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 Friday, 31 October 2014
Walter Monroe Booker, Jr. December 17, 1933 - November 24, 2006 PDF Print
Written by Jim Eigo   
Friday, 15 December 2006
ImageWalter Monroe Booker, Jr., lovingly dubbed “Bookie,” was born on December 17, 1933 in Prairie View, Texas to the late Walter Monroe Booker, Sr. and the late Thomye Collins Booker. The family moved to Washington, D.C. when his father accepted a position with the Howard University Medical School and later became Head of the Department of Pharmacology. Booker was the oldest of two children, his sister, Marjorie, fifteen years his junior resides in Washington, D.C. He attended the District of Columbia Public Schools for his early education and graduated from high school at the Palmer Institute of North Carolina. Booker then matriculated and graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Booker was drafted into the United States Army during which period he became fascinated with and began to play the acoustic bass. He married Yvonne Blakeney with whom he had two sons, Randall and Russell. In 1959, he returned to Washington where he quickly became a member of Andrew White’s band, the JFK Quintet, who performed regularly at the Bohemian Caverns. Cannonball Adderley discovered them at the Caverns and brought them to public attention by way of their first recording, “New Jazz Frontiers From Washington.” He attended Howard University Medical School while performing with the quintet, but withdrew from school after two years to pursue his musical career full time.

He moved to New York City in 1964 and studied privately with Homer R. Mensch, Juilliard faculty member and one of the 20th Century’s greatest bass players and teachers of that instrument. Booker later married Maria Smith and had one son, Krishna. His remarkable talent gained recognition fast from notable and professional jazz musicians. He was first hired by trumpeter Donald Byrd, and later performed with both Stan Getz’ and Sonny Rollins’ bands. From 1967 to 1969, Booker recorded and toured with many jazz greats — Ray Bryant, Art Farmer, Harold Vick, Betty Carter, and, most notably, with Thelonius Monk’s last touring ensemble.

In 1969, Booker was invited to join the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, a recording, and touring relationship and friendship that lasted until Cannonball’s untimely death in 1975. That year, Booker became Sarah Vaughan’s bassist. He recorded and toured with her for the next six years.

While playing with Cannonball and Sarah Vaughan, Bookie began to explore his interest in music production and recording. He designed, constructed, and operated Boogie Woogie Studios in his Upper West Side Manhattan apartment. Booker used geodesic principles to sculpt two rehearsal and recording spaces, an ingenious concept that produced clean, pure, high-tech quality sound. For over ten years Boogie Woogie became a launching pad for musicians from all over the world, helping to shape their growth by providing a safe haven for them to develop their craft and learn at the feet of the many masters who passed through the studio doors. Artists who credit Walter Booker and Boogie Woogie Studios for their start include Nat Adderley, Jr., Rasheed Ali, Angela Bofill, Earl McIntyre, T.S. Monk, Airto Moreira, Noel Pointer, and Moroslav Vigous Ira “Buddy” Williams.

Three unions born of Boogie Woogie Studio include the young group “Natural Essence,” led by artist Rasheed Ali; “Love Carnival and Dreams,” a wonderful Brazilian jazz collaboration formed by Booker and Guilherme Vergueiro; and “Weather Report” the jazz crossover group formed by Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter.

In 1983, Bertha Hope was sent by a friend to meet Booker to investigate recording in the Boogie Woogie studio. This was the beginning of a friendship that blossomed over the next three years into a life-long relationship. They enjoyed many hours of playing and recording together.

Booker traveled and performed with the John Hicks Trio. The trio also accompanied saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders on a West Coast tour. Nat Adderley, Cannonball’s brother, asked Bookie to join his new quintet. Booker continued to play, record, and tour with other jazz artists, but he primarily recorded and toured internationally with Nat for 17 years until Nat’s demise in early 2000. Every year since its 1987 inception, Booker performed at the annual Child of the Sun Festival in Lakeland, Florida with the Nat Adderley Quintet, continuing after Adderley’s death with the remaining members.

In the early ‘90s Booker served as tutor, teacher and mentor to many, inspiring young musicians through lectures, demonstrations and performances at the Sewell Music Conservatory in Washington, D.C. This exemplified his love and dedication to music. His generosity in sharing his knowledge with others expanded his influence by reaching across generations in this “hometown” setting.

In 2000, after recording on well over 250 albums, Walter Booker produced and released his first album as bandleader forming the Walter Booker Quintet to record “Bookie’s Cookbook” on Mapleshade Records. He was anchored by Cecil Payne on baritone sax, Marcus Belgrave on trumpet, Roni Ben-Hur on guitar, and Leroy Williams on drums. He toured as part of the Bertha Hope Trio, together with drummer Jimmy Cobb. Bookie also formed ElMollennium with his wife jazz pianist Bertha Hope and guitarist Roni Ben-Hur, an ensemble dedicated to performing the music of the late be-bop pianist Elmo Hope.

“Book’s Bossa” and “Saudade,” tunes Walter Booker composed, were recorded by Pat Metheny, Donald Byrd and over a dozen others. Portions of another composition from the “Zodiac Suite” were sampled by Hip Hop artist “A Tribe Called Qwest” and Grammy recipient “Monica.” In 2004, in recognition of his music integrated into the most played song for the prior year, Booker received a Citation of Achievement from BMI for the “Monica” recording, “So Gone” which attained the No. 1 slot on Billboard’s R&B chart.

In September 2004, as a birthday tribute to Cannonball Adderley, Booker performed at the Iridium in New York City with the last rhythm section to perform with Cannonball’s band. Joining him were Michael Woolf on piano, Roy McCurdy on drums, Vincent Herring on alto sax, James Moody on tenor sax and James Carter on baritone sax. In December of that same year, La Belle Epoch restaurant hosted a special birthday bash for Booker. It was heavily attended by many world-renowned musicians and friends who came to jam and celebrate with him. It would be his last public performance.

On Friday, November 24, 2006, Walter M. Booker, Jr. left this world to journey to the next. He is survived by Bertha, his loving wife of twenty years, three children Randall, Russell, and Krishna, his sister Marjorie, niece Cecily and her husband Keith, nephew Thomas, grandnephew Victor; his stepchildren Monica, Daryl and Kevin -- whom he called his ‘brother-in-the-craft,’ a host of cousins and many loving friends and acquaintances.
“Celebration of Life” Memorial Service for Walter M. Booker, Jr. to be held on Sunday' January 14, 2007 - 7:30 P.M. at Saint Peters Lutheran Church 619 Lexington Avenue, On 54th Street, New York, NY 10022 (212) 935-2200.


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