Courtney Pine is one of the Worlds leading Jazz Musicians.
No one better embodies the dramatic transformation in the British Jazz scene over the past few years than Courtney Pine. The saxophonist heads a new generation of exciting and innovative musicians who have chosen to turn their talents to the demanding requirements of jazz music, in all its shapes and forms.
Pine’s emergence, and his wake, a number of other young black musicians is especially heartening.
With one or two exceptions, most notably the late Joe Harriott and trumpeter Dizzy Reece, British Jazz had been largely the province of white players, while black musicians tended to turn to the reggae, funk and soul fields. Pine reversed that trend, moving away from the instrumental limitations of reggae
He embarked on; a rigorous regime of practice which gave Pine the essential technical facility to continue in pursuit of his chosen music.
“As that time I didn’t know what improvising entailed” he recalls. “I knew nothing at all about chord substitutions, I just knew how to play the instrument and the C sharp major scale, and that was it.
It took Pine no time at all to make his mark on the London scene, and Island Records was quick to recognise the potential. Much of the astonishing media focus which Pine enjoyed as the prelude to the release of his debut album, Journey to the Urge Within, was motivated by the novelty appeal of a personable, sharply-dressed young black jazzman, rather than a real commitment to the music itself, none of that really superficial treatment rubbed off on Courtney Pine himself. It served, however, to advance his career and also create new opportunities for a generation of young black players.
Pine was involved in the creation of the Abibi Jazz Arts organisation in London, a focus for the advancement of, in Courtney’s worlds, “Afro-Classical music”. Pine, through Abibi, was a prime mover in the creation of the Jazz Warriors, an all-black big band. The warriors made their recording debut with Out of many, one people on Antilles in 1987. They became a constantly evolving training ground, in the spirit its founders intended. Pine’s Journey to the Urge Within was the first serious jazz album eve to make the British Top 40, notching up sales to qualify for a silver disc. Destiny’s song released in January 1988 was produced by Delfeayo Marsalis. This album found Pine in his high energy mode, drawing directly on his studies of American music but still flavoured with the essence of the Caribbean roots he absorbed in his London upbringing. Destiny’s song emulated its predecessor by making the British top 40; it also cracked the American jazz charts, establishing the start of Pine’s international reputation.
The saxophonist has never been content to rest on his achievements, but has continually explored different tangents of the spreading jazz tree. The investigation of the Afro-Classical tradition continued on his subsequent album release, The vision’s tale issued in November 1989, in which the saxophonist interpreted the work of early giants like Ellington, Mercer and Carmichael as well as directing a nod toward Sonny Rollins.
In 1993 Pine recorded To the Eyes of Creation, an album with a mixture of sounds, incorporating jazz, African, Indian and West Indian influence, which chart his continuing development of his musical and personal life.