COURTNEY PINE The Lowry, Salford 19 July 2003
which, for complex reasons involving my fear of driving my tiny car in big cities and the prior commitments of my companions, meant that I was also obliged to attend that night's performance by British jazz saviour Courtney Pine. Despite having never knowingly heard a note of the man's music before tonight, I was rooting for him before he even took the stage when his exemplary band (the fact that its membership included three percussionists tells something about the nature of the music they create) tore into an opening cover of Nirvana's "Come As You Are", Pine joining in on tenor sax from the wings before appearing, resplendent in dreadlocks, red jeans, a natty "Enter The Dragon" shirt and what one of my companions assured me was the very latest in Nike trainer technology. And the contrast, both in person and performance, with Mr Sawhney earlier in the evening couldn't have been more marked, Pine tearing into his music and interacting with the crowd in a manner that was impossible not to warm to. If his frenetic, chaotic but always controlled music failed to appeal (which, on this startling evidence, it really shouldn't have) there was always the sheer physical effort required to produce the catalogue of squawks and honks from his instrument to admire. (Said another companion, "Some of the things he does to his saxophone should be illegal!") As well as his own material he touched on the songbooks of John Coltrane and Oliver Nelson, even sliding a Gary Numan bassline into a cover of "Tequila". His band played terrifically throughout, although you had to give the drummer some especially, getting no rest during another brief 60 minute set (although it might have lasted a little longer had mysterious gremlins not delayed the start until 10:45). Dedicating a closing "Over The Rainbow" to young British jazz musicians, Pine effortlessly established himself as a big man with a big heart and a big talent. Whilst the evening didnt send me scurrying out in search of his recorded catalogue - of which the general critical opinion seems to be that it fails to fully capture his talent - I would thoroughly recommend a Courtney Pine gig to anyone with half a tin ear's interest in jazz.