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Paul Booth

Travel Sketches


by Ian Mann

September 26, 2019


An impressive offering from Booth and his colleagues. The recorded sound is excellent throughout and the playing assured and imaginative.

Paul Booth

“Travel Sketches”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0034)

Paul Booth – tenor sax, Steve Hamilton – piano, Dave Whitford – double bass, Andrew Bain - drums

Paul Booth, the North East born saxophonist, is 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.

However Booth’s first love has always been jazz and his credentials in this field are no less impressive. Among those with whom Booth 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 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.
Review here;

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;

Currently he also leads on organ trio featuring Ross Stanley on Hammond and Andrew Bain at the drums.

Bain’s playing also features on this new quartet release, a recording that sees Booth going back to his jazz roots. The sound may be rooted in the jazz tradition but as the album title suggests the saxophonist’s seven new original compositions draw inspiration from his global wanderings while on tour with some of the many artists listed above. Booth’s succinct liner notes offer brief, but cogent, insights into the inspirations behind each tune. The programme is completed by an instrumental interpretation of the Peter Gabriel song “Don’t Give Up”.

Of the overall concept behind the album Booth explains;
“The bulk of this album’s content was written while touring. It is my intention that each composition transcends the listener into an experience inspired by my travels. For this album I made a conscious decision to go back to my roots as a tenor player. Luckily, recording with my friends, who happen to be my first choice and best, proved wise. The album was recorded in one afternoon in a live playing situation, leaving zero chance for ‘fixes’. Most of the tracks on this album were first takes.”

Of his quartet Booth says;
“We are friends who make music together. There’s an empathy when we play, unspoken directions that lead us to constantly re-interpret the music we are playing. I really wanted my compositions to feel as if they were written by the whole band, and somehow I think we achieved this.”

The mood of the album is relaxed and generally mellow and as Booth has indicated there is clearly a highly developed rapport between the players. It’s a genuine team effort with the saxophonist receiving skilled and empathic support from his colleagues throughout. In a well balanced quartet there is a clear sense of the common goal and no grandstanding, despite the presence of many outstanding solos.

The album commences with the jazz waltz “Seattle Fall”, of which Booth informs us;
“I wrote this first piece one rainy Autumn day, whilst on tour with Steve Winwood. Looking for solitude in a Seattle theatre I found a beautiful old piano and the inspiration was set. Half an hour later it was complete”.
There’s an agreeably pastoral feel about the music, one that sums up the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ that inspired it. Booth’s tenor sax soloing is fluent and elegant, unhurried and with no sense of bluster. Hamilton offers suitably sympathetic support at the piano and displays an admirable lyricism throughout. Whitford supplies melodic bass counterpoint and adds an understated but wonderfully dexterous solo. Bain also impresses with his contribution, particularly his delicate brush work in the earlier stages of the piece.

Of the next piece, “Seminole Serenade”, Booth states;
“As a lover of Native American culture, this tune is delicately inspired by their journey. I credit my fiancée with opening my eyes to the walk of her ancestors”.
Booth introduces the piece with a pure toned, but highly evocative, passage of unaccompanied tenor.  Overall the mood is similar to the opener, restrained, wistful, lyrical with the gentle, but exotic, patter of Bain’s drums granting just sufficient impetus for the mellifluous but intelligent soloing of Booth and Hamilton.

There’s a change of mood and pace on “Medina Scuffle”. Of this piece Booth says;
“If you have ever spent any time in Morocco you’ll have witnessed the embedded chaos in various parts of the country. This piece was written after navigating the intensity of the medina and also being inspired by the serenity of Gnawa music”.
A more forceful performance, introduced by Whitford at the bass, also displays the influence of bebop with Hamilton contributing a feverish piano solo as Bain’s drums chatter busily around him. Hitherto Booth’s playing has evoked comparisons with that of Stan Getz,  but his turbo-charged solo here is more reminiscent of John Coltrane. There’s also an extended drum feature from Bain, who gets the opportunity to release his inner Elvin Jones.

Booth now lives in Ramsgate – when he’s not on the road. Of the tune “No Place Like Home” he comments;
“Sometimes music, or a particular song, just has a way of saying it all. After so much time away, there really is no place like home”.
Hamilton’s solo piano ruminations introduce a piece that evokes an appropriate sense of wistfulness via Booth’s warm toned tenor soloing and Whitford’s delightfully melodic bass feature.

“Tuscan Charm” was written towards the close of a lengthy international tour that ended in Italy. Booth says of the experience;
“I discovered the delights of Tuscany. The majestic beauty of the countryside and kindness of its people easily brought pen to paper. The wine was pretty good too!”.
The music sounds appropriately balmy and relaxed with Booth constructing his tenor solo in unhurried fashion, yet all the while displaying great fluency and imagination. His colleagues respond to his every move with grace and acumen, particularly as the leader’s playing gradually becomes more loquacious. Bain’s inventive drumming plays a particularly prominent part in the arrangement.

It’s Bain who introduces “Red Rocks”, a ballad inspired by Booth’s adventures hiking in Colorado. Clearly moved by his experiences the composer writes;
“It would be an understatement to say Red Rocks is Mother Nature at her best. My mind was almost transfixed at the mountain’s peaks and I saw them as resembling notes on a stave. Feeling inspired I determined a key and basic scale, sketched out the melody I saw in the peaks and then interpreted the rhythms from various movements scattered around me. From that point on this tune grew into a piece that I am quite proud of”.
From the brushed drum intro Bain establishes a marching rhythm around which sax, piano and bass congregate, with Booth sketching the melody on tenor. The piece develops elegantly and naturally through the flowing lyricism of Hamilton’s piano solo and Booth’s subsequent tenor sax meditations. Rather than attempting to replicate the grandeur of nature Booth’s piece instead seems to encapsulate the humility he felt in the presence of almost overwhelming natural beauty.

One suspects that similar circumstances informed the writing of “Byron Bay”, written back in England following a tour of New Zealand and Australia. Hamilton’s piano ushers in the piece and is heard in mutual dialogue with Booth’s tenor. With the addition of bass and drums the piece evokes a sense of warmth and nostalgia for a place that Booth describes as having been “a ‘bucket list destination for as long as I can remember”. This is expressed in the gentle melodicism of the solos of Hamilton and Booth, although the way in which the latter subsequently stretches out is also a reminder of Byron Bay’s reputation as a surfing destination.

The album concludes with the quartet’s interpretation of Peter Gabriel’s hit “Don’t Give Up”, which featured a second vocal from guest Kate Bush. Booth’s group have played the piece many times in concert, usually at the end of the evening.
“It is my hope that the listener leaves with a sense of self and hope” explains Booth, “the positive message, woven in with my own interpretation, will hopefully trigger, or dare I say it, INSPIRE the ideals and ethics of future generations.”. He adds an autobiographical note; “Don’t give up on the hard work it takes. The life you can live through music is the most fulfilling and rewarding life. Trust me, I’m living it now.”
Musically the quartet play things pretty straight, keeping Gabriel’s melody intact. Whitford instigates things from the bass, soon joined by piano and brushed drums before Booth states the familiar theme. The mood is relaxed, lyrical and imbued with a now trademark sense of yearning.
Hamilton solos succinctly on piano before helping Booth to inject a vaguely gospel feel into the music as the saxophonist stretches out. The only real hint of jazz subversion comes via the extended outro.

Recorded at Birmingham’s new Eastside Jazz Club by engineer Alex Bonney “Travel Sketches” represents an impressive offering from Booth and his colleagues. The recorded sound is excellent throughout and the playing assured and imaginative. Although it’s very much Booth’s album the contribution from all four musicians is excellent, with Bain in particular, displaying great sensitivity.

It’s an album that has attracted considerable critical acclaim with several writers reaching for the Getz comparisons. If there’s a criticism it could be that a sense of wistful lyricism pervades almost throughout with only “Medina Scuffle” really breaking out of the mould, but any allegations of bloodlessness are rather undermined by the quality of the playing on what is ultimately a rather lovely album.

Paul Booth has taken time out from his travels to deliver a beautiful set of musical postcards – does anybody remember those?

Booth and the quartet are currently touring the “Travel Sketches” material with forthcoming performances at;

Oct 16 - Flute & Tankard, Cardiff (Cardiff Jazz)
Oct 24 - Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham
Oct 25 - Cork Jazz Festival, Ireland
Dec 2 - NQ Jazz @ The Whiskey Jar, Manchester

March 27 - International Study Centre, Cathedral Precincts, Canterbury (featuring the Festival Chamber Orchestra)
May 14 – The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
May 27 – Fougou Jazz, Torbay, Devon

Paul will also be performing music from the album with the La Havana house band:
October 11 2019 - La Havana Jazz Club, Chichester

More information at;


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