Shattering epiphanies about old bandmates aside, Time Is Tight is, most emphatically, not a book about settling old scores. Jones chronicles his musical adventures and relationships with tremendous warmth, insight, energy, and clarity ... Jones writes with seemingly effortless grace about the ways musical collaborations come about and cohere ... Jones writes about time signatures, chord progressions, and the wonders and intricacies of his beloved Hammond B3 organ in a manner both accessible and instructive that befits an artist of his achievements and erudition ... Of course, Jones’s most exciting adventures are musical, and the characters that emerge in his travels—always evocatively described—provide some of Time Is Tight’s most memorable moments ... [a] wonderfully perceptive, generous, and open-hearted memoir[.]
Rather than a linear, chronological account, Mr. Jones has organized his memoir thematically, pushing the story ahead with time-hopping anecdotes. The absence of straightforward narrative costs the reader an understanding of Mr. Jones’s growth as a multi-instrumentalist. He jumps from a satisfying sequence on his development as an organ and piano player to a scene in which he plays bass, without addressing the change. Perhaps his humility guided this direction ... [Jones] astutely avoids basking in his own virtuosity ... Ultimately, the atypical flow of the writing works with the story. Mr. Jones’s riffs on romantic life and fatherhood benefit from thematic focus, showing his ups and downs and maturation in these circumstances, without having to shift elsewhere and lose momentum. The style proves equally effective with what it doesn’t do—give us another exhaustive history of Stax Records, the Memphis outfit that gave Mr. Jones his start as a professional musician and produced hits by Carla Thomas, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Isaac Hayes, as well as Booker T. & the MGs ... Mr. Jones and Redding had a close though minimally verbal friendship that’s satisfyingly elucidated here without overdoing it ... Aside from these fresh perspectives on the players, Mr. Jones makes two major contributions to Stax history. First, he elevates the language surrounding the music ... proves wise and insightful ... He’s pretty funny ... Finally, he’s gifted with a long historical vision expressed in elegant grandeur ... In an era of reckoning with racial division, Mr. Jones sounds a distinctively beautiful chord ... Though he has the experience to back up an ax-grinder of a story, he has instead written a book with a big heart and a quick wit. Booker T. Jones composed some of the finest music of the last century, and now he’s given us one of the finest music books of this one.
... emphasizes not only his Memphis roots and role in Stax’s reinvention of R&B but his second act here in Los Angeles — as a wide-ranging session man and producer who remains, in his eighth decade, a sought-after sonic guru ... an ethos [Jones] captures well.