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It's not the instrument; it's how you play it.
Considering the commercial aspects of contemporary music, it would be easy to dismiss any solo artist who plays soprano saxophone as being among the hordes of sax players who try to emulate Kenny G, but wind up falling far short of their goal. Don't make that mistake with Courtney Pine. His music isn't trite enough to be lumped into that category, and it's too innovative for even a fair comparison to the G-man himself.
Pine's new album, Devotion, is more fun- and groove-oriented, with a penchant for the abstract as well as a throwback to 1970s fusion. On the title song, for example, he plays the tenor sax. Accompanied by a reggae rhythm, Pine takes the instrument up, down, around and about with dazzling flair.
Throughout the album, Pine's ninth, he fuses Eastern/Asian influences with a variety of other contemporary global sounds. He's right at home, being a UK musician who has Caribbean and African roots. Born in London in 1964, Pine played in reggae and funk bands in school, and he always had an interest in many types of music. An admirer of John Coltrane, Pine brings a bit of Trane into his production of this albumparticularly his free-form opener, "Sister Soul," and several other tracks.
Pine's world influence is perhaps most evident on "Osibisa," a high-energy original that features Pine on several instruments, including the tenor sax, a sizzling flugelhorn solo by Byran Wallen and a percussion tour-de-force by Thomas Dyani. The song is both progressive and a throwback to the 1960s and '70s soul bands that had dynamic horn sections.
Second to "Osibisa" is the India-influenced "Translusance," which features Sheema Mukherjee on sitar, a slick bass line by Peter Martin and, of course, Pine's exceptional soprano lead and solo. The song is rhythmic, yet open for plenty of improvisationa hallmark of jazz in any era. Carleen Anderson provides the vocals for Pine's interpretation of "When the World Turns Blue," which was written by Joe Sample and Will Jennings. Featuring a four-piece string ensemble, this is one of the best songs on the album which says a lot, considering the other tracks. Pine is on top of his game with a blistering tenor, while Anderson sings with the beauty and elegance of Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holliday.
A musician has to be devoted to his craft to avoid sounding like everyone else. With Devotion , Pine accomplishes that and much more. World music, jazz, funk and soul come together seamlessly.
Track Listing: Intro - Release, Sister Soul, Devotion, Bless the
Weather, interlude - The Saxophone Song, Osibisa,
Translusance, U.K., interlude - Karma (with respect to
Pharoah Sanders), When the World Turns Blue, Everyday
Is Everyday, outro - With All My Love
Personnel: Courtney Pine, soprono and tenor saxophones, bass
clarinet, alto flute and Pro Tools; Cameron Pierre,
12-string electric, acoustic and electric guitars;
Peter Martin, acoustic and electric basses; Chris
Jerome, Wurlitzer electric piano and Korg Cx3 organ;
Thomas Dyani, percussion; David McAlmont and Carleen
Anderson, lead vocals; Robert Mithcell, acoustic
piano; Dennis Rollins, trombone; Byron Wallin,
trumpet; Yousef Ali Khan, tabla; Sheema Mukherjee,
sitar, Robert Fordjour, drums; and strings on "When
the World Turns Blue": Everton Nelson, first violin;
Giles Broadbent, second violin; Bruce White, viola;
and Chris Worsey, cello