Beryl Booker

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1953-1954 Review

by arwulf arwulf

Volume two in the complete recordings of Beryl Booker as presented in the Classics Chronological Series documents the adventures of the Beryl Booker Trio with eight titles recorded for Discovery Records in Los Angeles on October 14, 1953, material from two Vogue sessions that took place in Paris during February 1954, and six selections recorded for Cadence in New York during the summer of 1954. Booker's approach to the piano recalls her contemporary Erroll Garner; like him, she was a brilliant autodidact who didn't read music. Garner and Booker exist in the same swing-to-bop-to-cool constellation with Herman Chittison, Johnny Guarnieri, Mary Lou Williams, Bud Powell, Dodo Marmarosa, Al Haig, and Ahmad Jamal. Teamed with bassist Bonnie Wetzel and drummer Elaine Leighton, Booker handled jazz and pop standards with dazzling dexterity, humor, warmth and soul. When she sang she sounded more than a little like Dinah Washington, for whom she served as accompanist at the beginning and the end of the decade; on "One for My Baby" the similarity is uncanny. Be sure and cop a listen on the two instrumental selections recorded at the second Parisian Vogue date with tenor saxophonist Don Byas. Thanks to the increasingly popular LP format, each Booker/Byas performance is a little under five minutes in duration, allowing for longer solos and a more relaxed mood than was usually possible under 78 rpm three-minute constraints. Users are warned that "Beryl Booker's Byased Blues" and "Makin' Whoopee" will immediately seep into your bones and groove you out before you realize what has happened. Those two tracks are worth double the price of admission all by themselves.

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