Courtney Pine – Europa
(Destin-e Records 777C007007, Review by Chris Parker)
Like Michael Gibbs’s ‘Jazzphony No. 1’, Europeana (ACT 9220-2, 1995), this album is an ambitious attempt to capture the musical essence of a continent, tracing in the process its roots in sacred, folk and dance traditions from Scandinavia to eastern Europe, and from Scotland to the Mediterranean.
Courtney Pine, having spent much of the past quarter-century travelling around and performing in the continent, from Russia in the east to the UK in the west, is well qualified for this project, and the album’s thirteen tracks draw entertainingly (and instructively) on all manner of musics from this large and heterogeneous area. Pine himself operates exclusively on bass clarinet, which imparts an attractively treacly, dark and richly textured quality to the skirls, jigs and occasional plangent ballad that make up a pleasingly varied programme.
He is joined by a lively and responsive band: pianist Zoe Rahman contributes strikingly vigorous or affectingly tender piano throughout (her solo on ‘They Came from the North’, in particular, is a little gem); electric violinist Omar Puente illuminates the pieces on which he appears; bassist Alec Dankworth and drummer Mark Mondesir are a tight, solid rhythm team, and the likes of Cameron Pierre (guitar), Robert Fordjour (percussion) and Shabaka Hutchins are also tellingly featured.
At its best, this is a compelling and deeply felt piece of work, imaginative and vivid, often downright tumultuously so; pedants of all descriptions, however, should not read the sleevenotes, which have clearly bypassed all forms of editorial process.