Reviewer: Tony Oliver
No musician more embodies the dramatic transformation in the British jazz scene over the past twenty years than Courtney Pine C.B.E. The ground breaking, multi- instrumentalist has led a generation of exciting and innovative players who have broadened their styles to take jazz out to a wider audience. Courtney and his band of talented musicians appeared at Harrogate Theatre on their House of Legends Tour, which features highlights of his 15th studio album. The album is a very personal project bringing together musicians from Africa, The Caribbean and Europe and drawing on his traditional roots and traditions of the Caribbean. His band features some talented musicians including Cameron Pierre and Samuel Dubois on Electric guitar and Steel Pan respectively.
Harrogate Theatre is broadening its output and it’s great to see current jazz playing in the town with such a talented performer as Pine. The stage is filled with instruments, simply lit as the audience awaits the start of the gig with eager anticipation. The gig commences and despite the energy onstage the audience seated seems quiet with little reaction to the initial performances on the stage. One notable exception in the first half is the song Father to Son which features Courtney Pine dueling with the musicians in a style akin to the Banjo scene in the film Deliverance. This piece is well received, the audience relaxes and with some playful banter from Pine, the gig begins to warm up. Momentum is stalled however when the first half ends with an abrupt end to a song prompted by the need for an interval.
The second half begins with Courtney starting off from where the first half abruptly ended. The audience is encouraged to stand and dance in the aisles, and it is at this point that the gig starts to really warm up and the sheer energy and musical ability of the band begins to grow and shine through. Pine now appears – and sounds – ever youthful, fresh and vigorous as a result not only of his stunning virtuosity on the sax but also his understated stage presence and interaction with his talented colleagues. He now appears to be really enjoying himself and the audience feeds on the energy of the music. He showcases the talents of the rest of the band in their stunning solos standing in the sidelines, eversmiling and dancing along to their music. Particularly enjoyable is the double bass solo, which is hugely appreciated by the Harrogate audience.
House of Legends might be thought of as a departure from jazz altogether. Rather, it is a refreshingly bright, fun-loving, highly entertaining but nonetheless authoritative marriage of Caribbean tradition, free-form jazz and the kind of sound Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo so popularised with Graceland.
In his closing numbers he plays while greeting the audience and dancing with them as he walks through the theatre. After a slow and unconvincing first half the gig grows in energy and excitement resulting in an excellent night out in a wonderful old theatre.
Runs nationwide until 27th April 2013.