Following Dave Spikey’s show at the Grand (subtext 174), your correspondent visited the same theatre to see quite a different artist a few days later, along with some familiar faces from Freehold and other Lancaster environs, plus some well-known faces from the University. They had come to see Courtney Pine. This world famous saxophonist is one of the most exciting and talented performers around. Fusing hip-hop, jazz, and groove, he is revered across the world for his innovative style and love of live performances. Last time he played Lancaster he was at the Dukes and brought the house down (well, the ceiling at least – the pitch and volume of his playing caused flecks of paint to drift down into the audience).
No such happenings at the Grand, a theatre Pine described as ‘old school’. He also expressed some apprehension to be playing at a venue that would be hosting Roy Chubby Brown in a couple of weeks time!
Courtney is credited with dramatically transforming the face of contemporary British Jazz over the last 30 years. This groundbreaking saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist has led a generation of players who have broadened their styles to take jazz out to a wider audience.
On this occasion, Courtney was joined by the Inner City Ensemble – a free-form improvisational musical collective featuring young, pioneering crossover musicians, combining different sonic backgrounds including jazz, post-industrial, noise-rock and electronic. Their music is full of discrete melodies and subtle rhythms – somewhere in between meditative ambience and percussive trance. The ensemble played drums, double bass, piano/keyboards, guitar, tuba, trombone and clarinet/baritone saxophone with warmth, imagination and a soulful intensity.
Each player was showcased during a variety of numbers, occasionally engaging in some playful end-of-the-pier call-and-response routines. Courtney got in on this act with a frantic ‘dueling banjos’ riff between his saxophone and the young drummer. Together, Courtney and this band of very talented musicians fused the central elements of jazz and soul with shades of drum and bass with energy, improvisation and huge smiles on their faces. This was all accomplished after just two days of rehearsal and four live shows. Amazing. Great night, although your cultural correspondent is still intrigued by the composition of the various audiences who chose to attend particular venues, people-watching being part of his day job.