Courtney Pine has been part of the global music scene for decades. His constantly evolving approach to music, and jazz music, in particular, has made him an endearing and engaging musician. I have seen him perform with artists in different settings, from school halls to large fabled concert venues. Every time, Pine brings to the performance nuances, style, and individual interpretations of music. In each performance, it feels like the audiences get a slightly different version of Pine, as he absorbs ideas, tries different takes, and, importantly, seems to enjoy engagement with the audience, performing provides. I have observed him quietly listening to the side as another musician plays, seemingly lost in reverie. I have also observed as he cheekily led his band on a circuit of a larger auditorium. The gig had overrun a bit, but Pine and we were enjoying the music immensely, and it was not time to go home yet, to the disapproval of the venue’s management, who were trying to open the doors and encourage people to leave.
His project, which began early in 2022, is the Courtney Pine Global (CPG), a non-stop music playlist of the best new global jazz releases. From swing, smooth jazz, and Latin jazz to fusion, rock, and global beats, Courtney weekly picks an excellent mix of new and well-known artists for listeners to enjoy. Vocals, soulful bop, experimental vibes, and refreshingly contemporary jazz with an appeal to funk, World, and hip hop lovers infused in the music too.
As well as discovering the newest and most diverse jazz music, CPG aims to champion the talent behind the great music. To this end, each episode is accompanied by a full breakdown of all the exceptional talent involved to inform, spread the music, and include listeners and readers on the journey with the podcast team.
To ensure access for different kinds of listeners, as well as the full-length Podcast, there are visuals, YouTube videos, and shorter, bite-sized editions when Pine takes the listeners on a rapid journey through what has inspired him that week in three tracks.
So far, it is working well. The podcasts are proving real audio and visual treats, introducing new artists to a global audience, and allowing listeners to re-think established artists differently. Musicians highlighted include Neneh Freelon,Greg Spiro, Cyrus Cheshnut, Arun Ghosh, the Johan Lindvall trio, or they may feature a type of jazz, new discoveries or jazz which is not jazz as you know it, but jazz blended with classical, funk, Bossa nova soul and other genres.
There are many active podcasts; this one has a unique feel and approach. I decided to ask Courtney about his visions for the Podcast, among other things.
SS = Sammy Stein
CP = Courtney Pine
SS: How did you first get into music, and what led you to pick up your first instrument and decide you wanted to play?
CP: I was/am intrigued by what human cognitive constructed sound does, and because of this, I started to play an instrument. I see music’s effects on the musicians who create it and those absorbing all aspects of function.
SS: How much do you practice, and do you have any methods?
CP – I don’t practice enough! My methods are simple – state the objective and achieve it through repetition, diligence, and thorough editing. Persistence is key.
SS: Have you had any significant setbacks in your career, and if so, how did you deal with these? What is important about the attitude a musician has to setbacks?
CP: I have had many setbacks and have dealt with them by not blaming anyone else and taking responsibility for situations even beyond my control. It is important as musicians to learn from any setback, move on and not repeat.
SS: I have seen you perform several times; two were with Zoe Rahman ( pianist and composer). Has there been progress with women coming into jazz in your opinion? Is it easier to find female musicians now than in the past?
CP: For me, when I became a professional musician, I had several female role models – Kathy Stobart, Barbara Thompson, and Cleo Laine, to name a few that excelled in the field of performing jazz music. Nowadays, there has been an increase in female performers who have their own voice and approach to making music. The Podcast is on YouTube also and features female performers that present their music to a wider audience that can be accessed at any time. This progress, in my opinion, allows us to a wider acknowledgement of these artists’ creativity.
SS: Is there, for you, any person/piece/place which gives particular inspiration when you need it?
CP: This planet gives me inspiration. Its evolution is inspiring – the past, present, and future in all aspects give me constant hope that our efforts in the creation of this Podcast are worthwhile.
If you want me to get specific, I would say Africa because of its past, present, and future.
SS: Would you encourage young people to go into music now?
CP: Yes, I would encourage all young people to have human creativity in their lives. The Global Podcast reflects not only past music but also the music of now, exposing the sound of this generation and beyond. Nothing else in the World allows our humanity to manifest in this way. As Art Blakey taught me, “Jazz music comes straight from the Creator to the artist, to the audience in a split second.”
SS: Three years, fast-forward, and imagine you are there. Looking back now, is there anything you would like to have accomplished?
CP: Releasing more music that reflects who I am. A biography, more opportunities to improvise or create sound in front of a live audience around the World, and more awareness of the Global Podcast.
SS: How profoundly do you think the pandemic affected musicians? I interviewed and wrote about the new collaborations due to online groups, but do you feel it has done more than this and what are the positives/negatives?
CP: This Podcast came out from the effects of the pandemic. If you can understand that music is a true reflection of human endeavour, then you will see that our dehumanising experience of the pandemic will be reflected in every aspect of creating music. Many musicians found ways of keeping creative, not only by practicing their skills on other instruments but also by opening their minds to the possibility that being creative would not be an option! How this understanding of our current humanity will be reflected in composition, concert, and media is still to be revealed, but from what I have witnessed, we won’t give in.
SS: How did the Global Podcast come about, and how is this going so far? I see many amazing people interviewed on there. What is the CPG’s aim?
CP: The Podcast is the idea of Sarah stringer, the producer of my BBC Radio 2 show ‘Jazz Crusade.’ Sarah came up with a vision to present new jazz releases to a global audience through the medium of the Podcast and asked me if I would be interested. Engineer Steve Cripps, who also worked with us on the ‘Jazz Crusade,’ was brought in, and the three of us found a way to work together on this unique project.
As there is nothing in the market that does this, the feedback from the cast has been extremely positive as it links jazz artists from around the planet, giving them a voice to present their art to the World.
Being exposed to improvised music in the past was very limited. That’s one of the reasons that I got involved with the Podcast, as it exposes people all over the World to Jazz music that’s being created all over the globe
SS: OK, so here is one! Best jazz gig ever – when, who, why?
CP: The next one! But a stand-out performance was at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem with Art Blakey; standing on that stage with all that excitement coursing through my veins, it was magical and truly a moment that wasn’t supposed to happen to a youth like me.
BBC Radio 2 – Courtney Pine’s Jazz Crusade – Episode guide