Reviews Zone

Courtney Pine: Black Notes From The Deep (Freestyle Records) 27th October 2017



5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



The pairing of two British music legends – two genuine pioneers – on this sterling album, is a match made in heaven. Courtney Pine and Omar. I’ll have me some of that…

I have interviewed and photographed both artists a few times over many years, and covered their record releases for various magazines.They both work their butts off to make music that doesn’t tread previously trodden ground and is always pushing the envelope to expand the boundaries. This album is no exception. Oh, and they are both very nice chaps too, from my dealings with them.

This album feels a tad more commercial to my ears for Courtney, especially with “that voice” on it. But commercial in the sense it may be more accessible and reach more people, rather than commercial as in “selling out” and chasing trends, chart placings or sales.

No musician embodies more the dramatic transformation in the British jazz scene over the past thirty years than Courtney Pine. His debut album, “Journey To The Urge Within” in 1987, was the first serious jazz album ever to make the British Top 40, notching up sales to qualify for a silver disc. Aside from being the preeminent figure in the resurgence of British jazz, Courtney became a renowned presenter and broadcaster, best known for his long running radio show for BBC Radio 2, ‘Jazz Crusade’. He was also awarded an O.B.E in the 2000 New Year’s Honours, and was also made a C.B.E in 2009, for services to Music.

His Freestyle Records label mate and an artist also honoured for his own creative endeavours; Omar Lyefook M.B.E. is like Courtney; in a league of his own as an artist and musical force – damn it; if Stevie Wonder says he wants to be Omar, writes him a song and turns up to record with him, he has to be Super Bowl standard, yeah? – and his appearance on four of these ten cuts does nothing at all to dent that rep’. Aside from Omar, Courtney has assembled a quality line-up of like-minded instrumentalists. Alec Dankworth on bass, Robert Mitchell on piano and Rod Youngs on drums.

“Black Notes From The Deep”, is the 19th album from CP. That’s some going in 30 years. Courtney pens nine of the 10 tunes, and gives us a fresh interpretation of Herbie Hancock’s, “Butterfly”. Omar’s sublime vocal performance rides sweetly on top of the dreamy backing vocals of Charleen Hamilton. Courtney delivers some  flowing, imaginative and creative tenor sax’ work which fits snugly on this modern version of a much loved classic.

The opening track, “Rules” is a brand new, collaborative composition by Courtney & Omar – the latter supplying the lyrics. A standout of the set.  “Rivers Of Blood” references that infamous Enoch Powell speech that typified the attitude which often greeted what became known as ‘The Windrush Generation’, which included Courtneys’ parents. A tender yet brooding piece, which encapsulates  the struggle; but ultimately the victory of that generation and what they contributed, despite the obstacles they faced.

Veteran jazz organist Ed Bently sits in on “In Another Time” and adds huge value, and guitarist Chris Cobbson adds his own sweet textures on “The Morning After The Night Before”. “A Change Is Sure To Come” sees Courtney playing the lesser heard bass flute.

“Black Notes From The Deep” allows Courtney to return to the tenor sax’ for the first time in over a decade, an instrument he has been playing the longest and is often associated with.  With or without Omar gracing this album, it is a solid, classy, sparkling and innovative offering from a true innovator, a risk taker, a creative weapon.

An artist who actually has absolutely nothing left to prove, but still bounds onward and upwards without fear, sounding uber-relaxed and comfortable in his own skin creatively, and seemingly his well never runs dry of ideas. With Omar joining him though, this really is something very special indeed. What’s not to like?


By Simon Redley






21st September -Sage Gateshead

8th October – Watford Palace Theatre –*Courtney show/House of Legends band (not featuring Omar)

22nd October- Guildford Jazz Festival – Courtney show/House of Legends band (not featuring Omar)

30th October Apex Theatre- Bury St Edmunds

13th November – The Bridge Theatre as part of London Jazz Festival





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