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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Courtney Pine: Transition in Tradition - Homage to Sidney Bechet. The Sage, Gateshead.

Courtney Pine (sop/fl/bs clt), Omar Puente (vln), Zoe Rahman (pno), Darren Taylor (bs), Cameron Pierre (gtr), Robert Fordjour (dms).
Omar Puente (vln), Zoe Rahman (pno), Darren Taylor (bs), Cameron Pierre (gtr), Robert Fordjour (dms) + (congas).
I have yet to discover the tenuous thread that links tonight's concert to Sidney Bechet. None of the tunes were Bechet related and nor did Pine employ a Bechet vibrato yet, upon reflection, the connection was there. Back in Bechet's day it didn't matter who was in the band, Sidney took over the lead. His powerful sound swamping all but the mightiest and, likewise, Courtney isn't one to take a back seat either.
A sombre, almost dirge-like drone by Puente and Zoe was augmented by a series of off-stage cadenzas from Courtney - on bass clarinet. Eventually, he entered stage left, still playing. The tension increased and so did the volume then KERPLUNK!!!!!! he was away on the wildest, craziest, bass clarinet solo I'd ever heard - up to that point! He may have been playing bass clarinet but he was blowing harmonics up and above your normal Bb clarinet range.
Moving on to soprano he blew the blues inside out merging them with some rhythm changes in an amalgam of Lester Leaps In, 'Tain't What You Do and Symphony Syd. He even took on Puente in a soprano/violin battle.
Earlier, Omar Puente had played his own opening set without Courtney but with a conga player and it was a good merging of jazz/latin/rock.
On the Steinway, Zoe demonstrated why I fell in love with her (playing) at Gateshead Old Town Hall on her last visit and the flame still burns this time around.
Courtney played a ravishing version of In A Sentimental Mood on soprano and an affectionate tribute to the late Joe Harriott. There were also moments of beauty on Courtney's flute features.
When the band played Au Revoir one could be excused for thinking this was the last number followed, perhaps, by a brief encore. Delete the word 'brief' and you've got it in one.
For the encore, everyone soloed then were dismissed by Courtney who, left with just bass and drums, descended into the audience. He marched up and down the aisles and along the rows hi-fiving members of the audience whilst playing one handed and if he stood on somebody's toes I doubt if they minded If he'd stood on mine I'd never have polished my shoes again! It was stimulating and exciting although, because of the self-imposed limitations of one-handed playing, it was a bit like the Vuvuzela Concerto at times!
It was all good fun and the audience loved it.
Great show Courtney, nice set Omar, marry me Zoe.
Lance.

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