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Paul Booth

Paul Booth Quartet, Cheltenham Jazz Club, Irving Studio, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, Glos. 22/05/2023.

Photography: Photograph of Paul Booth sourced from the Cheltenham Jazz Club website; [url=][/url]

by Ian Mann

May 25, 2023


Ian Mann enjoys this performance by a stellar quartet led by saxophonist Paul Booth and takes a look at Booth's latest solo release "Forty Four".

Paul Booth Quartet, Cheltenham Jazz Club, Irving Studio, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, Glos. 22/05/2023.

Paul Booth – tenor sax, John Turville – piano, Michael Janisch – electric bass, Rod Youngs – drums

Tonight was my first visit to a Cheltenham Jazz Club event for quite some time and I’m grateful to the Club’s Gil Emery for providing me with press tickets for tonight’s gig.

I was particularly looking forward to seeing this stellar quartet, led by saxophonist and composer Paul Booth and featuring pianist John Turville, a late replacement for the advertised Tom Cawley, bassist Michael Janisch and drummer Rod Youngs. The last named had visited CJC earlier in the year for a sold out gig with pianist Andrew McCormack.

I guess tonight’s band could almost be described as an Anglo-American ‘supergroup’ with British born musicians Booth and Turville joined by the American born Janisch and Youngs, although both of these have been primarily resident in the UK for many years.

Born in the North East of England Booth is a multi-instrumentalist and a hugely versatile musician who is probably best known for his long term association with Steve Winwood’s band. Indeed Booth’s formidable abilities have made him a first call sideman for an impressive roster of leading rock and pop artists, his credits including such A-listers as Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, The Allman Brothers Band,  Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Bonnie Raitt, Chaka Khan, Tom Petty, Rod Stewart, Kylie Minogue, Marti Pellow, Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Jamiroquai and the Eagles.

He is currently on the road, playing several different instruments, as part of the pit band on the Strictly Come Dancing national tour. Mondays are a day off, so Booth spent it playing his own music in the company of like minded musicians and the CJC audience.

Primarily a saxophonist Booth’s first love has always been jazz and his credentials in this field are no less impressive. Among those with whom he has worked are bassists Davide Mantovani, Arnie Somogyi and Michael Janisch,  trumpeters Eddie Henderson, Ryan Quigley and Ingrid Jensen, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, saxophonist Alan Barnes, vocalist Anita Wardell, flautist Gareth Lockrane and drummers Clark Tracey, Tristan Banks and Clarence Penn. Booth has also recorded with the Cuban born player of the Galician bagpipes Wilber Calver. In addition his playing has graced the ranks of the BBC Big Band.

In addition to his exhaustive sideman credits across a variety of genres Booth is also a composer and band leader in his own right and also runs his own Pathways record label. His output as a leader includes the albums “It’s Happening” (2003),  “No Looking Back” (Basho Records, 2007), “Pathways” (2009) and “Trilateral” (Pathway, 2012), the last named featuring Booth’s playing with three different trios. More recently he has released “Travel Sketches” (2019) and “Forty Four” (2021), the last named of these representing the source of much of tonight’s material. Both “Trilateral” and “Travel Sketches” are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

In recent years Booth’s growing interest in world music styles has led to him forming two different ensembles, the Patchwork Project and the Bansangu Orchestra. The début releases from both bands are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann.

Together with trombonist Trevor Mires and trumpeter Ryan Quigley Booth leads the UK based Latin-Jazz ensemble TRYPL, whose eponymous début recording was released in 2021. Review here;

Booth has also been leading the stellar sextet variously known as Secret Sessions or Hoop. That group’s début recording, also dating from 2021 is reviewed here;

“Tri-lateral” was released when Booth was thirty three, leading to his decision to name his 2021 album “Forty Four”  in honour of another significant birthday. The number four also informs many of the tune titles and the album was recorded by an eight piece band that Booth describes as “a double quartet”. On the record Booth is joined by Alexandra Ridout (trumpet, flugel), Ross Stanley (keyboards) and Oliver Mason (guitars), plus two bassists, Flo Moore (electric) and Dave Whitford (upright acoustic) and two drummers, Shane Forbes and Andrew Bain.

Tonight’s programme featured many of the tunes from this album played by a single quartet, with Booth specialising on tenor sax and Janisch on electric bass. I think I’m right in believing that this was the first time that I’d seen Janisch perform exclusively on electric bass, he usually moves between acoustic and electric or just focusses on double bass.

The first set commenced with “Quad Rant”, an engaging piece of contemporary jazz that borrowed from the modal styles of the past.  Introduced by the trio of upright acoustic piano, electric bass and drums the first solo went to Janisch on electric bass, his melodic explorations followed by Turville at the piano, with Janisch continuing to provide melodic counterpoint from the bass. Booth’s powerful, Coltrane-esque tenor solo was part of a more loosely structured section that eventually led to a dynamic drum feature from the excellent Youngs, occasionally punctuated by Janisch’s interjections on electric bass. A compelling start.

Booth announced the next piece as a ‘contrafact’. “I Really Don’t Like You” featured a new melody written by Booth over the chord changes of Cole Porter’s “I Love You”. Almost inevitably this had more of a mainstream feel with Youngs’ brisk brush work underpinning the opening theme statement. Youngs graduated to sticks to support Booth’s tenor solo, the saxophonist stretching out expansively, followed by Turville and Janisch. Youngs was also featured once more, trading fours with Turville and Booth towards the close.

From the recent solo album came “Summer of 44”, a composition characterised by its strong melodies and buoyant grooves, with Booth delivering another impassioned, but still highly fluent, tenor solo. He was followed by Turville and Janisch. Turville is one of the UK’s best jazz pianists, a highly adaptable and versatile player and a fine soloist. As such he represented the perfect replacement for Cawley, another musician whose playing I admire immensely.

The first set concluded with the quartet putting an Afro-Cuban slant on “Star Eyes”, a song written by Gene de Paul and  Don Raye and immortalised as a jazz standard by Charlie Parker. This was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied saxophone by Booth, with the first conventional solo being undertaken by Turville. Booth subsequently returned on the tenor to deliver a solo that had something of the power and fluency of Simon Spillett in full flight. Youngs rounded things off with a mesmerising drum feature that was sometimes hard hitting and dynamic, but which also saw him sketching out melodies on the drums.

Set two commenced with “Blues In The Square”, the opening track on the “Forty Four” album. On the recording the piece is given a rock feel that was less apparent here, although it was still discernible in the work of Turville and the rhythm section. An energetic group performance featured a garrulous sax solo from the leader plus further features for Turville and Janisch.

Also from the album “Four Candles” was written in honour of the classic Two Ronnies sketch. Booth currently resides in Ramsgate and informed us that the sketch was actually based on a real life incident at Harrington’s hardware store in nearby Broadstairs. The tune itself was less rumbustious than its title might suggest, an atmospheric intro featuring Turville’s gentle piano arpeggios and Youngs’ cymbal shimmers leading to a more melodic section featuring the leader’s tenor. Turville’s piano solo was enhanced by Janisch’s counter melodies on the bass. The rhythm section dropped out entirely as Booth and Turville played a reflective duo section, with bass and drums then returning as Booth stretched out further on the tenor.

By way of introduction to the next piece Booth declared “I’m just going to start playing and something will happen”. It certainly did. An extended passage of unaccompanied saxophone presaged a vigorous collective improvisation centred around the Sonny Stitt tune “The Eternal Triangle”. This included a duo passage between Booth and Janisch, which reminded me that the first time that I encountered Booth’s playing was back in 2009 when he appeared on Janisch’s début album “Purpose Built”, the very first release on the bassist’s hugely influential Whirlwind Recordings label.
Turville and Booth were also featured as soloists, the leader’s tenor positively screaming during the course of a ferocious solo powered by Youngs’ dynamic drumming and with Janisch’s electric bass also heavily involved. Finally there was another volcanic drum feature from the impressive Youngs.

After all this intensity both the band and the audience needed something of a breather. This came in the form of the jazz standard “Darn That Dream”, played here as a ballad and introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano from Turville. The versatile Booth demonstrated a gentler side of his playing on the tenor, sympathetically supported by Youngs’ delicate brush work. Janisch’s liquidly melodic electric bass solo was sometimes reminiscent of the great Steve Swallow.

Given the theme of the “Forty Four” album it was perhaps inevitable that Booth should have included an arrangement of the Miles Davis tune “Four”. Tonight’s version included an early drum feature from Youngs plus further solos from Turville and Booth.

It was now 10.30 and Turville had a taxi booked for 10.35 to take him to Cheltenham Station and the London train. Such is the glamour of the jazz life. Thus there was to be no encore, but we had still enjoyed two hours of exceptional music from an all star quartet so nobody was feeling short changed.

Booth had clearly relished the opportunity of stretching out with a bunch of old friends in a jazz context and I’m grateful to him for speaking with me afterwards and for gifting me a copy of the “Forty Four” album, which appears on Ubuntu Music.

The recording inevitably feels significantly different with its expanded line up and with greater use being made of electric keyboards and Mason’s guitar. It’s an album that is very much worth hearing.

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