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Paul Booth: No Looking Back

John Barron By

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As a sideman, British saxophonist Paul Booth has quite an impressive résumé. Since graduating with honors from London's Royal Academy of Music, the in-demand Booth has performed with the likes of Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and the touring company of Riverdance. On No Looking Back, Booth takes on a lead role with strength and conviction, as a first-rate soloist and inventive composer.

Booth's tenor saxophone dances gracefully around the frenetically paced title track. The tune's jagged rhythmic structure—moving back and forth from odd-metered funk to swing—creates an enticing foundation where improvised ideas easily flourish. Booth's sound is forceful and focused, reminiscent of Michael Brecker's inspired edginess. Like Brecker, Booth has overwhelming technical facility. He is able to manipulate the entire range of his horn, mixing lyrical, sometimes angular phrasing with rapid-fire runs. His solos on the pseudo-samba "Andorra, the funky "Penguin Dance and the Duke Ellington ballad "Come Sunday —performed unaccompanied—stand out as exceptionally vibrant.

The disc's other main soloist is guitarist Stuart McCallum, who tears through Charles Mingus' "Better Git It in Your Soul and Booth's swinging "Cross Channel. The clean-toned guitarist has a playful approach, at once soulful and experimental. Pianist Mike Gorman plays a mainly unselfish role as sympathetic accompanist and interpreter of Booth's music. When Gorman is given the opportunity to shine, however, he proves to be a dynamic improviser. His solo on "Cross Channel is a blistering, chops-heavy romp. Bassist Phil Donkin and drummer Dave Smith add solid, steadfast support.

As an instrumentalist and composer, Booth has a wide-ranging scope. The music on No Looking Back is well-conceived, astonishingly contemporary and, as the title suggests, forward-looking.


Track Listing: No Looking Back; Andorra; Both Sides Now; Penguin Dance; Come Sunday; Better Git It in Your Soul; Interlude; Cross Channel; Such is Life

Personnel: Paul Booth: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (9), alto flute, (1, 7, 8) bass clarinet (1, 7), melodica (7), piano (7); Mike Gorman: piano; Phil Donkin: bass; Dave Smith: drums; Stuart McCallum: guitar.

Title: No Looking Back | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Basho Records

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