Sax player Paul stages sentimental journey

Musician Paul Booth is preparing for a nostalgic return "home" 16 years after winning a junior talent competition.

Musician Paul Booth is preparing for a nostalgic return "home" 16 years after winning a junior talent competition.

Since he won the contest for 13-16 year olds at Sunderland Empire in 1991, the 30-year-old Durham-born musician's career as a tenor saxophonist has gone from strength to strength.

He was accepted on to a Royal Academy of Music jazz degree course at the age of just 15 and graduated with honours.

He has appeared on New York's Broadway with Riverdance, recently returned from Chicago with the same troupe, has recorded in Australia, played in Brazil, Bangkok and Beirut as well as across Western Europe, and is due to appear on stage next month with guitarist Eric Clapton. Paul is also a member of a band fronted by veteran rocker Steve Winwood, who enjoyed considerable success both as a solo artist and with The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith.

One critic described Paul as "very much a rising star" on the jazz circuit.

Yet he has never been back to Sunderland Empire since winning the Chesters Talent Contest as a 14-year-old.

All that is set to change next month, however, when the Riverdance tour comes to Wearside.

Paul is booked to play for three nights of the week long stint (May 30, 31 and June 1).

His father, Eric, 64, a musician from Crook, County Durham who now runs a successful jazz club in Ramsgate, Kent, with his wife Grace, said: "I still have the video footage of Paul winning the talent show at Sunderland Empire.

"He played Eye of The Tiger and Summertime, amongst other numbers."

Paul's career began as a teenager in the jazz clubs of the North-East, such as The Black Bull at Blaydon, and Joe Wilson's at New Bridge Street, Newcastle.

He said: "It is strange but true that I haven't been back to Sunderland Empire since that day. It will be nice to return with a successful show, and no doubt I will feel quite nostalgic.

"I think the competition back in 1991 was the first one I ever entered, and no doubt the audience was full of proud mums and dads!"

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