Revered British Jazz Saxophonist Courtney Pine arrived for the Leeds leg of his short tour with two things with him – a crack band behind him, and a bag full of brand new tunes – as he told us with a smile “….this is only the second time of gigging these tunes”. It was to be a very special night of sharing this new musical experience – an improvisational journey: a coming together of the packed Main room of Brudenell and a band of such proficient musicians & instrumentalists, led by the great saxophonist and improviser himself. It did feel we were all a part of this exploration process- and what a band to be so close to in such an intimate room.
Named the Inner City Ensemble, it’s a changing group of emerging professionals who apply for the positions identified by Pine with the support of Brighter Sound and Jazz North. Technically stunning, Romarna Campbell (drums) and Alex Davies (double bass) were just so solid and driving but with this hypnotic effortless complexity that’s beautiful and almost baffling.
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The new material is up tempo and packed with soulful intensity- modern big band sound, fast jazz swings, big backbeats (the tutti riffs are so tight and exciting) with some nods towards Sun Ra and the like, but also from the bop tradition and the fusion sound that Pine is known for- the crowd loved it.
Relaxed in leading his band, he is a genial host, clearly just so comfortable sharing his art and chatting & laughing with the crowd as if they were just there trying out some tunes for us.
Joyful and uplifting, the main attraction of the night is of course Pine’s improvising. It takes you away somewhere -he draws you in slow.. but when he opens up, his expert melodic creativity really does take everyone in the room with him- confident virtuosity in full flow. The freedom with which he takes his solos, the complex patterns he weaves and the fearsome technique is just mindblowing to experience live. His band watch with smiles of admiration.
He alternates between tenor and EWI (electronic sax): an instrument with a mesmerising sound- his remarkable speed and accuracy even more apparent as he soars up the register. Catch him if and when you can.
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