Live review

Bansangu Orchestra at the Spice of Life (EFG LJF 2021)

Bansangu Orchestra

(Spice of Life. 21 November 2021. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Bansangu Orchestra. Photo courtesy of Martin Hummel

Bansangu, I hear you ask? As Paul Booth who runs Bansangu Orchestra has explained: “The band’s name comes from the compliment Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira would pay his band in English: ‘Ban San Goo’ meaning ‘Band Sounds Good!’”

This was a big band bringing absolutely huge energy to a very tight space. And also that edge-of-the-seat /seat-of-the-pants uncertainty and excitement which London big bands have as their normal way of life; it probably does exist elsewhere, but not at this level of intensity and immediacy. The friendly banter. The ninja-quality sight-reading. It is just the way things are here: one player had been brought in at just a few hours’ notice. There had been only time in the single short rehearsal to go through the music for one of the two sets so the rest of the gig was being sight-read…and the copies one chart they played had been printed in the wrong key, so the trumpets and most of the saxophones needed to transpose the parts at sight…

Given that background, the results, unanimity and power of this band are astonishing. A couple of stand-out moments came in pieces that have recently been commissioned from Paul Booth by the Scottish NYOS organisation to put their youth band through its paces. Both are in honour of pianists who have recently passed away: the first of them “Night Streets” by Chick Corea brought a coruscating high trumpet solo from Ryan Quigley, followed by one played as if his very life depended on him not holding back from trombonist Alastair White. The second of this pair was Lyle Mays’ “Close To Home” which brought the magic and sensitivity we have come to expect as normal from Ross Stanley, and then whole band vocals, which brought a moment of humour I would rather not spoil in case they do it again. Either or both of these incredibly lively and vivid and colourful charts should be lapped up by a big band, say, in Cologne, Hamburg, Stuttgart or Frankfurt.

Some of the loudest moments came in Davide Mantovani’s compositions. The Ferrara-born bassist writes complex music, but he always wants it to be played out, publicly, unanimously, as an expression and affirmation of belief. And this band plays it from the heart and with the defiant swagger it needs. Glorious.


Trumpets : Shanti Paul Jayasinha, Ryan Quigley, Kevin Robinson, Reuben Fowler

Trombones Trevor Mires, Alastair White, Paul Dunlea, Sarah Williams

Saxes: Sam Mayne, Jason Yarde, Paul Booth, Tom Smith, Gemma Moore

Piano: Ross Stanley

Guitar: Giorgio Serci

Bass: Davide Mantovani

Drums: Tristan Banks

Percussion: Satin Singh


It Takes Three to Samba (Giorgio Serci)

The Choice is Yours (D Mantovani)

Night Streets (Corea Arr. Paul Booth)

Lovers Thief

Rock Pop (D. Mantovani)


Sandnga (Jayasinha)

Awakening ( P Booth)

The Reason (Trevor Mires)

Close To Home (Lyle Mays Arr. Paul Booth)

Light My Fire (The Doors Arr. Kevin Robinson)

LINKS: Bansangu Orchestra Website

Album review by Jane Mann

Categories: Live review

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