Courtney Pine jazzes up Alban Arena audience

PUBLISHED: 10:16 28 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:56 06 May 2010

PICTURE if you will a 45-year-old jazz saxophone player from Harrow with a CBE to his name crowd surfing the audience at the Alban Arena. Sound unlikely? Well that s exactly what happened on Friday night when Courtney Pine performed the latest leg of his

PICTURE if you will a 45-year-old jazz saxophone player from Harrow with a CBE to his name crowd surfing the audience at the Alban Arena.

Sound unlikely? Well that's exactly what happened on Friday night when Courtney Pine performed the latest leg of his Transition in Tradition tour.

The evening started with the focus on Cuban violinist Omar Puente, who used his electric violin to great effect in a set which spanned avant-garde jazz to traditional Cuban dance rhythms and songs.

Then Puente and the rest of the band took to the stage again, this time supporting Pine. The show began with a straight run through of Pine's latest album, Transition in Tradition. It is subtitled 'Un homage a Sidney Bechet' and so has a definite New Orleans feel to it but, this being Pine, there are numerous other influences thrown into the melting pot.

From the opening number, Haiti, the audience were enthralled as Pine produced increasingly implausible sounds from his giant bass clarinet. Swapping to alto sax and flute throughout the set he showed his amazing musicianship ably supported by the band who shone in their own solo spots, most notably Zoe Rahman on piano and the incredible Anglo-Dominican guitarist Cameron Pierre.

The mix of styles was mesmerising as New Orleans boogie-woogie morphed into free-form jazz, latin rhythms and Reggae beats (you try stressing the offbeat when you're playing in 65/37 time...).

There were musical jokes and references aplenty before things started to get really silly. Michael Jackson's legacy made an appearance before the grand climax of the show - which involved the audience jumping up and down on the spot repeatedly, fun for the younger members but a bit trickier for the more mature.

I first saw Pine in 1986 when he made his breakthrough and at the time he was an amazingly talented but rather serious young man. The years have clearly mellowed him and now his shows consist of jazz that while still incredibly complex and technically impressive, are fundamentally meant to be fun. The audience on Friday night and the musicians themselves certainly had plenty of fun on Friday.

JIM BLUCK


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