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Recital Room, City Halls. Sunday 6th December 2009

Sunday’s concert by the Paul Booth Quintet with Ingrid Jensen was the first of a UK tour. Unfortunately it showed at times.

I don’t know when Jensen arrived in the UK, but I got the strong impression that she was still jet-lagged. She looked tired, and generally gave an impression of being ill at ease, spending a lot of time fiddling with the valves of her trumpet when she wasn’t playing. In her one announcement to the audience (Paul Booth did the rest of them) she admitted that she wasn’t sure which time zone she was in. Fortunately it didn’t hamper her playing too much – or if it did, she must be superb on a good night – but something of her lack of ease came across in the performance as a whole. Musically she was fine, though, having a lovely warm rich tone, particularly when playing flügelhorn. Much of her playing was gentle and lyrical, but she handled the uptempo extrovert stuff just as convincingly when the music demanded it.

The band as a whole were very good, even if lacking the sense of spontaneous interaction which made the recent appearances here by Empirical and Mark McKnight’s group so enjoyable. It all seemed a wee bit stiff and tentative, particularly early on, with quite a few obvious hand signals to cue people in.

Pianist Phil Peskett really impressed me: he didn’t do much in the way of soloing until late in the first set, but once he did stretch out he communicated with a voice of his own. Phil Robson on guitar was good but possibly under-used. I thought the highlight of his performance was the passage towards the end of the evening where he played clipped, almost kalimba-like, rhythm guitar behind one of the horn soloists. Paul Booth himself mainly played tenor, with the occasional outing on soprano. He also wrote all the material, with the exception of Cole Porter’s “I Love You”, and an excellent ballad, “Yew”, by Ingrid Jensen’s saxophonist sister Christine. Michael Janisch and Dave Smith did a fine job on bass and drums.

I hope this doesn’t come across as too negative a review. Despite my impression that they weren’t quite firing on all cylinders, the band played a lot of fine music, and I discovered a pianist and drummer I was unfamiliar with but whose work I will look out for in future. Overall I enjoyed the concert, but couldn’t shake off the frustrating suspicion that this group will be better later in their tour than they were in Glasgow.

Footnotes
  1. They seem to have got over their teething troubles by the time they got to Coventry, judging by the review at The Jazz Breakfast.
  2. John Fordham reviewed their album Pathways in the Guardian.
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