JJ 01/93: Courtney Pine – To The Eyes Of Creation

Thirty years ago, Ron Salmon thought the reedman's latest flawed but successful in lifting spirits and in parts rather beautiful. First published in Jazz Journal January 1993

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Courtney Pine casts a wide net. His inspiration, he tells us, comes from 28 sources, including the Bible, the Qu’ran and the Bhagavad Gita. But don’t be dismayed. The music is enormously varied, not difficult to listen to and often very entertaining. True, it veers towards crossover, with gospel/soul singing and backing vocals, but only on Psalm is the latter banal. Worse, it distracted from Pine’s fine soprano variations. It’s a pity, too, that on Children the didactic vocal dominates some rather beautiful tenor sax.

In fact, the saxophone work is generally splendid, rhythmically flexible and not by any means all ‘post-Coltrane’.             Admittedly there’s a freakout section (which works well) on Country Dance, and some unexpected harshness on Cleopatra’s. But X-Caliber has a ‘tough tenor’ approach and Eastern Standard‘s tenor is firm but gentle. That last has a catchy Western-film sort of melody (remember Tubby Hayes’s Off The Wagon?), and is also blessed with the glorious raspberry brashness of Dennis Rollins’s trombone. The interludes are pertinent and could have been longer, even the drum solo Ark.

Those completely allergic to power-grid music will, of course, not believe that the massed bat­teries of electronic gadgetry are, in fact, used with great restraint, but the meter money for the amazing array of synthesisers would have been better used for more Dennis Rollins, Julian Joseph and Bheki Mseleku. Strangely, most of the guitar and bass work is non-electric. Over half the tracks are faded out, giving an impression of aesthetic laziness.

Courtney Pine says, ambi­tiously and humorously, that he hopes the music will lift spirits and purify souls. I’m not sure about the latter, but if enjoyment lifts spirits, then, despite criti­cisms, mine are lifted.

Discography
(1) The Healing Song; (2) Zaire (interlude); (3) Country Dance; (4) Psalm; (5) Eastern Standard Time; (6) X-Caliber (interlude); (7) The Meditation Of Contemplation; (8) Life Goes Around; (9) The Ark Of Mark (35.16) (interlude); (10) Chil­dren Hold On; (11) Cleopatra’s Needle; (12) Redemption Song; (13) The Holy Grail (parts 1-3) (56.48)
(1)  Courtney Pine (ts/bcl); Toni Remi (g); Julian Joseph (org); Wayne Batchelor (b); Thomas Dyani (pc); Mark Mondesir (d); Cleve­land Watkiss (v). London, c. 1992.
(2) unknown (African pc/v) presumably recorded in Zaire.
(3)  as (1) but Pine (ts/ss/elp); Joseph (p/syn); Watkiss out.
(4)  Pine (ss/p/syns); Cameron Pierre (elg); Batchelor (b); Frank Tontoh (d/tam). London, c. 1992.
(5)  Pine (ts/p/org); Dennis Rollins (tb); Pierre (elg); Gary Crosby (b). London, c. 1992.
(6) as (1) but only Pine (ts) and Mondesir (d).
(7) Pine (ss/syn/tamboura). London, c. 1992.
(8) Pine (ts/p/syns/elp); Dyani (pc); Peter Lewinson (d); Juliet Roberts (v). London, c. 1992.
(9) as (6) but Pine out.
(10) Pine (ss/pc/elp/syns); Tontoh (d/tam); Lois Farafkhan (speech); Linda Muriel (v). London, c. 1992.
(11) as (1) but Pine (ts); Joseph (p/org); Wat­kiss out.
(12) Pine (ss/p/org/syn); Cameron Pierre (elg); Gary Crosby (b). London, c. 1992.
(13) Pine (ts/af/bl); Keith Waite (wdf/shakeres) (sic); Bheki Mseleku (p); Gary Crosby (b); Brian Abrahams (d); Mamadi Kamara (African pc). London, c. 1992.
(Island Records cid 9998 514044-2)