Jazz legend Courtney Pine to play intimate Islington gig

PUBLISHED: 13:58 13 October 2011

Courtney Pine grew up in Queen's Park and Kingsbury.

Courtney Pine grew up in Queen's Park and Kingsbury.


When Courtney Pine told his music teacher he wanted to learn to play the saxophone, she refused to take him seriously.

It took him two years to win her around – and then she only agreed to let him take clarinet lessons as it was an easier instrument to learn.

Then one day, when he was about 14, another pupil failed to turn up for his saxophone lesson, so Courtney picked up the instrument and played it.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The 47-year-old has played to huge audiences all over the world, including in Japan, Ghana and Jamaica.

Now he is looking forward to doing a more intimate gig when he plays at Islington Town Hall later this month.

“With intimacy you can go deeper into the music,” he said. “I can smell the people, hear the people, feel the people. I’m looking forward to it.”

Courtney, who grew up in Queen’s Park and lived in Kingsbury in his teens, is undoubtedly one of the best-known saxophonists in the country, if not the world, and has gained acclaim for his jazz renditions across the globe.

But he started out as a reggae musician playing in bands with vocalists such as Barrington Levy and Michael Prophet.

Born to Jamaican parents, Courtney grew up listening to ska and remembers listening to reggae from the gramophone in their front room.

He said: “I grew up listening to ska but I preferred the B-side that was usually an instrumental.

“I left school to be a reggae musician. I’m a reggae musician who plays jazz.”

Courtney’s interest for jazz was kick-started after he discovered that the musicians behind reggae, ska and bluebeat were jazz musicians.

He visited a record library in Brent Town Hall to find out more about jazz.

He said: “I saw an album by a saxophonist called Sonny Rollins where he had a saxophone instead of a gun. My father was a western fan so I took it home and played it.”

To this day, Courtney, who was awarded an OBE in 2009 and a CBE in 2009, still looks up to Sonny.

He said: “He plays badder than anyone I know. He’s still teaching me.

“Jazz music is about being able to play – you can’t get away with miming and dancing like other genres.

“It can be a challenge for musicians to play in various environments. But it’s a challenge that keeps me interested.”

Courtney Pine will be playing at Islington Town Hall in Upper Street, Islington, on Friday, October 21.

Tickets cost £25.

For more information visit

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