. 19); Vivian Green (Aug. 20); Buffy Sainte-Marie (Aug. 24); Eric Roberson (Aug. 25-27) and Frank McComb (Aug. 31). For additional details, visit CityWinery.com/Chicago.