Courtney Pine is a living legend. The saxophone playing musician is one of the country’s most beloved and critically acclaimed jazz musicians in the UK, a position that he has held for over twenty years. Courtney recently released his 15th studio album entitled House of Legends, which is a marked departure from his trademark jazz sound, and more a foray into African and Caribbean musical genres like reggae, dub and calypso. I have to say – the album is brilliant. It’s the perfect antidote for these dark, blistery days, so get involved if, like me, you can’t deal with the cold. Or better still, head down to the Jazz Cafe on Friday 7th and Saturday the 8th February when Courtney is scheduled to play. We caught up with the talented multi-instrumentalist ahead of his dates.
Hi Courtney, you’re back performing at the world-famous Jazz Cafe venue next week, what can the audience expect?
I have always had a good time at this venue, it maybe because it’s in my home city, or it maybe because the audience are always up for it. I can only hope that the material, which is all based on my Caribbean heritage, is not too spicy for Camden Town! I am only joking, the Jazz Cafe is the only decent north London jazz club where you can find Caribbean jerk chicken on the menu. The audience can expect good vibes and music played with passion.
Speaking of your album, House of Legends, it definitely has a distinctly Caribbean sound, what inspired your exploration of these genres, it’s quite a departure from traditional jazz?
I am inspired by my parents and family who are from Jamaica, so their story of migration, survival and their past, has always fuelled my interest in exploring sound. In researching this project I discovered that Caribbean musicians like Jelly Roll Morton, Leslie Hutchinson and many others have contributed to the what many now see as ‘traditional jazz’ . So in performing the music from House of Legends I feel the same way that I feel when performing traditional jazz, I just dance a lot more.
What was the atmosphere like recording the album, the tracks have a great energy to them, it sounds like a live jam session?
Yes I agree, the recording sounds like a jam session because of the talents of the musicians involved in the making of the record. Even though they all read from a score sheet they were able to put a lot of their life experiences into the recording and this made for a very enjoyable recording session, with lots of conversations and ideas being explored.
What age were you when you first learned how to play an instrument, and did you know then that music would be an integral part of your life?
I was 9 when I was given a recorder and at the time I had no idea that this was going to be my life’s mission. I really enjoyed learning music at the time and as I got older I found out that I could express myself in music and not just play what somebody else wanted me to play. I researched, practiced extensively and eventually made it my life.
How can we encourage children and young teens to become interested in learning how to play instruments, especially when there are so many distractions around in the way of technology ?
Here in the UK it is so important to reflect through the arts the flavour of the nation, we are now more than any other time aware of many wide-ranging external cultures. In the past, the significance of those cultures could easily be hidden, but now due to modern technology for example the internet, mobile phones etc, true knowledge is being offered directly to the people and once again we are in a process of evolving. I believe that the youngsters will still play instruments, I meet them all the time, I have even produced and released records and welcome them on to my stage to perform. Many of these are now award-winning performers who contribute positively to our European music scene. I believe that the distractions of technology will be absorbed and used to benefit younger artists who are already using the internet to present their unreleased music.
For ticket information for Courtney Pine’s House of Legends tour, visit here