by Ian Mann
January 05, 2016
A consistently interesting amalgam of musical styles that works well overall.
“Patchwork Project Vol. 1”
A review copy of this album was kindly given to me by the saxophonist and composer Paul Booth at a recent performance by bassist Michael Janisch’s “Paradigm Shift” band at Leam Jazz in Leamington Spa. Booth has worked extensively with Janisch and also appears on the latter’s excellent début album “Purpose Built” (2009).
Originally from the North East of England Booth studied jazz at the Royal Academy of Music before becoming a professional musician with links to both the jazz and rock worlds. He is a highly versatile and adaptable saxophonist and is a regular member of Steve Winwood’s band. He has also worked with Steely Dan, Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and many others and is currently touring with Incognito.
As a jazz bandleader Booth has released four previous albums under his own name including the excellent “No Looking Back” (Basho Records 2007) and “Trilateral” (Pathway 2012), the latter a surprisingly coherent and successful album that features Booth’s playing in three different trio configurations.
Like “Trilateral” this latest release appears on the Pathway imprint but the style of music is very different. It is perhaps best for Booth to describe the inspiration behind the Patchwork Project in his own words with this quote sourced from the album’s liner notes;
“Back in 2013 I had the idea to record a new album that was stylistically outside of the music that I’d already released. Over the years I’ve been involved with many bands, playing music belonging to various parts of the globe. I felt that it was time for me to branch out and explore. I thought that it would be inspiring to involve people from various backgrounds. I reached out to fans, friends and colleagues on social media and asked for suggestions ranging from genre, instrumentation, songs, metaphors and ideas in an attempt to create something new.
The response I received was quite fascinating and thus led to the construction of this album. Piece by piece the songs were written and the recording began. The result has made me incredibly proud and I thank all of the talented musicians for bringing the music alive”
Booth’s notes go on to give individual summaries of the inspirations behind each track and the cast includes musicians from all over the world, many of them now based in London. Booth himself appears not only a multi reed player contributing saxophones, flutes and clarinets, but also as a keyboard player, percussionist and occasional vocalist. Among the contributors is vocalist and lyricist Victoria Newton, who actually recorded her parts in her native Australia. “Patchwork Project” is very much the product of the ‘digital age’.
The album was recorded over a two year period beginning in 2012 and I was lucky enough to witness Booth performing some of this music in the Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival. The band on this occasion included Booth on reeds and keyboards plus Giorgio Serci on guitar, Davide Mantovani on bass and Satin Singh on tabla and percussion, all of whom appear on the album. Kit drums were played by the Cuban drummer/percussionist Ernesto Simpson and the performance also included the vocals of Victoria Newton who had flown over from Australia for the gig.
Among the pieces performed at that LJF appearance was the album opener “Pipe Dream” which came about as the result of a social media request asking Booth to include a piece featuring the sound of the Uillean pipes. Flaithri Neff does the honours as the pipe soloist, his typically stirring contribution blending well with Booth’s flute and the sounds of the album’s resident string quartet. The melody of the piece is unashamedly Celtic but true to the spirit of the project the rhythms and harmonies are sourced from further afield with elements of Venezuelan folk music blending with the 3/4 rhythm of a jazz samba. Newton’s soaring wordless vocals also add a Brazilian feel to the piece and there’s also some joyous soloing from Booth on soprano sax, the instrument that substituted for the pipes at that London performance. Serci, Janisch, pianist Alex Wilson, drummer Andrew Bain and percussionist Edwin Sanz also contribute.
“There Was A Time” was written by Booth as an instrumental piece as far back as 2005. For this project he invited Newton to add lyrics to the tune and help transform it into a song. Newton sings her words of and loss with great conviction on a piece that works very effectively in its new incarnation. The instrumentation is entirely acoustic with Booth on soprano joined by Serci and Janisch on guitar and bass respectively plus twin percussionists Singh and Adriano Adewale, Bain on kit drums and the members of the string quartet.
“Iemanja” was the first piece that Booth composed for this project. The title means “The Goddess of the Sea” and Booth describes it as “a colourful song keeping true to traditional Brazilian music”.
One can almost feel the South American sunshine in this relaxed performance that features Newton’s wordless vocals alongside pithy solos from Alex Wilson on piano and Booth on flute. The patter of percussion from Singh and the Brazil born Adewale adds a welcome touch of exotica alongside the sweetening sounds of the strings. Serci on guitar and Mantovani on electric bass also feature.
We remain in Brazil for “Quietude”, Booth’s personal tribute to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, a musician who has had a strong influence on Booth , the composer. On a piece that liberally borrows from Jobim’s “How Insensitive” there’s some delightfully delicate solo acoustic guitar work from Sirci alongside Booth’s warm toned saxophone soloing. The leader also doubles on flute and piano and the track also features the discrete work of a rhythm team comprised of Mantovani on electric bass and Davide Giovannini at the drums. The string quartet also plays a prominent role with violinists Ivana Cetko and David Williams being joined by Virginia Slater (viola) and Rosalind Acton (cello).
The brief, but tantalising “Dragonfly” is the first of two predominately improvised pieces centred around the trio of Booth, Janisch and Bain and jointly credited to the threesome. The idea came from one of Booth’s fans who likened the flight of a dragonfly to the process of jazz improvisation, chaotic yet ultimately melodic. Those qualities are present in the music too with Booth’s soprano hovering like the creature of the title as the other instruments replicate the sounds of other insects and animals. There’s a sense of place about the piece and the feeling of being close to nature. Some effects were added in post production with Serci’s guitar and Adewale’s percussion also becoming involved.
“Lover’s Thief” was co-composed by Booth and Brian Hanlon, with Booth setting the latter’s words to music. Newton gives voice to the bitter-sweet lyric and the music is based on the Afro-Peruvian festejo rhythm. One of Booth’s oldest musical associates, pianist Alex Wilson, adds a suitably authentic sounding piano solo above the patter of Edwin Sanz’s percussion. Booth’s sax wanders in and out and the piece also features Serci, Mantovani and the strings.
Previously I alluded to “Patchwork Project” being a product of the digital age. Nowhere is this better exemplified than by “Twitterbug Waltz”, written by Booth in response to a request for the composer to interpret a Twitter timeline in 140 seconds (great title by the way, see what he just did there). So, yes, it’s a short piece, but it’s also an incredibly busy one which features a catchy sax hook and a crisp bass and drum groove courtesy of Janisch and Bain. It’s a hugely enjoyable saxophone trio performance, one of the most obviously ‘jazz’ pieces on the entire album, and ends abruptly with the spoken announcement “you have reached 140 characters!”.
“Oh So Lonely” also features the trio of Booth, Janisch and Bain. Jointly credited to all three musicians this is the second of the predominately improvised pieces. A passage of unaccompanied double bass introduces the piece and forms its foundation. Booth’s layered woodwinds and Adewale’s percussion were added post production but it’s Janisch’s bass playing that forms the backbone of the piece.
“Miles From Nowhere” was inspired by a suggestion that requested the inclusion of Indian influenced music in the Patchwork Project. Booth describes how he and Newton took a song that they had originally intended as a drum ‘n’ bass piece and added Indian style percussion and effects. Singh’s percussion is prominent as is a tambura like drone in the tune’s early stages. More obviously Western elements are Booth’s ebullient sax solo and Richard Rozze’s searing electric guitar. Newton’s lyrics reflect 60s hippy escapism and the piece also features the Janisch/Bain rhythm section plus the drones and textures of the string section.
The segue of “Orca”, a Booth original, and “Satta Massagana”, by the Jamaican vocal trio The Abyssinians, was inspired by the sounds of 90s electronica and 70s reggae. The broken beats of Booth’s chill out anthem eventually mutate into the reggae grooves of The Abyssinians’ most influential song. Booth plays both sax and keyboards and Rozze’s electric guitar throws some blues and rock flavourings into the mix. Mantovani, Giovannini and Singh provide the grooves on an unlikely mash up that is highly effective.
The album concludes by continuing the reggae theme and an arrangement of Bob Marley’s classic “No Woman, No Cry”, which begins as a duet between Booth on sax and Wilson at the piano with Mantovani and Sanz later joining in on electric bass and percussion respectively. Marley’s enduring melody is treated as both a lament and a celebration in a performance that manages to be both moving and uplifting.
“Patchwork Project” is a consistently interesting amalgam of musical styles that works well overall. The standard of musicianship is excellent throughout but the record is probably too diverse to appeal to jazz purists and is occasionally a little too smooth (especially the Brazilian flavoured items) for my own personal tastes.
Nevertheless there is much to enjoy here and the album is a good representation of the musical personality of Paul Booth, a musician whose tastes and abilities embrace a whole panoply of styles and who has the technical facility to play all of them convincingly.
The album title implies that a second Patchwork album will appear sometime in the future but I suspect that we will also be hearing from Paul Booth in a more obviously jazz context at some point prior to this. For all the musical diversity and the lucrative sideman gigs jazz still remains his first love and a vital part of his music making.
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