Paul Booth

Warm early this morning as the phone rang Paul Booth switched off his fan. The bandleader, saxophonist, composer has signed to the Ubuntu label and he explains in this interview firstly why he chose Martin Hummel’s indie jazz label that has quickly become a leading new force on the UK scene over the last few years. ‘‘I knew people already on the label. Martin got in touch and we met up. I had heard good things but we hadn’t met. We hit it off immediately. I had an album in the can. I sent some mixes across to him.’’

Those mixes became Travel Sketches, a mellow yet absorbing, beautifully played modern mainstream quartet album that stands out in terms of the quality of the writing, and which was recorded in March in Birmingham at the East Side club of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

The rhythm section of Dave Whitford on bass, Andrew Bain playing drums and Steve Hamilton on piano are on the record with Booth who was last heard by marlbank jamming on his vintage Conn saxophone at the Riverside hotel in Sligo a year ago. Earlier this summer Paul returned once more to the banks of the Garavogue where in Sligo he has been on the jazz faculty for a few years. He enjoys it there and it is full on. ‘‘We are working in the morning doing masterclasses and ensembles, the gigs begin at 4pm and continue on until 2am.’’ He will be returning to Ireland later in the autumn to play the Cork jazz festival after appearing last year with his Bansangu orchestra.

Blessed with a warm and powerful tenor sound there is a pastoral aesthetic at work on Travel Sketches perhaps slightly paradoxical given that the album was recorded in an urban big city environment. ‘‘Dave had become available,’’ Paul who lives in Ramsgate says. “We were good friends which is nice: You need that first. We had worked together in a backing band for someone else, a guitarist called Jamie Dean who is from my area in Kent.’’ 

What you hear is what happened, mostly one-takes — Paul Booth

Back in Birmingham earlier this year where Andrew Bain teaches at the Conservatoire home to the East Side, the repertoire Booth brought to the recording was shaped around original composition by Booth plus a version of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’ is included. The idea was to strip down production to make the album feel as if it were a gig.

Preparing, Paul brought in engineer Alex Bonney, who is also a trumpeter and who Booth had worked with in the band of bassist Michael Janisch. Bonney brought his own portable set-up along. Asked about the tender, powerfully moving song, a Gabriel hit duet with Kate Bush in the 1980s when it first came out, Paul confirms that he does play ‘Don’t Give Up’ live. He explains: ‘‘A couple of years ago I heard it on the radio and it is a beautiful song with such a strong melody. We played it at sound checks and it became a closer at gigs.’’ Expanding and more generally he notes: ‘‘Travel Sketches was written while travelling.’’ At the launch gig this week the quartet will play tunes from the album plus additional material.

Booth also produced Travel Sketches and chose not to go into a studio where otherwise the players would have had to record in specially separated insulated settings for sound engineering reasons. This was because he says he: ‘‘Wanted the recording to feel like a gig and people could come in to listen if they wanted to. We set up in the round. What you hear is what happened, mostly one-takes.’’

The Booth approach to producing is not to be too heavy handed. He says he likes to ‘‘dish out encouragement’’ — and when he is not playing himself in other situations having produced for other artists might suggest paring back a track in length say from 8 minutes to six minutes. He stresses he is not a sound engineer but in his own home studio he edits and tweaks on Pro Tools. The mastering on the new album, which he did not attend, was done at Air in London.

Playing live the quartet did not for the most part use stage monitors at East Side except for the bass amp. There were no issues about hearing the piano, he tells me, although on the ‘‘raucous’’ piano track as he refers to one particular track attention was needed to think about hearing the piano on the day in performance a bit more.

Originally from the historic city of Durham in the north east of England he was home schooled as a child and did his A-levels at the early age of 16. He had also lived in Spain as a young boy and later as a teen at the Royal Academy of Music in London he studied jazz saxophone during the Graham Collier pioneering years. He was there first in 1993 — jazz had begun at the Academy only at the end of the 1980s. His second study was piano. Later Booth would develop his interest in flute and clarinet.

As a teenager he began to play with the Colombian bandleader master timbalero, Roberto Pla. Paul says he used to play at the Farringdon Jazz Bistro in central London in 1994 and Pla heard him there first. ‘‘It was absolutely brilliant playing with him. He was the nicest guy.’’ Paul got into the latin-jazz scene a lot and played with other salsa bands around the time moving and extending his interests away from his earlier influences of Ben Webster and Stan Getz. He learned how to power hard above a 15-piece salsa band, a very different discipline to that which he had hitherto been accustomed, and with Pla performed salsa, Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican but not so much merengue which he however did with other bands that he joined at that busy time.

His own parents were into 1940s swing bands and he says he ‘‘probably grew up listening to a lot of that.’’ They liked the Great American Song book as well as swing. In his early career Booth played with two versions of the Glenn Miller ghost bands beginning in France with the European Miller and in the UK with the Ray McVay version. Booth’s more recent work this last decade with legendary global rock and blues icons is legion and includes not only Eric Clapton but also Van Morrison — and the list is a long one.

Beyond jazz over the last 12 months he has performed with music theatre legend show singer Elaine Paige in New Zealand and then his long time gig inside the Steve Winwood band continued in tour dates opening for Steely Dan who in the past he has also played with. Most recently he was heard by many thousands playing baritone saxophone for The Eagles at Wembley Stadium.

On his own projects Paul last year played the Margate Jazz Festival not far from home in Kent with the world music big band Bansangu Orchestra which he had formed with Kevin Robinson of Jazz Jamaica renown and guitarist Giorgio Serci. Bansangu will be back in action playing the 606 club in London on 15 September and before that (tomorrow) on Tuesday 27 August Booth plays with his Travel Sketches band at Pizza Express Jazz Club in London launching the album.

Interview by Stephen Graham

James Carter has become a 21st century Paul Gonsalves, not in playing style at all, in the tradition of making an impact in Newport at the festival, where the modern worldwide jazz festival movement was spawned, nurtured, codified and sustained by George Wein in the 1950s in the beginnings of a cultural phenomenon that has assisted the growth of jazz the world over. 

Carter’s Blue Note debut, the track above drawn from his Organ Trio album, is also marlbank track of the day, week, and easily a contender for track of the year. The way Gerald Gibbs on the B3 slides around the 1min 20sec mark into the Crépuscule theme which is very like (predating) the melody of ‘Wave’ and then how Carter responds high up is remarkable.

The Alexander White groove taps New Orleans — to be specific the feel uncannily of the John Boudreaux sound that you hear towards six minutes in stripped of congas if you imagine on Dr John Gris Gris track ‘I Walk On Guilded Splinters

While half a symphony in length ‘Mélodie au Crépuscule’ alone is micro to macro in every way and demonstrates how a tiny unit can achieve the scale of a 100-piece orchestra in terms of artistic impact as jazz bands prove day in day out. As for Django Reinhardt listen to the Django 1946 “ur” version first and then play Carter immediately after and I guarantee that you will be astonished by how vivid he sounds in a feat of recomposition.

This is the music that Carter emerged from in his project documented live and on record already in many ways made radical instead of by revolution instead in syncretic diasporic universal musical evolution made possible by ferocious command of his instrument and what he wants to do with it in a small group setting. Want to know where and how jazz lives in the moment on a stage in front of people? Look no further than on Live From Newport Jazz which is proved to be history in the making. 

 Stephen Graham

To be released on 31 August

“Traditional music from Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Armenia’’ does not really indicate how much of an art music this is nor does it suggest that the traditional here can be timeless and to an extent modern too in the same way that Greek drama continues to have relevance for actors, dramatists and audiences.

Singer Maria Farantouri projects grandeur and tragedy in equal measure to a striking humanity. She achieves profundity throughout. The compositions are by saz player Cihan Türkoğlu, and material spans huge terrain via Sephardic song of exile to a setting of Heraclitus, wedding music, and much else.

Anja Lechner in the five-piece instrumental ensemble is at the centre of the formal sound. She is one of the world’s finest cellists and ECM have been a big champion of her work over many years and proves how much she is a major artist although here in the democratic setting of a group is quite anonymous.

Recorded in a studio in Athens produced by Manfred Eicher if you like traditional music then you will enjoy this. If you do not you will not. An excellent album where traditional music fits into an ocean of sound these days is a big subject and nothing here poses let along answers that question given that it is not at all about polemics, issues or style, more about humanity via a wide angle. An endangered species? Yes. However, records like Beyond the Borders protect and nurture, challenge and add new life part of why they signify and deliver so much.

Jazz Special —

Jazzism —

Jazz Rytmit —

Jazz magazine —

Jazzthing —

Musica jazz —

Jazz Japan —

Jazznytt —

Jazz Forum — 

Orkester Journalen —

Just under half of It’s Morning is online at the moment ahead of the latest from Led Bib which will be released at the end of September. These pre-order tracks are enough to signal an expansion in the group sound and the addition of vocals. Interesting that bassist Jim Barr of Get the Blessing/Portishead had a hand in some of the additional recording. All the tracks were recorded in the summer of 2018. The vocals of Sharron Fortnam and less so Jack Hues, from Wang Chung, are an acquired taste but the obvious question is are they acquirable and do they match and fuse with the essential Led Bib sound? You dear listener decide.

Full declaration I am a long time fan of Led Bib. However I would not claim to like every record they have made and I will suspend thinking about It’s Morning for a while even if what is available at the moment is quite a lot to gain a good idea of the new album. If you are new to the band, basically they play in a highly customised Ornette Coleman language borne out of a two pronged saxophone attack densely coloured by alto sax with a blues connotation deep down in the sound and a punk sensibility mainly exhibited by the understanding between bass and drums skewering obvious metre and generally playing full on loud and fairly dissonant. 

Go straight off to Sensible Shoes which remains a classic and then have a listen to the earlier Sizewell Tea which also was excellent. The band while a proper band in the sense that it is more than the sum of the individual parts is the vision primarily of drummer Mark Holub who is an excellent composer and the band are completely non conformist and remain even after their long time ago Mercury success outsiders, not self consciously so, but just that is what their music is about. Their appeal is that it is attractive to outsiders everywhere. They are not in it for the bantz, or the pose, the heritage nostalgia or simple gigging... even to their most hostile critics the cacophony. Again I reiterate free-jazz in its classic sense is not always better live than on record although some supporters of the style claim that it is. It can be. However bands like Led Bib know how to make studio sounds vivid more than most. It’s Morning is ambitious and does not play safe. Their latest artistic departure is to be welcomed if only for that fact whether or not it actually succeeds artistically in the end. SG

Pigfoot Shuffle

A studio affair recorded in 2017 not a patch on 21st Century Trad, the line-up has changed a bit and as with Sons of Kemet I miss the presence of Oren Marshall even if reedist James Allsopp, doubling baritone saxophone and bass clarinet (pity that his name is misspelt in the liner caption) now a fixture in Pigfoot, is a fine player and he certainly is excelling particularly on ‘Black Dog’. The change means that the texture of the band is different but not massively so. 

The quartet look on their material through a wide angled lens in terms of repertoire spanning popular song (the Bacharach selections), opera (‘Dance of the Seven Veils’) and rock (the cheesy ‘Heartbreak Hotel’) plus a taste of soul (Curtis Mayfield) and more.

The results are a party mix and on some tracks depending on whether you like the tune or not you can switch off more so than on the much more amusing and anarchic live predecessor. Perhaps the live environment on a recording actually suits the band better than the studio, I can’t quite put my finger on why it lacks something.

Saving grace? Yes: ‘Black Dog’ rocks, Clarvis putting the boot in big time and Liam Noble is zanier than ever on that track while Chris Batchelor goes berserk in a riot of momentum. Stephen Graham 

Pigfoot play the Vortex, London on 7 September

Playing John Williams

An album where the idea and theme, playing quality and execution are all strong — piano solo interpretations of the instantly familiar work of film composer John Williams — and yet an album that ultimately fails to inspire.

Most engrossing when David Helbock who has in the past interpreted such classic material as within the scope of the music of Dave Brubeck and Joe Zawinul manages to steer himself away from the concise themes whether they are part of the world of ET, Star Wars or Harry Potter, and opens up in the freer passages.

It makes me think instantly about the multiple extra challenges such an exercise throws up for Helbock: will improvisation become ornamentation (and that is clearly Helbock’s solution) or instead become a deconstruction? 

Helbock has to grapple with the lush nature of how most of this music first appeared in fully orchestrated form and yet he has to make the themes live in his own terms.

Helbock had to compromise clearly in his thinking. As a result the power of the compositions themselves shrink the performance down to size in terms of impact. Recorded in Berlin last year it all feels a little too safe. Perhaps solo piano in itself cannot do justice to the conceptual challenges the Williams body of work commands.
Stephen Graham    


As previously reported in April in what is one of their highest profile signings to date London jazz indie label Whirlwind have signed singer Natacha Atlas and will release her album Strange Days in the autumn. Release date is now confirmed as 9 September. Listen to the call and response of lead-off track, ‘Maktoub’.    

Atlas over the years has worked with Transglobal Underground, Peter Gabriel, Nitin Sawhney, Nigel Kennedy, Indigo Girls, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Ibrahim Maalouf. Strange Days Whirlwind describe as “A darkly dystopian Arabic-infused jazz fantasy.”

It is a departure for Whirlwind whose releases tend to gravitate towards acoustic hard bop, jazz-rock, Cool School and mainstream flavours and a sign of the growing reach of the label which is run by bassist Michael Janisch beyond its core constituency.

Atlas on her Facebook page provides more details, crediting violinist, composer, arranger Samy Bishai as her producer, co-composer and arranger on the album and indicating that her personnel on it includes pianist Alcyona Mick, Andy Hamill, Asaf Sirkis, Hayden Powell, Robinson Khoury, Laurie Lowe and Idris Rahman among others.

Full personnel is now available. The main additional talking point is the presence of guest soul singer superstar Joss Stone on the track ‘Words of a King’. 

‘Life’ — from the upcoming Matthew Halsall Gondwana triple album, Oneness.

Look for Common Practice from the Ethan Iverson Quartet with Tom Harrell. 

The full personnel is: Ethan Iverson, piano; Tom Harrell, trumpet; Ben Street, double bass; Eric McPherson, drums. A live in the Vanguard album — the Village Vanguard is generally reckoned to be the greatest jazz club in the world for live jazz recordings.

Track titles include George Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love’, taken very slowly, ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams,’ Denzil Best’s ‘Wee’ + a brace of Iverson originals. 

Iverson writing on his blog Do the Math in 2016 noted: “When I was in high school I went every summer to the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp in Elmhurst, Illinois. The very first time I was placed in David Baker’s combo. 

“David Baker was a thrilling personality. He had hung out and played with major jazz figures, and we loved hearing him tell stories about the masters from the vantage point of being a casual friend.  

“One day that week Baker came in and began singing Denzil Best’s ‘Wee’ to us. No chart: We had to learn it by ear, and deal. The next day he made us play Lee Morgan’s ‘Ceora’ in all twelve keys.

“Baker was also a serious composer. I had yet to become immersed in classical music, but Baker gave me a book that was a strong indication that I should investigate more 20th-century composition.” 

This is really quite something. A stellar trio who know each other’s moves instinctively: the sound bubbling up from the drums: Ali Jackson you may know from his work at the kit within the Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra sound; star pianist Aaron Goldberg who habitually thrives in a trio situation; and bassist Omer Avital whose own work as a leader is also worth checking out. The highly accurately exclamatory monikered, for once, Yes! Trio are on the French indie jazz label Jazz&People roster: look for Groove du jour (****) on 11 October. Seriously swinging but not at all indulgent or tired the trio keep it interesting and you feel the narration in the way they handle each tune. 

Above a live version of ‘Escalier,’ the Ali Jackson composition that opens Groove du Jour.

The album has deftly conceived and executed compositions by all three elegant players who each contribute pieces plus look drilling down for a version of Jackie McLean’s ‘Dr Jackle’ and a treatment of the Sammy Fain-Irving Kahal standard ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’. While it is not out yet marlbank had a few listens right through earlier today: Groove de la semaine — more like. Check the trailer, top and get acquainted with these sounds when you can come release time.  

Waiting Game is new from drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science this autumn. Actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner and hip-hop artist Rapsody are among the personnel while Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu Jamal samples + an improvised instrumental suite also figure. Look for the album in November. 

At the Limerick Jazz Festival in the autumn the Sarah Gillespie quintet, Ant Law quartet, Beats & Pieces, the Darius Brubeck quartet — appearing ahead of Live in Poland — and the pulsating Septeto Internacional are all in the line-up. Festival director drummer John Daly sets the scene  

Limerick Jazz Festival is now in its 8th year and continues to celebrate live jazz in some of the city’s most atmospheric and vibrant venues. It is about bringing something new and different that doesn’t sound like rock, traditional or classical music. Limerick has a very long and varied history when it comes to music and this jazz festival is a very welcome addition adding a new dimension to the sounds of top class music by top class artists.

Every year is a challenge and this year is no different when it comes to booking the acts for our upcoming festival. The thinking is always what the audience will enjoy, and this year we deliberately chose to have two acts fronted by really great female artists in the guise of Sarah Gillespie, pictured, from the UK and Gemma Sugrue, video top, from Cork. This we are really excited about and we feel this will attract newer audiences, which is always our goal.

Limerick audiences warm to acts that can create a vibe in a short space of time by knowing how to communicate with their listeners. We have been fortunate in our choices over the years in whom we have brought to Limerick. Acts like Atchere from the Canary Islands for example; and this year’s Septeto Internacional with their great Afro-Caribbean rhythms are always guaranteed to get hands clapping and feet tapping. Another great favourite were the funky sounds of bands such as the James Taylor Quartet — and this year we have Beats & Pieces.

Above all Limerick Jazz Festival is about creating something that brings life to the city in the form of music that can reach diverse audiences and also educate in the form of free masterclasses and workshops held over the weekend for those who want to learn what this great music can bring. Listening and watching great artists perform is such an amazing way to appreciate the skill and technique they have honed over many years of playing at such a high level.

The Limerick Jazz Festival runs from 26-29 September. See the festival website for further details.


Listen just appearing online... to Thom Yorke... and Wynton Marsalis

A Yorke collaboration with director Edward Norton on the soundtrack to Motherless Brooklyn, based on a Jonathan Lethem novel: ‘Daily Battles’ has Yorke singing achingly, beautifully, and playing tack piano, while Flea from Atoms for Peace is on bass and trumpet [top audio].

The score includes a languorous, highly engaging, brush stroked “harmon” muted close mic’ed-led Wynton Marsalis mournful instrumental arrangement for jazz group of Yorke’s composition [above audio].

Pulled By Magnets Invite Them In

exclusive Seb Rochford’s new band the trio Pulled by Magnets who play the EFG London Jazz Festival this autumn are issuing a limited edition 7” single titled Invite Them In. On the b side there is an alternate version of the piece played by guest Kit Downes on organ. Invite Them In will be issued by German indie Tak:Til in November. “The 7” is still in production,” says Silvij Skok from the label. A Pulled by Magnets album is to follow in February 2020.

Jean Toussaint

Among upcoming releases look out for a new release from Jean Toussaint. David Lyttle of Lyte records confirms a plan in an email: “I will be releasing Jean Toussaint’s next album later in the year.” 

Lyte Records signed saxophonist Jean Toussaint back in 2013 and released his first record as a leader since 2010's Live in Paris and London in February 2014. 

Toussaint’s first album for Lyte was Tate Song, the title of the album took its name from Jean’s son, a Woody Guthrie and Townes Van Zandt-influenced folk-blues singer and guitarist.

The St Thomas born London based Toussaint made his name with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1980s appearing on such records as New York Scene and Blue Night, and as a leader Toussaint’s own albums include The Street Above the Underground, which won the prestigious best album category at the first BBC Jazz Awards. 

Toussaint is also a leading jazz educator and the Berklee educated player has taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at Trinity Laban in London, and in Ireland on faculty at the Sligo Jazz Project. 

Jean Toussaint, above. Facebook pic.

Wednesday 25 September 

Bands from... Poland, Spain and Great Britain... 

Thursday 26 September

... Northern Ireland, Finland and Austria...  

Friday 27 September
... Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands...

Saturday 28 September
... Norway, France and Belgium
• For full details see the Bimhuis website  

Sheffield logo

Lots of new bands flicker on the Sheffield scene activity radar coming up including appearances at the Lescar by Elegies, Rafe’s Dilemma and relative veterans Sloth Racket. Bobtail appear later in the series, as do Forj and towards the end of September Archipelago x J Frisco. Full details via the Jazz at the Lescar website.