It’s always an event and a sense of occasion when Courtney Pine releases an album. And House of Legends, the saxophonist’s latest, is no different.
There is a chameleon-like trajectory to Pine’s career with huge stylistic shifts in recent years but the new album to be released on Destin-e World Records on 15 October is a return to the Caribbean, although very different to earlier albums such as the reggae-based Closer To Home.
In this the 50th year since Jamaica gained independence from Britain Pine intends this album to be a pan-Caribbean exploration, and playing soprano saxophone rather than bass clarinet on recent albums he tackles merengue, ska, mento and calypso on House of Legends with a different band as well. For instance, in comes French Martinique pianist Mario Canonge, in also comes Ghanaian bassist Miles Danso, Jazz Jamaica drummer Rod Youngs, and stalwart guitarist Cameron Pierre is back in the fold once more. Look out for Jamaican legend Rico, flautist Michael Bammi Rose and trumpeter Eddie Tan Tan Thornton guesting, and many more great players on the record including pianist Mervyn Africa, steel pan player Annise Hadeed, guitarists Lucky Ranku and Dominic Grant, trombonist Trevor Edwards, trumpeter Mark Crown, flugel player Claude Deppa, Robert Fordjour on the unusual cajon-like dube invented by footballer Dion Dublin, and a string quartet.
The first track, ‘The Tale of Stephen Lawrence’, is Courtney’s conscious meditation on the racist murder of the London teenager Stephen Lawrence in the 1990s. I well remember at the open air Jazz on a Summer’s Day festival in Alexandra Palace in 1993 not long after Lawrence was killed Courtney speaking out about the murder from the stage. He was one of the first artists to do so.
Later tracks move to the music and culture of the Caribbean, first to Jamaica on ‘Kingstonian Swing’, then on ‘Liamuiga (Cook Up)’ to Saint Kitts and Nevis and the world of the Carib Indians. Courtney organised a competition with the help of a local radio DJ in St Kitts and Nevis to rename this track and this is what local person Wallis Wilin came up with.
‘House of Hutch’, the fourth track is about Grenada singer pianist Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, not the better known Jiver Hutchinson, but the man who became a popular entertainer and moved in high society during the war, and who sang a bit like Ivor Novello. ‘Ca C’est Bon Ca’ is the Dominican part of the album, a lovely romantic dance tune in a style the French call “zouk love", which Courtney dedicates to his wife.
Notting Hill carnival founder Claudia Jones is celebrated on the sixth track, bearing her name, and ‘Song of The Maroons’ takes on a further historic Caribbean dimension with its referencing of Cimarron runaway slaves, while companion piece ‘Samuel Sharpe’ is about a slave who became a preacher later to organise the Christmas Rebellion in 1831 in Jamaica. Courtney also on the album explores the oral tradition of passing on acquired knowledge on ‘From the Father to the Son’ and says in the notes: “As a jazz musician I have been fortunate to have shared moments with many great teachers. I could not do what I am doing without their guidance." The final official track is ‘Ma-Di-Ba’ dedicated to Nelson Mandela, and the bonus track is the infectious choro ‘Tico Tico’ written by Zequinha de Abreu, which is a superb way to end this fine record, the only non-original, with all the other tunes written by Courtney Pine. The album is dedicated to Harry Beckett and Andy Hamilton MBE. Courtney launches the record at Islington Assembly Halls in London on 19 October with his band. It promises to be quite a night.
Courtney Pine pictured top
Back in 1980 when there actually still was a country called Yugoslavia, Georgie Fame was invited there for the first time to sing with a local big band. The bass player from that outfit, Mario Mavrin, turns up on this record of a dozen tunes, Fame explains in the notes to brand new album Lost In a Lover’s Dream released on Fame’s own label Three Line Whip, as does quietly accomplished Slovenian guitarist Primož Grašič who Fame also knows from his visits to the Balkans.
Fame clearly relished playing at the Bosko Petrovic Jazz Club in Zagreb, and this album was recorded not in Croatia but Slovenia earlier this year, clearly a memento of happy days all these years on.
Opening with Amen Corner founder Andy Fairweather-Low’s tongue-in-cheek ‘Wide-Eyed and Legless’, Fame, who only sings on the album, there isn’t an organ in sight Hammond or otherwise and no drums either, is on insightfully tender form on ‘My Foolish Heart’ and customarily wry on ‘Sking Blues.’
There are a number of Fame originals including ‘Say When’, ‘Singing Horn’, ‘How Blue’ and the title track itself, and the abiding impression throughout is of Fame sounding as if he’s enjoying himself. It’s a stress-free set of comfortable but rewarding songs, with Fame singing his heart out displaying tremendous artistry and that tone, that style no one can replicate. It’s also tinged with a little sadness at times especially on the rather beautiful vocal on ‘Singing Horn.’
Fame fans starved of a new album for a little while will love this record I’m sure. Out of the blue it may be, but it’s great to have an album as good as this just showing up unannounced. Stephen Graham
Released on 8 October. Georgie Fame pictured top tours in November. Dates are: The Grand, Clitheroe (7 Nov); The Platform, Morecambe (8 Nov); Buccleugh Arts Centre, Carlisle (9 Nov); R&B Club, Mickleton (10 Nov); Floral Hall, New Brighton (11 Nov); Subscription Rooms, Stroud (13 Nov); Millfield Theatre, Edmonton (14 Nov); Ropetackle, Shoreham by Sea (15 Nov); Capitol, Horsham (16 Nov); Gulbenkian, Canterbury (17 Nov); The Globe, Cardiff (19 Nov); Palace Theatre, Paignton (20 Nov); Electric Palace, Bridport (21 Nov); Cheese and Grain, Frome (22 Nov); and Sturmer Hall, Haverhill (24 Nov).
It’s the biggest ever London Jazz Festival this year, very possibly the biggest the country has ever seen, held at dozens of venues across the capital. Tonight the full printed programme is released at a reception in Kings Cross and as well as new stars in the making this year as ever, there is also a great range of European acts, a vibrant club programme, and the biggest names in international jazz including Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, John McLaughlin, and Jan Garbarek at venues all over London including the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican, Kings Place, Ronnie Scott’s, the Vortex, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Hideaway, the Forge, Arts Depot, and St James’ Piccadilly. If you’re thinking of making the most of the festival across the capital here are some highlights in store to whet your appetite, but do check out the full programme and the festival’s website as there is a huge amount of jazz taking place for 2012 across the 10 days not to mention many talks and family-friendly events as well.
Friday 9 November
New star Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, Queen Elizabeth Hall
The new Europe Amira and Bojan Z, Artsdepot
Club gig Emilia Mårtensson and pianist Barry Green, Pizza Express Jazz Club
Pick of the day Robert Glasper Experiment and Phantom Limb,
Royal Festival Hall
New star Femi Temowo and Elisa Caleb, The Forge
The new Europe Oddarrang, South Bank Centre
Club gig Makoto Meets Lakatos, Pizza Express Jazz Club
Pick of the day Matthew Shipp Trio, Vortex
New star Beats & Pieces + Ensemble Denada, Purcell Room
The new Europe Black Motor + Rakka+ Kuara+Anna-Mari Kaharan Orkesteri, Barbican freestage
Club gig Randolph Matthews, The Forge
Pick of the day John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension, Barbican
New star Josh Arcoleo, the Forge
The new Europe Michael Wollny + Iiro Rantala With Adam Baldych, St James’ Piccadilly
Club gig Ravi Coltrane, Ronnie Scott’s
Pick of the day Herbie Hancock, Royal Festival Hall
New star Shabaka Hutchings and the BBC Concert Orchestra, Queen Elizabeth Hall
The new Europe Carminho, Purcell Room
Club gig Kit Downes Quintet and Barbacana, Vortex
Pick of the day Jan Garbarek group with Trilok Gurtu, Royal Festival Hall
New star Emma Smith, St James’ Piccadilly
The new Europe DPZ Quintet, Barbican freestage
Club gig Tammy Weis, The Pheasantry
Pick of the day Brad Mehldau Trio, Barbican
New star Trish Clowes, St James’ Piccadilly
The new Europe Nicholas Simion Group, Rich Mix
Club gig Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ronnie Scott’s
Pick of the day Esperanza Spalding, Royal Festival Hall
New star Sid Peacock Surge, Barbican freestage
The new Europe Open Souls + Circle Of Sound, Purcell Room
Club gig Lonnie Liston Smith, Hideaway
Pick of the day Sonny Rollins, Barbican
New star Tommy Evans Orchestra, Barbican freestage
The new Europe Leszek Mozdzer + Radio.String.Quartet.Vienna, St James’ Piccadilly
Club gig Charles McPherson, Pizza Express Jazz Club
Pick of the day Chick Corea (right) / Christian McBride / Brian Blade, Barbican
New star Stuart McCallum, the Forge
The new Europe Supersilent feat John Paul Jones, Village Underground
Club gig Liane Carroll, Hideaway
Pick of the day David Murray Big Band and Macy Gray, Barbican
Herbie Hancock top appearing on Monday 12 November at the Royal Festival Hall as part of this year’s London Jazz Festival held in association with BBC Radio 3