Bayou Maharaja

One of many fascinating moments in this 2013 profile of New Orleans piano man James Booker—the self-proclaimed “Black Liberace”—occurs early on, when an admiring Harry Connick Jr., perched in front of the keys, visually breaks down Booker’s complex, confluent style. Connick describes it as a “French kind of sound with a swing feel to it,” but it was mostly indescribable and impossible to pigeonhole—as evidenced by the wide scope of big-name players Booker backed. A number of New Orleans natives—Dr. John and Allen Toussaint among them—appear on camera to fawn over Booker’s virtuosic playing and remember his personal demons, which revealed themselves in his drug and alcohol abuse and rampant paranoia. Booker sparkles in the archival performance clips, and director Lily Keber wisely homes in on his live solo performances, bringing out his character and talent.