Lisa Buckby Reports on Courtney Pine at The Junction 2 February 5th 2013

Junction 2, The

Courtney Pine

“My name is Courtney Pine, and I love jazz”, announces the British-Jamaican saxophonist as he addresses the audience at The Junction. The winner of Jazzwise Album of the Year 2012 and proud owner of an OBE, Pine makes it clear in his stage presence that he loves to perform. He charms the audience into clapping from the first track before wittily making clicking noises back at the press photographers and dancing while rattling off impossibly fast licks on soprano sax.
His virtuosity is undeniable. His playing shimmers over the calypso beats which dominate most of the unrelenting two-hour set, which mostly comprises of tracks from that award winning album, House of Legends. The five piece band behind him offers a tight backing, and the inclusion of steel drum in the mix reinforces the Kingston carnival flavour of the music.
Before From the Father to the Son, Pine explains the tradition of passing stories and wisdom down the generations, before playing call and response lines with various members of the band, and then gets the audience involved again, this time encouraging them to sing phrases he plays back to him.
Then we witness the first appearance of the EWI (electronic wind instrument). At first, I wasn’t entirely won over by its sound, the pitch was too low in the mix, and the effect Pine was using was making something rattle, but then the timbre evolved into something like a sparkling tenor sax, moving through different effects, flute-like, guitar-like, and a little later, the bag-pipe voice made an appearance.

Cameron Pierre
Midway through the set we are treated to a track by guitarist, Cameron Pierre, which shows his incredible talent as a writer and player alike, before being whipped back into the party with some more steel drum playing, although by this point the carnival vibe was beginning to remind me of Sebastian the lobster singing Under the Sea. The track that followed was a slightly tacky instrumental version of Redemption Song.
Song of the Maroons brought the focus back, but not for long. Pine quoted This Old Man (“knick-knack paddy-whack...” etc.) on a flute synth, before delving into an extended one man journey into cosmic depths on the EWI, including a random Theremin solo, leaving the band shrugging their shoulders, before he brazenly belts out a rendition of Amazing Grace on the aforementioned EWI bag-pipe voice.
The final few tracks take us back to the themes of the album, before an encore where Pine demands everyone gets on their feet. “Believe in your dreams” is the heartfelt final message from the jazz fusion saxophonist. It’s evident that Pine is a musician with extraordinary versatility and skill. He has honed his act to provide an engaging stage show, but at times, it’s a little on the naff side.

Writer: Lisa Buckby

Photographer: Patrick Widdess