Paul Booth Quartet Pitch Poignant Musical Postcards At Brighton's Verdict

Eddie Myer
Monday, September 9, 2019

Booth-related bulletin from Parliamentary Best Venue nominee

Before subsiding into today’s bitter factionalism, our elected representatives managed to pull together for long enough to nominate the Verdict for Best Venue in the upcoming Parliamentary Jazz Awards: given the mood of the country, any association with either the Upper or Lower houses may now be a mixed blessing, but in any case here’s globetrotting session sax supremo Paul Booth and his band with some material from his recent release, Travel Sketches. The record is a series of musical postcards from home written by Booth on his many travels with the likes of Steve Winwood and Steely Dan: an artistic device rendered all the more poignantly apposite by the likely restrictions on UK musicians’ ability to travel freely in pursuit of their muse that may well be among the unwanted  results of our current political impasse. Fortunately, Ross Stanley on the piano wastes no time, kicking off proceedings on album opener 'Seattle Fall' with an endlessly fertile melodic invention over the subtlest of swinging accompaniments from Andrew Bain and Dave Whitford, all space and light. Stanley builds up the intensity and hands over to Booth – the latter’s crisp, clear tone and flawless time and articulation shine as he builds his solo into peals of glittering notes, raising the temperature above the original recording’s cool poise.

Booth is a confident and welcoming host with an easy line in relaxed banter that belies the seriousness of the musical intent; 'Seminole Serenade'’s tightly plotted rhythm arrangement is given a muscular rendition by Bain and Whitford, over which Stanley and Booth solo freely, so that the effect is close to an early Weather Report track shorn of its electric effects. A surprise duet with Bain on ‘Don’t Get Around Much Any More' (a rueful prediction?) finds Booth in boppish mood, and Bain a superlatively responsive partner, supple, creative and supportive. The minor bluesy 'No Place Like Home' features an inspired intro from Stanley, introducing a darker, more intense hue than the recording’s Steve Hamilton: he repeats the feat on the twisting 'Medina Scuffle' to excellent effect, and the band really take off, passing the baton. 'Red Rock''s contemporary-sounding structure enables Booth to build to a peak of Brecker-like intensity: while the album is predominantly introverted in feel, the live band sometimes approach the muscular precision of 1970s New York, but Bain’s sensitive drumming and Dave Whitford’s superbly cliche-free bass-playing, both solo and in support, ensure that the character and detail never get lost. The second set gives us a powerhouse '500 Miles High' and Booth throws in 'Bye Bye Blackbird' just for the hell of it, and to let Bain and Whitford romp through a superlative swing. The set closes with a version of the Peter Gabriel hit, 'Don’t Give Up', delivered with complete commitment and with Stanley really excelling himself with the speed and creativity of his harmonic imagination: a message, perhaps, to our beleagured politicians as they try to do the right thing, whatever it may be?

 

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