The great Juini Booth celebrates his 50th year in jazz - The Buffalo News

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The great Juini Booth celebrates his 50th year in jazz

If you’re under the illusion that it is not possible for a jazz bass player to play an absorbing recital of solo bass, then you’ve never heard Juini Booth.

A solo bass section is only one section of one of the great Buffalo Jazz Celebrations of 2014 which takes place Friday evening through Saturday morning in the Pausa Art House, 19 Wadsworth St.

At 7 p.m. Friday is when you’ll hear an extraordinary hour of Booth playing fascinating solo bass. At 8 p.m., he’ll be joined by pianist George Caldwell and drummer Carmen Intorre in an hour with trio. And then at 9 p.m. he and Buffalo jazz bassist Sabu Adeyola (who’s played with Ahmad Jamal) will play with percussion in an aggregation they call Two Bass Hit.

What this special Booth marathon event is doing is two-fold: celebrating Juini Booth’s 50th anniversary as a formidable world-touring jazz musician (with McCoy Tyner, Gary Bartz, Freddie Hubbard, Pharoah Sanders etc.) and also celebrating the birth centennial of Sun Ra, one of the greatest of all jazz spirits.

To be personal for a minute, Juini is not only one of the greatest jazz musicians, I think, ever to come out of jazz-rich Buffalo but he’s also one of the greatest musical eccentrics I’ve ever known.

Take, for just once instance, the matter of his name. When I first met him, I was blown away by his work with Hubbard at the Revilot on East Ferry in 1970. I walked up to him with my pad and asked him who he was. With a knowing smirk, he gave me some outrageous and ridiculously fictional name which I’ve only remembered for being an outlandish put-on.

I think he was trying to prove at the time that those who set themselves up as jazz authorities tend to be clueless doofuses. But too he may have just liked the name he gave me. Whatever the point, it marked him for me as one of the true free spirits of jazz I’d ever encountered.

Since then, on records, E-mails, publicity releases etc., his first name has been spelled in all of the following ways: Joony, Jooney, Junnieh and Juini. It has, for many years now, settled on the last but all I can say is thank heaven his last name has always been Booth.

His personality, musical and otherwise, has during all those decades, often been just as mutable. But always delightfully one of a kind.

This weekend’s marathon celebration of Juini Booth at Pausa is one of the great local jazz events.


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