I keep hearing raves about Josh Charles from New Orleans musicians. I've seen him a couple of times with his band and thought he was very talented but didn't get the full picture. Last night he played two solo piano sets at Checkpoint Charlie and I finally got it. Got why Cyril Neville compares him to James Booker. Got why Dr. John took a personal interest in tutoring him. Got why James Andrews chose him to be in his Crescent City All-Stars band at Jazz Fest, which was one of the high points of the first weekend. At Checkpoint, Charles played Allen Toussaint's "Life," a terrific vehicle for Booker. Charles seemed to channel the Bayou Maharaja under the full Taurus moon, his fingers dancing across the keyboards, producing clusters of sound with an otherwordly cadence. The normally boistrous Checkpoint crowd, which swelled to capacity as he played with all the shutters opened to Esplanade Avenue, hung on every note and showered him with applause at the end. People were throwing twenty dollar bills into the tip bucket.
It was the first solo piano gig Charles has ever played in New Orleans.
It won't be the last.