Courtney Pine

Although Courtney Pine is classified as a jazz musician he incorporates many influences into his music. The clarinetist and saxophonist has seamlessly incorporated electronica, hip hop, funk, reggae and Eastern sounds into his boundaries-defying repertoire. He also worked alongside some of the most prominent musicians in each style. Pine started performing professionally when he was a teenager. He formed the hard-bop group Dwarf Steps. He began touring and recording with Clint Eastwood and General Saint, reggae musicians. Pine explained to Down Beat that his unconventional, eclectic approach was heavily influenced by his early exposure to Sonny Rollins, a renegade saxophonist. He said, “If Charlie Parker had been first to me, I might have felt alienated.” “But Sonny Rollins was playing calypso, something I understood. He was my uncle! I was completely absorbed by the music. Pine was influenced by John Coltrane and Rollins. He soon joined Charlie Watts’ jazz band. Pine toured with George Russell, drummer Elvin Jones, and Art Blakey. He also led his own small ensembles, including the World’s First Saxophone Posse. Pine founded Abibi Jazz Arts to promote the work and talents of black British jazz musicians in 1986. The workshop produced the Jazz Warriors, an all black big band featuring Pine. Pine’s first album, Journey to the Urge Within (Antilles), was released in 1986. It became one of the most popular British jazz albums. Pine was with Antilles from 1986 to 1992. He recorded four more albums and established himself as a potential Coltrane heir in the eyes of critics. Many of Pine’s albums were produced and recorded by Delfeayo Marsalis. He is the son of Ellis Marsalis, a jazz pianist who appeared on Vision’s Tale 1989 and the younger brother to Wynton and Branford. Pine’s eclectic interests were displayed in Closer to Home, his last Antilles album. It featured reggae-infused artists from Jamaica and was produced by Gussie Clark, dancehall legend. Pine continues to be a surprise in his performances and on subsequent releases. In the early 1990s, he was a frequent guest with Mica Paris, a British soul diva. He also released Closer to Home in 1992. The 4th and Broadway labels both released the African- and West Indian-influenced To the Eyes of Creation in 1992. In 1995 Island released Eyes of Creation as a live album. This was the same year Pine released Modern Day Stories, a more traditional jazz album on Verve. Gerri Allen, Cassandra Wilson, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and drummer Ronnie Burrage were among the guests on that album. DJ Pogo was also included, hinting at what’s to come. Pine explained to the Toronto Sun that Modern Day Stories recording sessions were unusual. “These musicians are mad at me and knew that this project would be unique. He said that he didn’t approach it in the traditional way people do. “You go into the studio, get the chart, then you go home. Modern Day Stories was expected to be a return to Jazz roots for tradition-oriented critics. However, Pine once again shocked observers with Underground, a Verve album released in 1997 that featured several accomplished American jazz musicians, including Cyrus Chestnut and Reginald Veal. It also included scratching, vocals and drum ‘n bass beats. According to Pine, this album was more in line with his interests. “I was so tired of playing large halls in a tie and going through the jazz changes that I couldn’t continue. After finishing a show, I would go back to my hotel room and play a jungle recording. It was like I had to find a way to bring that side into my work. He said that he was inspired by the “itch” to play music his younger sister could enjoy and hear without needing to learn about jazz history. Pine’s live performances became known for being non-traditional events. The musician’s high-energy shows required audience participation. In 1998, Talkin’ Loud released Another Story, a remix album. Pine gathered a formidable group of British hip-hop, jazz and R musicians.

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