Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


PINE, Courtney

(b 18 March 1964, London) Tenor, soprano sax, bass clarinet; composer and bandleader. Jamaican parents; worked in reggae bands, etc, decided to do something about the situation: in the UK 'if you can improvise a bit you get sucked into a funk or a reggae band. You go up and down the M1 [motorway] and you're lost.' He was a founder member of TAJA (The Abiba Jazz Arts) and a 21-piece big band the Jazz Warriors '85 that gigged at the Fridge in Brixton, fine black musicians of all ages whose combined experience included work with Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Ultravox, Working Week, Hazel O'Connor, Desmond Dekker, Mike Westbrook, Billy Ocean, many more.

Pine's debut quartet album Journey To The Urge Within '86 on Island was produced by Michael Cuscuna, with eight Pine tunes including 'Miss Interpret', one each by Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver and John Coltrane (also 'Children Of The Ghetto', with vocal by Sousaye Greene, a good singer; but the track is an entirely different production for a single which didn't belong on the album). The quartet included Gary Crosby on bass, Mark Mondesir on drums, Julian Joseph on piano; helpers included vocalist Cleveland Watkiss. The big band's Out Of Many, One People '87 had Pine's name alphabetically with the rest, with three Pine tunes, one each by trumpeter Harry Beckett and by Fayyez Virgi (see Cayenne). The Jazz Warriors included Philip Bent (b 16 September 1964; plays full-toned, confident flute instead of the usual twittering), Crosby, Mondesir, Adrian Reid on keyboards (toured with quartet '86), the impressive Watkiss (scatting, vocalizing instrumental lines as well as more conventional singing on stage); also Beckett, Claude Deppa (b Cape Town, South Africa 10 May 1958) and Kevin Robinson on trumpets; Mamadi Kamara on percussion (from Sierra Leone), Orphy Robinson on vibes, Ray Carless on tenor, Alan Weekes on guitar, Brian Edwards on alto, seven more. Kamara and Orphy Robinson also played with Andy Sheppard; Steve Williamson (b 28 June 1964) is another talented young reedman who played with the Jazz Warriors and began recording '87.

Pine was subjected to media hype, too bright and too talented to allow his head to be turned. He also led a smaller group, the World's First Saxophone Posse, contributed to Angel Heart film soundtrack on Antilles with Trevor Jones on synth, and to a Bryan Ferry LP '87. His second album, provisionally called Light At The End Of The Tunnel, produced by Delfeayo Marsalis, turned out to be Destiny's Song And The Image Of Pursuance, including a tenor solo on ' 'Round Midnight', a leaner, tougher album. As he came to terms with the powerful ghosts of earlier giants, at least he knew where he was coming from: 'One thing's for sure, I'm not going to spend my life playing ''Stella By Starlight'' in some wine bar' (quoted by Dave Gelly). He experimented, each album different: Within The Realms Of Our Dreams included Kenny Kirkland, Charnett Moffett and Jeff Watts; The Vision's Tale included Ellis Marsalis; Closer To Home had a large cast included Sly Dunbar; To The Eyes Of Creation included Joseph, Mondesir, Watkiss, Bheki Mseleku and many others; Modern Day Jazz Stories '95 combined hip hop and virtuoso hard bop, with Moffett, Geri Allen, Cassandra Wilson and others; Underground '97 included DJs, sampling, Watts, Reginald Veal and others. He may yet find his own voice.

His 16th studio disc had him playing only bass clarinet, with just pianist Zoe Rahman, an intimate set called Song (The Ballad Book), released 2015 on the Destin-E label, tracks including tunes by Donny Hathaway, Chaka Khan and Duke Ellington.