Booker T. bringing Memphis to Fox

Organist is returning to his roots with newest recording
2013-03-28T00:00:00Z Booker T. bringing Memphis to FoxGerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Booker T. Jones remembers his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., as a city in which he could grow musically.

Jones, who comes to the Fox Tucson Theatre on Friday, was born and raised there, during a time when the town had a reputation as a hotbed for blues, Southern soul and early rock 'n' roll.

"The circumstances were right for me to learn a bunch of different instruments and meet people that were into music," said Jones, now 68, in an interview from his Lake Tahoe home. "All of that together gave me a rich field to till."

It's in Memphis, where Jones cut his teeth, eventually using his time with Stax Records and as the leader of the house band-turned-touring act Booker T. and the MG's to reach new heights of popularity.

More than five decades later, Jones finds himself returning to his roots with the album, "The Road From Memphis," which he released in 2011 on Anti- Records.

A bevy of guest artists joined Jones on the recording, an homage to his hometown, rolled out in a series of original works and covers.

Hip-hop ensemble The Roots served as his backing band.

Roots drummer Questlove pulled double duty, working alongside Rob Schnapf as co-producer.

Among some of the other cameo collaborators: rocker Lou Reed, guitarist and vocalist Yim Yames from My Morning Jacket and funk and soul singer Sharon Jones, of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

Sharon duets with Matt Berninger of The National on the slow-rolling song "Representing Memphis."

Booker met Sharon, who is no relation, for the first time a few years back at a show in Brooklyn.

"She was like Otis Redding," Jones said. "She had everybody at that concert in the palm of her hand almost instantly. We struck up an instant friendship, a rapport.

"I knew she was the right person to give life and lyrics to that particular song."

Booker worked with producers to give new twists to contemporary covers on the release, songs such as Lauryn Hill's "Everything is Everything," Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."

Yet some of the best work on the album can be found in the original tracks, written mostly by Jones, with a couple of songs, "Representing Memphis" and "The Bronx," penned by his daughter, singer Liv Jones.

Jones was thrilled to have Liv on the album.

"She was a music lover from the time she was a little girl," he said. "She always knew when I was playing on a song if it came on the radio. It is beautiful that she was able to jump in there and give me what I needed for this album."

"Road From Memphis" received nearly-across-the-board positive reaction from a long list of high-level music publications.

Paste magazine said tracks from the release managed "to punch your gut with a groove without giving the slightest indication that the compositions are taking anything for granted."

In 2012, Jones received even further confirmation on a job well done when he took home a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Jones had already received a Grammy in 2010 for his 2009 release, "Potato Hole," which he recorded with the Drive-By Truckers.

Jones said it is nice to receive such love so many years after getting his start.

"It is a great feeling," he said. "It gives me a place to belong in the world and something to do."

If you go

• What: Booker T. Jones in concert.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

• Where: Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.

• Tickets: $24-$52 through the Fox box office, 547-3040.

• Details: foxtucsontheatre.org

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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