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Booker T. Jones & Shakura S’aida – TD Toronto Jazz Festival – Nathan Phillip’s Square, Toronto, June 24, 2015



Review by Andrew Horan

Not to slight opening act Shakura S’aida, but when legendary blues performer Booker T. Jones overshot the 11 pm cut off time for shows at outdoor venues in Toronto, one couldn’t help but feel the night would have benefitted from having no opener.

This isn’t a slight against Jones either; he played an excellent set that was filled with both classics, new material and covers, as well as stories that cast a nostalgic eye back at his nearly 50 year career playing with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Lauryn Hill.

The “Brooklyn-born, Swiss-raised, Toronto-based” S’aida played a competent set of soul and blues songs that saw her having frequent call and response with the audience and at one point, she chastised one individual for frowning.

Jones took to the stage to a big cheer from the audience and promptly launched in to the first song. His son, Ted Jones, provided many of the blistering solos throughout the set and the opening number was no exception.

Much of the show varied between the blues, soul and R ‘n B he’s known for. He gave a brief explanation of the story behind each song, such as writing a track for the title track for the Spaghetti Western Hang ’em High. He played Booker T. and the MG’s best-known hit, ‘Green Onions’, a few songs in. The slightly retooled version of the song saw the band transform it into a jam-style number.

Throughout the night, Jones frequently switched between guitar and organ. He recounted an anecdote about sneaking out of his house to listen to blues bands before launching into a Muddy Waters cover.

He brought a unique flavor to each of the covers he played including a unique take on Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ and a stripped down version of Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’.

Despite a large number of covers, they did play new material including ‘Father Son Blues’ from his 2013 effort Sound the Alarm as well as several classic songs such as ‘Melting Pot’ and ‘Time is Tight’.

Due to the length of the set, Jones didn’t get to play an encore, wrapping up the night with a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ before sending the audience, which had thinned out by the time 11 o’clock rolled around, on their way.