It is with a sad heart that I announce the passing of my beloved husband, bassist Walter Booker, on Friday, November 24, 2006. As soon as I finalize the details, I will advise you of when the celebration of his life will be held at St Peters Church 53rd and Lexington. --Bertha Hope
Walter Booker was born in Prairie View, Texas in 1933 and moved with his family to Washington, D.C. in the mid 1940s. It wasn't until 1959, at the age of 26, that Bookie began playing the bass while in the Army (serving side-by-side in the same unit with Elvis Presley). Shortly after leaving the service, he became a member of Andrew White's JFK Quintet, a group of young D.C. musicians accomplished enough to attract the attention of Cannonball Adderley, who produced a recording for them. Bookie's next gig was to tour the United States with the Shirley Horn Trio, along with Billy Hart on drums.
In 1964 Bookie moved to New York City. Almost immediately he was hired by trumpeter Donald Byrd. From there he went on to join Stan Getz, and throughout 1965 and '66, alternated between Getz's group and that of Sonny Rollins. Between 1967 and '69 Bookie recorded and toured with Ray Bryant, Art Farmer, Harold Vick, Betty Carter and, most notably, with Thelonious Monk's last group.
In 1969 Bookie was invited to join the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, an association which lasted until Cannonball's untimely death in 1975. Also during that time he designed, built, and ran the Boogie Woogie Studio, a mecca for musicians from all over the world.
From 1975 to 1981 Bookie was Sarah Vaughan's bassist and continued to produce recordings at his studio. He and the studio helped shape a number of up-and-coming young groups, including Natural Essence. And he became deeply involved with Brazilian music, ultimately forming Love Carnival and Dreams, one of the more successful Brazilian jazz groups on the New York scene.
After leaving Sarah Vaughan, Bookie went to California with the John Hicks Trio to record an album, a trip which resulted in a West Coast tour with the trio accompanying saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. The tour culminated in the recording of an unforgettable live video/concert. Shortly thereafter, Nat Adderley asked Bookie to join his new quintet. Bookie played with the quintet until Nat's demise last year.
For the last five years Bookie, together with Jimmy Cobb, has been actively touring as part of the Bertha Hope Trio. In addition to the Walter Booker Quintet, Bookie has also formed Elmollenium, based on the same core group as the Quintet (plus Bertha Hope) and dedicated to playing the music of Elmo Hope.