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COURTNEY PINE

Song (The Ballad Book)

Destin-E Records 777102468X

 

 

  1. Beatrice

  2. A Child Is Born

  3. Amazing Grace

  4. Come Sunday

  5. One Last Cry

  6. B Intro

  7. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

  8. Through The Fire

  9. Song

  10. Someday We'll All Be Free

Courtney Pine - Bass clarinet

Zoe Rahman - Acoustic piano


Two of Britain's finest jazz musicians combine to memorable effect on Song [The Ballad Book]. Courtney Pine has been a hugely significant and inspirational figure for aspiring young black musicians in this country, ever since the days of The Jazz Warriors. His services to the jazz scene in the UK was recognised by, first, the award of an OBE, then, more recently, a CBE in 2009. London-born, of Jamaican immigrant parents, he is a multi-instrumentalist - his range encompassing soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, keyboards and last, but certainly not least, bass clarinet. His has been an adventurous and eclectic career trajectory. It's a delight to hear him playing bass clarinet again on this disc, as he did for so much of a previous album, Europa. The instrument offers extensive musical possibilities which Courtney exploits to the full. Zoe Rahman, who was playing classical piano when only four years of age, has grown over the years into a pianist who has absorbed into her distinctive style a whole melange of creative influences from the jazz piano tradition. You can listen to her and hear, for example, McCoy Tyner, or intuit the impact on her playing of Joanne Brackeen, one of her teachers during her year at Boston's Berklee College of Music in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, she remains defiantly herself and, like Courtney, has been happy to explore music prompted by family heritage, in her case Bengali. She is also an attentive musical partner, a trait she has previously shown in her work with her clarinettist brother, Idris, among others.

This album is full of empathetic playing between the two principals. I was particularly taken by four of the tracks, though all have their merits, albeit that B Intro, a brief and busy lead-in to A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, could be construed as a touch eccentric. I think I know what it's about, but judge for yourself! Thad Jones' A Child Is Born is moving and passionately delivered, Rahman taking on the theme and expansively unpacking it. One Last Cry, a hit way back in the 1990s, is also played with feeling, the mellow bass clarinet and sensitive piano doing full justice to the melody. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, that quintessentially English number, has the lovely tune played straight before the musicians kick in with some wonderful improvisations. In Through The Fire, where there is a genuine affection for the melody apparent, Pine and Rahman again seek to take us beyond that into uncharted territory. Elsewhere on the disc, we find further beautiful performances of well-known tunes (and one or two lesser-known, including Pine's own Song), which make for relaxing and appreciative listening.

I'd like to think we'll hear more from this particular duo who give us impeccable playing, rich material and creative collaboration. Bravo!

James Poore



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