SOME 25 years ago Courtney Pine lived no more than ten houses from me in a quiet, tree-lined street in Harrow and here was I, on a Friday evening in late April 2013 at the Harrow Arts Centre, within ten metres of the man himself.
That he didn’t appear to recognise me as an erstwhile neighbour was, perhaps, no more surprising than the concert he promised to the packed hall of jazz aficionados, alternative music toe-dippers, friends and neighbours – past and present.
A jazz evening with a Caribbean vibe was the order of the night and, together with a highly talented five-man backing ensemble, he proceeded to deliver a mix of jazz, reggae, calypso and swing at a searing, exciting and funky pace.
From audience participation in a playful Pop Goes The Weasel to a jazz-fusion of Brubeck’s Take 5 and Marley’s Exodus the crowd was held enthralled. With significant referencing to his lauded 2012 release House of Legends, Courtney Pine delivered a set to thrill. As John Thompson would, no doubt, have said “Um… Nice…”.
The group all played their parts with consummate craftsmanship, displayed on guitars, drums, electric bass and steel pans, but the essence of the evening for me was watching and listening to the seemingly effortless clarinet playing of the supremo.
After two hours of fast and furious excitement, a last chance was offered and Courtney Pine looked directly into the front row.
He had previously name-checked his wife, his GP, even his local clothes shop, so my time had come. His eyes found mine and then veered to one side to commend to the audience Yusef, a young local drummer, evidently in attendance as not a school night.
I can’t complain – it was still a night of sparkling entertainment and fun at the Harrow Arts Centre.