Saturday 18th February 2018
The Alphabetti Theatre was sardine-can full – standing room only. They couldn’t have had a bigger audience if it had been the RSC doing Hamlet with Sir Kenneth Branagh as the Prince of Denmark.
Substitute SSBB for RSC, Paul Booth for Sir Kenneth and As You Like it for Hamlet and the scene is set. This was certainly As WE Like it and the Shakespearean analogy was complete with the gig being promoted by the Jazz Coop whose regular HQ is The Globe.
ACT ONE. SCENE ONE.
Mexicali Nose. The Buddy Rich arrangement featured Paul Gowland who reminded us that there was more than one ace tenorman in the room tonight.
My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Alice Grace in good voice despite being slightly under-amplified. Steve Summers on alto.
Song for AEG. Time for the featured artist, Paul Booth, to take centre stage (actually stage left) and he didn’t disappoint on this, a composition by Tom Garling. Great tenor sound with hints of Hank Mobley and early Coltrane. Booth doesn’t charge in but paces himself gradually building the tension and culminating with a flurry of notes encompassing the whole natural range of the instrument and beyond into the stratospheric world of harmonics. And this was just the beginning!
Dindi. The Jobim tune rearranged to suit the big band setting – I think Paul said it was originally a string arrangement.
Song for my Father. Apart from Booth who was now firing on all cylinders Michael Lamb and Graham Don made telling contributions to the Horace Silver tune.
Ozone Friendly. A piece, bandleader Lamb informed us, that he ‘borrowed’ from trumpet player Bruce Adams after he’d appeared with the band last year. It had some blistering flugel from the leader and tasty keyboard work from Don.
Too Darn Hot. Like Alice, F’reez also had sound problems although what we did hear sounded good.
I’m Just a Shy Guy. Booth joined F’reez for this one and blew some lyrical tenor. There was also a beautifully executed sax passage by the section.
Bounce House. A quirky new addition to the pad that must have been a nightmare to read at first rehearsal! However, come showtime and they had it nailed.
Cross Channel. A Booth original introduced informatively and amusingly. Apart from being a great sax player he also has an engaging personality. Both qualities were well to the fore here.
Planet Thanet. The title refers to his current abode in Kent, several hundred miles from his Co. Durham roots. Soprano on this one. Again a masterclass in playing. Why Paul Booth isn’t constantly topping the jazz polls is a mystery and an injustice. Perhaps it’s because he’s usually touring the world with Stevie Winwood and making money as opposed to playing jazz clubs and winning votes!
Time to adjourn to the bar, compare notes and grab a posed photo of Alice, Michael and Paul.
ACT TWO: SCENE ONE
Georgia on my Mind. A surprise opener that soon morphed from a hackneyed standard into a melodic gem with great work not only by our tenor star but also guitarist Pawel J.
Lush Life. Alice interprets the Strayhorn classic beautifully, not least because the sound has improved. Graham Don tinkles the ivories impressively and our guest once more displays his lyricism. Girl From Ipanema. A longtime favourite of Paul Booth who goes into Getzian mode. Michael Lamb on flugel.
Calm Now. A PB original that brings Matthew Forster into the reed section on bass clarinet. Solos from guitar and Pete Tanton on flugel.
Is You is or is You Ain’t my Baby? F’reez asks the question, Lamb replies with a plunger solo and Summers blows licker stick.
It’s Alright With me. It was alright with Mr PB too who came in after the vocal with a solo that was as near perfection as it was possible to be.
This is Not 4 U. The end was drawing nigh and what better than a flagwaver featuring all the saxes bar baritone. Robinson and Summers said it for the altos, Gowland and Toms let Booth know he wasn’t the only tenor player in the house. Booth had to stretch out on this one. The ensuing sax chorus with all six saxes playing was reminiscent of the old Clarke-Boland band that JC recently mentioned.
Metro time was drawing near so I had to position myself near the door ready for a sharp exit and, in doing so, missed the title of what many, myself included, considered the best number of the night.*
Inspired, said Paul, from when he toured with River Dance, the piece was a mix of various world elements and time changes and featured him, not only on soprano but also on Irish whistle. This was as wild a finale as one could imagine and set the seal on what had been a phenomenal evening.
I stayed to the very last bar and still caught the last but one Metro.
A case of All’s Well That Ends Well. – Lance Liddle, Be Bop Spoken Here