Piano virtuoso James Carroll Booker III. (photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons)
“With my ninth mind I resurrect my first and dance slow to the music of my soul made new.” ––from Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black
While he lived, James Booker was apparently known by many titles. The tradition in African American music of taking on grand and sometimes outlandish designations stretches at least as far back as the Harlem Renaissance when Bessie Smith became known as “The Empress of the Blues” and Edward Kennedy Ellington gained fame as “The Duke.”
In addition to the name used in the title of the film, Booker has been alternately referred to as: The Piano Prince of New Orleans, The Black Liberace, The Ivory Emperor, The Black Chopin, and Little Booker. He was also known as an off-again on-again drug addict, a non-closeted gay man, and a psychologically complex individual for whom no single definition or description could ever suffice.
Interpretation of a Life
Lily Keber appears, at this point in time, to be one ideal interpreter of who and what Mr. Booker was as a son of New Orleans and as a thoroughly hidden American treasure. Like New Orleans, Keber’s hometown of Savannah in one of the American cities in which the music of jazz has its deepest roots. Her move to New Orleans in 2006 and her labors to pay homage to “The Ivory Emperor” have further extended the jazz kinship between the city and Savannah. She has, in short, added something much more than a footnote to the history of jazz in America. As the director herself put it, “It took growing up in Savannah to prepare me for moving to a city like New Orleans.”
To read the full story by Aberjhani please click the link:
New Orleans’ Bayou Maharajah arrives in Savannah (part 2 of 2) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.