Live review

REVIEW: Paul Booth’s Bansangu Orchestra at Ronnie Scott’s

Bansangu Orchestra stretching across the club
Photo credit: Steven Cropper / Transient Life

Bansangu Orchestra
(Ronnie Scott’s, 8 October 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

In a sense, the band’s name says it all. “Ban-san-gu” (band sounds good) is apparently the lapidary formula which Brazilian percussion legend Airto Moreira uses to describe the way a band sounds when everyone in it is working well together. And, on Monday night in Ronnie’s this band, with every member (listed below) playing his or her heart out, sounded very good indeed.

And forget any thought that these elite players who have spent their thousands of hours in studios might be jaded, might have their ways of coasting, maybe even of disengaging. The urgency of the whole enterprise and the commitment to it, were there to be heard, and to be seen too: keeping an eye on the facial expression of drummer Rod Youngs was enough to get a sense throughout the evening that every intervention, every note was of vital importance.

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Rod Youngs (centre) with Paul Booth (front right) and Laurence Cottle
and Kevin Robinson
Photo credit: Steven Cropper / Transient Life

This really is an elite band. The expression “if you want something done, ask a busy person” comes to mind. These are the London players (I’m tempted to say ‘metropolitan elite’) who are permanently in demand, and the quality they bring to everything they do is palpable. There were a couple of core members on tour in North America: bassist Davide Mantovani (currently with Lisa Stansfield) and Giorgio Serci (currently with Basia), but their replacements were also top-drawer players who slotted in easily in this company. On bass Laurence Cottle brought lively lines, perfect balance, the occasional finger-popping solo, and also a sassy arrangement of Tower of Power’s What is Hip featuring the excellent Claire Martin, while on guitar Guille Hill had solo features where the sheer presence of his sound and his sense of drama and narrative instantly drew the whole audience in.

Oli Rockberger‘s characterful Randy Newman-ish songs had the benefit of great arrangements by the presiding genius and band director Paul Booth. A particular joy was this band’s saxophone section in which only players of quite astonishing ability get the call.

In her review of the band’s CD, LJN writer Jane Mann referred to a “driving, joyous quality”, and that was very much in evidence on Monday night. A highlight was Curralau Cool by Alex Wilson, who had come over from Switzerland especially for this gig. As ever he combined poetry and beauty of sound with how-many-hands-has-he-got virtuosity. The arrangements are wonderfully characterful. Kevin Robinson’s reggae-inspired Walk On By is a gem.

Alex Wilson
Photo credit: Steven Cropper / Transient Life

The themes of elite playing quality and busy people were also there in the support band. Pianist Rob Barron (who has another trio album on the way, I was told) played with two stalwarts from the John Wilson Orchestra, bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Matt Skelton. The three brought languor and lyricism to Johnny Mandel’s A Time for Love, and the perfect contrast of velocity and joy to Mike LeDonne’s Emergence, a contrafact on Love for Sale.

This was an evening to be reminded what astonishing quality and bench-strength there is among the players in London. We really don’t celebrate it enough.


Trumpets: Ryan Quigley, Kevin Robinson, Shanti Paul Jayasinha, Andy Greenwood
Trombones: Trevor Mires, Robbie Harvey, Martin Gladdish, Richard Henry
Saxophones: Sammy Mayne, Graeme Blevins, Julian Siegel, Gemma Moore, Paul Booth
Piano: Alex Wilson
Guitar: Guille Hill
Bass: Laurence Cottle
Percussion: Satin Singh
Drums: Rod Youngs

Oli Rockberger (vocals/ piano)
Claire Martin (vocals)


Cross Channel (Paul Booth)

The Long Road (Shanti Paul Jayasinha)

My Old Life (Oli Rockberger arr Paul Booth)

Georgia On My Mind (arr Paul booth – with guest Claire Martin)

Walk On By (arr Kevin Robinson – with guest Claire Martin )

Pipe Dream (Paul Booth)

The Reason (Trevor Mires)

Curralau Cool (Alex Wilson)

Queen Of Evasion (Oli Rockberger arr Paul Booth)

There Was A Time (Paul Booth/Victoria Newton)

What is Hip (arr Laurence Cottle)

Light my fire (Kevin Robinson)

Categories: Live review

4 replies »

  1. I was at the table just in front of saxes and it was WAOUHHHH ! ! !

    Really an EXCELLENT band with wonderful and expressive drummer 😉

    La Réunion

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