Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Caribbean flavour little bit sour

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Courtney Pine performs at the West End Cultural Centre on Saturday.

JOHN GIAVEDONI, IMMAGINE.CA | PHOTOGRAPHY Enlarge Image

Courtney Pine performs at the West End Cultural Centre on Saturday.

Enigmatic U.K. saxophonist Courtney Pine spiced up his jazz with the flavours of his Caribbean heritage for his Winnipeg International Jazz Festival show, the first stop in a Canadian tour.

The resulting musical recipe also included the EWI (electronic wind instrument), rah-rah declarations on the importance of jazz and audience participation.

The Caribbean spice worked well enough, and the steel pans added an unusual dimension to the more traditional lineup of saxophone, bass, guitar and drums.

Jazz has always embraced the sounds of many cultures, refreshing and expanding the genre, and Pine's West Indian influences do that, but the more than two-hour show lacked more of the jazz chops that fans from afar would hope to hear from the saxophonist.

Pine, playing soprano sax and EWI, gave glimpses of what he is capable of, but the reliance on Caribbean rhythms and the unnecessary volume of his horn countered that.

Pine has embraced straight-ahead jazz East and West Indian music, hip-hop and reggae over his career and can, of course, play whatever blend of music he likes. His show here didn't fully illustrate his considerable musical ability, and that is where it fell down.

For example, he performed Body and Soul on the EWI, with a Caribbean beat. There's nothing wrong with standing a standard on its head, but this version wasn't the one to do it.

The EWI is about 25 years old and there's a reason it didn't catch on with jazz musicians. It doesn't expand the woodwind palette as hoped, and it now sounds mostly out-of-date.

There were instances in Pine's show where his use of the EWI to accompany a soloing band member did work, but he used it as a front-line instrument almost as much as his soprano sax.

Pine did play some very good soprano solos -- with speed, dexterity and flow of ideas -- but the volume could have been turned down.

The saxophonist did have audience members on their feet dancing during the closing number as he walked through the crowd playing soprano and shaking hands.

It seems he made some new fans in Winnipeg as he embarked on his first Canadian tour, but some older fans left the show feeling disappointed.

chris.smith@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2013 D5

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