Courtney Pine - Out Of Many, One People

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Courtney Pine, the key jazz musician of his generation in the UK has formed a new version of the seminal 1980s big band, the Jazz Warriors. Instead of merely revisiting the past, the saxophonist has created the JazzWarriors Afropeans with the intention of reflecting through his music and ideas the 200 years since the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the former British Empire. He achieved this aim by recording a live album last October recorded at the Barbican which will
be released later this year. Courtney Pine - Out Of Many, One People
Ahead of its release, in this exclusive interview with Kevin Le Gendre, Courtney warns against dangerous complacency, in a climate nationally and internationally where racial discrimination and intimidation still takes place and even highly respected scientific figures and writers can make ill judged remarks about race that demand a response in words and music

In British history, last year may be noted for a number of events, happenings that, like the people of Curtis Mayfield, were darker than blue. From floods to sporting failure to the Northern Rock financial crisis, there were calendar days that many would possibly care to forget. However, much of the cultural and philosophical activity of these past 12 months was devoted to a very solemn act of remembrance as 2007 marked the bi-centenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

Organised by Serious, Passage Of Music presented a series of concerts to mark the occasion. One of the keynote gigs of the season took place at London’s Barbican last October. It was the debut of Jazz Warriors Afropeans, a 15-piece ensemble led by saxophone virtuoso Courtney Pine.

“The bi-centenary of the abolition of slavery came up and I thought well… am I not going to do anything?” Pine explains. “So I thought about it, a year before the last year. That’s when the idea came about doing something special for October.

“I knew it had to be something strong. What happened in the end was like my band with the Jazz Warriors but that wasn’t the idea for me. It was about the Jazz Warriors.”

This was thus a new ensemble borne not so much from an old one but as the spirit thereof. Some two decades ago, the original 20-piece Jazz Warriors provided solid ground for a trailer load of London’s junior as well as senior black British improvisers. Hence the band’s sole recording, Out Of Many One People, featured a 21-year-old Brian Edwards alongside a 32-year-old Gary Crosby and a 52-year-old Harry Beckett. Other players such as Gail Thompson, Orphy Robinson, Alan Weekes, Cleveland Watkiss, Claude Deppa, Mark Mondesir, Ray Carless, Mamadi Kamara, Phillip Bent, Andy Grappy and Steve Williamson, to name but some, were also members.

Just as the original aggregation provided an informal yearbook, a register of names of the here and now who could potentially shape the future of British jazz, so the Afropeans present a snapshot of key new and established figures from the past decade. Late 30-somethings such as Byron Wallen, Jason Yarde, Omar Puente and Alex Wilson are in the ranks alongside acclaimed 20-somethings Nathaniel Facey, Jay Phelps, Shabaka Hutchings and Ayanna Witter-Johnson, all under the aegis of 40-something Pine.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #116 to read the full feature and receive a Free CD Subscribe Here...