Courtney Pine plays Hideaway for the first time this weekend, and the two shows on Saturday and Sunday are sure to be very special. They follow appearances in Tokyo this week. The Streatham shows follow swiftly on from the talismanic saxophonist winning Jazzwise album of the year for the first time, and for the club it’s the visit of a saxophonist who changed the course of British jazz in the 1980s, who turned on a new generation to jazz, a generation many felt had turned their backs on the music forever.

Pine topped the Jazzwise critics poll for House of Legends, an album released in the year that Jamaica marked 50 years of independence from Britain.

The album is a pan-Caribbean exploration, but it also, crucially, means something to the British experience, and that’s important as there is a unity, and always has been, in Courtney Pine’s approach as a player and an ambassador for the music.

Playing soprano saxophone rather than bass clarinet on his recent albums Pine (also on electronic wind instrument [the EWI]), tackles merengue, ska, mento and calypso on House of Legends.

Appearing at Hideaway, where Jazz Jamaica return on the eve of Courtney’s first shows in the upscale Streatham jazz club, the Pine band has Vidal Montgomery (the former Darren Taylor) on bass; the stalwart Cameron Pierre, guitar; steel pan virtuoso Samuel Dubois (who first surfaced with Jazz Warriors Afropeans and was introduced to Courtney by Dennis Rollins); and Robert Fordjour on drums and dube. The dube is a cajon-like percussion instrument developed by footballer Dion Dublin.

House of Legends features tracks such as ‘The Tale of Stephen Lawrence’,  Courtney’s conscious meditation on the racist murder of the London teenager Stephen Lawrence. 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. Then, 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’. 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. ‘Tico Tico’ wasn’t played in Islington so if it’s on the Streatham set list Hideaway audiences will receive a London exclusive.

On Friday, the night before Courtney Pine first plays Hideaway, the club hosts the return of Jazz Jamaica following their packed appearance during the Olympics on the same night Usain Bolt won gold in the 100m final, and their acclaimed Lively Up festival tour.

Stephen Graham

Courtney Pine pictured top

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