Booker T. Jones may be the most laidback, soft-spoken and gentle bandleader/frontman you’ll encounter. Maybe too unassertive but eminently likable.
The B3 organ master's return to the Dakota Jazz Club on Thursday with his eponymous quartet – not the Hall of Fame Booker T & the MGs – had a melancholy feel. For one, his latest solo album, 2011’s “The Road from Memphis,” is not his most dynamic solo effort. Also, he hasn’t truly found his comfort zone since the death last month of MGs bassist and his longtime collaborator, Duck Dunn.
That was most apparent Thursday on the mournful intro to “Time Is Tight” that Jones played on his B3 organ. His instrument was moaning sadly before drummer Darian Gray counted off “1,2,3,4” and the song from 1969 kicked into gear with the organ and bass sounding so right. However, guitarist Vernon “Ice” Black was no Steve Cropper, his tone lacking the pristine beauty of Cropper’s.
In its 70-minute opening set, Jones’ quartet did material from “Memphis” and a tune from 2009’s “Potato Hole” record, a few MGs numbers and covers of songs Jones worked on – Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (on which Jones played bass) Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” (which Jones cowrote) and the encore of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (he worked with Redding).
Although the 67-year-old Jones has more of a songwriter’s voice (most of the set was instrumentals), the Redding vocal number made one dream: How bout Jones and Cropper (who cowrote many Redding songs including “Dock of the Bay”) get past their Dunn mourning by putting together a touring revue with a couple of standout vocalists that pays tribute to the late, underappreciated Otis Redding?
The set list from Thursday’s opening show:
Harlem House/ Walking Papers/ Born Under a Bad Sign/ Green Onions/ Knockin on Heaven’s Door/ Melting Pot/ Time Is Tight ENCORE Hey Yeah/ I’ve Been Loving You Too Long