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Courtney Pine –The Jazz Warrior

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It was with some reluctance that I embarked on my first Jazz experience a few years back. I admit to being virtually dragged into the venue while in the company of a fellow musician who persuaded me to open my ears to the sound of Jazz at a popular London Festival.

Within moments of arrival I was looking for the exit. It seemed to me that each musician was not only playing a different song at a different tempo but in some cases even a different key. I vowed never to put myself through such torture ever again.

Fast forward to last week I find myself in the company of Jazz legend Courtney Pine and his rather handsome looking band. Pine, still fresh faced and as enthusiastic as ever retains his youthful charismatic charm and enchants his Jazz fans who today seem to be from all age groups and backgrounds. I cast my mind back to the late 80s and remember some of his music in my youth when the charts were dominated with electro beats and the trend was the artificial sounds of the synth. Yet Pine has survived as a musician through many changes both musically and politically, certainly not what we envisage as the typical Jazz artist but rather an experimenter and a trailblazer. Today he is recognized as a multi -instrumentalist known not only for his excellent sax playing (in fact it was the clarinet he first learned during his schooldays) but also as a brilliant and talented flute, bass clarinet and keyboard player. Despite being undeniably a master of his craft for over a generation here stands a youthful and vibrant performer who has the audience on their feet clapping and dancing with enthusiasm within moments. Indeed I find myself tapping my own feet and swinging my hips before long-and smiling, yes smiling, with the sheer pleasure of the moment. How was it that Courtney was able to turn my ears on to Jazz I wonder?

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Where did Pines career take off? Back in 1987 he launched his debut album entitled 'JOURNEY TO THE URGE WITHIN' the first serious jazz album ever to make the British Top 40 which went silver, such success ensured Pine became the inspiration for many other young British Jazz musicians. The following year his second album DESTINYS SONG made it into the top 40 yet again and Pine gained recognition across the water in the US establishing himself as a true Jazz artist. By the mid nineties he was truly an international hit having performed at Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday party, recorded in Jamaica, US and UK and developing his own style of Jazz to embody all types of African and West Indian music and master of his craft.

I could go on to state his many other achievements as Presenter and Broadcaster , Composer and Charity worker, I could speak of his many awards and accolades-not least his OBE and recently awarded CBE but I wont. I will leave that to the brilliantly written biography on his official site.

What is even more striking about Courtney Pine is his humility and genuine warmth. He enraptures the audience with his wit and charm and serenades them with his performance generously giving his all with every brilliant composition. Pine has the ability to make Jazz appealing to all ears, (even an untrained Philistines like myself) making familiar pop tracks from Pop icons Michael Jackson and Bob Marley into extravaganzas and interlacing with more traditional Jazz. There is a wonderful tribute to the late great Johnny Dankworth with a spectacular finale complemented by his brilliantly talented band. He also touches on the political changes of recent years and honours the likes of Mandela and Obama. In Courtney’s own words when remarking on current political changes “We are living in exciting times” and indeed we are.

So whether you are a Philistine like me or a hard core Jazz fanatic catch Courtney on his latest tour and be amazed-you never know you may, like me, be glad you did.

© Words – Tracey Wilmot/ZANI

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