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When Booker T. Jones met Robert Randolph, at a session hosted by Michael Bourne

Booker T. Jones and Robert Randolph in the WBGO performance studio, in 2013.
Simon Rentner
/
WBGO
Robert Randolph (pedal steel guitar) with Booker T. Jones (organ)

In 2003, legendary organist Booker T. Jones and brilliant pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph met for the first time, and it was in our studio. That meeting comes to light again as we celebrate the legacy of WBGO's Michael Bourne.

This month, our esteemed announcer retires. Since 1985, he's graced our airwaves hosting Afternoon Jazz, Singers Unlimited and Blues Break. His importance extends beyond being just a "jazz jock," as he often likes to call himself. He's also a theatre critic and baseball fanatic. However, most of us know him in the circle of music. He first got his toes wet as a writer for DownBeat in 1969 and has written hundreds of articles over the years.

In New York City, he became that indelible raspy voice of jazz, known for his pregnant pauses. Perhaps he's even more celebrated in Montréal, where he became a fixture to their jazz scene every summer during the international jazz festival. (We'll showcase that side of the Bourne Legacy in a future episode.)

In short, Michael is a walking encyclopedia of music. And in his not-so-modest fashion, he occasionally reminds us of this fact (in addition to his high IQ). His flair for storytelling influenced so many of us, and me personally. He is the benchmark as a broadcaster. As you're about to hear, he didn’t really ask many questions during his interviews — they usually unfolded as improvised conversations.

BookerTRobert.jpg
Simon Rentner
/
WBGO
Booker T. Jones with Robert Randolph

One session that continues to blow my mind occurred in August of 2003, when Josh Jackson still hosted The Checkout. He put together a studio session that included Michael as host, the legendary Hammond B-3 organist Booker T. Jones (yes, of the MG's) and pedal steel guitar phenom Robert Randolph. Jones was back in the spotlight that year, returning to Stax Records to release Sound the Alarm. It was the first and only time Booker T. Jones has ever graced our studio. And it was the first time the musicians met each other.

What unfolded was pure fireworks, along with an ample amount of chaos (in the best possible way). Pure live radio can be magical in that way. At one moment, you didn't know a when a story would end and a piece of music would begin. A sentence answers a melody. A riff generates a reflection. It's one of the finest pieces of audio production ever captured within these four walls at 54 Park Place. We hope you enjoy it now.

This studio session was originally produced by Josh Jackson. The Checkout is produced by Simon Rentner.

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.