I am getting to be a bit of a Courtney Pine groupie, having seen him last October at Howard Assembly Room touring his album SONG (The Ballad Book) This time he was playing pieces from his new offering, Spirituality.

I am pleased to say that the incredibly talented pianist Zoe Rahman was with him again and the show kicked off with the two of them playing a couple of pieces, one of which, Windmills of Your Mind, included a virtuoso solo performance from Ms Rahman.

Courtney Pine with Zoe Rahman on piano

On arrival I saw that there were four chairs arranged on the stage, each with music stands, so, having a razor-sharp mind, I deduced that they would be joined by other musicians, which proved to be the case. What I wasn’t expecting was a string quartet! As the young women who comprised this group; Miranda Lewis on cello; Ellen Blair and Nicola Hicks, violins and Julia Dos Reis, viola, took their places I wondered how they would be contributing to the free-flowing jazz style of Mr Pine.

As the programme progressed the strings, and piano, provided the more formal version of the tunes allowing Courtney Pine to break out and regale us with riffs on the themes. He might have been the star of the show but he is very generous with his music and each of the players were given their own moment in the sun during the performance of Amazing Grace.

The next section was made up of standards, which he called Name That Tune, and I managed most of them, sadly no prizes were offered. It kicked-off with Blue Moon, followed by a song which I have only ever heard performed by male voice choirs, usually Welsh, called All Through The Night. It was even more moving without the words. Finally we had Girl Talk which easily lends itself to Courtney Pine’s style of saxophone playing. I am sure that he must have some Yorkshire blood in his veins as he insists on extracting every sound possible from his instrument – I’ve paid for it all lad, I’m going to use it all! Most of the eccentric sounds which came out were to add a touch of humour to the proceedings.

Courtney Pine, with left to right; Miranda Lewis, Julia Dos Reis, Nicola Hicks and Ellen Blair.

As usual, there were many moments of mischief, especially towards members of the audience. At one point, a woman did something to disturb him, probably involving a mobile phone, so he fixed her with a stare and slowly approached the seat where she was located playing the theme tune to Jaws as he got nearer. Having frightened the life out of her he turned round and made his way back to centre stage to his rendition of The Addams Family.

The show ended with a piece he had composed for Her Majesty the Queen. He had been introduced to her earlier in the year and promised to write something in her honour, but sadly she never got to hear it. It was a fitting tribute and a wonderful way to finish another great performance by Courtney Pine, Zoe Rahman and the string quartet.

For more information about Courtney Pine and to get details on his current tour, please go to http://courtney-pine.com/

For other events at Howard Assembly Room it is https://www.operanorth.co.uk/event-tag/har/

All photographs by Stan Graham

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