At times, the spectacle threatens to overpower the music to the extent that you half-expect the shade of Roy Castle to beam down and announce a brand new recordbreaker for continuous blowing, as Courtney fills those famous billowing cheeks with air until it has nowhere to go but out into the hall, knocking over the punters in the front row and blowing the froth off your beer.
After an unusually torrid bout on his instrument - like having sex, only far longer - Pine then shakes his head like a batsman dismissed doubtfully from the crease and goes off into the wings, leaving the lady on the trapeze or the Chinese acrobats to take up the slack. What for anyone else would count as gross acts of stage mismanagement don't seem to bother him in the least. When the performance starts, he's so knackered from DJing that after one perfunctory chorus of the first tune he sends on the guitarist Cameron Pierre for a 10-minute solo.
Having then recovered his puff, Courtney gets everyone but the drummer to have a rest while he does the longest sax solo in the history of children's television. After that, he's knackered again so DJ Pogo is given a showcase too. The performance has been going on for an hour and we haven't heard a tune yet. But do we mind? Well, only a little.
Pogo's old-school hip-hop routine at the turntables is a real crowd-pleaser too. He manipulates the decks with grandiose scratching like a preacher laying on hands; it looks rather like he's playing a drum solo, but the sound that comes out is full of mad duck-quacks and urgent analogue clucking noises.
After another bout at the sax from Courtney, it's time for the rappers, with some freestyle ragga business and a lot of ostentatious name-checking for Courtney Pine, whose surname has a good few rhymes going for it. By now the atmosphere has become quite surreal. And even DJ Sparky, the quiet, rabbinical-looking one who stands at the back fiddling with obscure switches, suddenly comes to the front to rap, beating his chest and prowling around the stage like Mike Tyson. Then Courtney returns on soprano sax, footling away on the final rousing number before the encore. Announcing a song by his favourite composer and lyricist, he goes into Bob Marley's "Redemption Song". As he plays a line and then cups his ear to the audience to cue in their response, the whole house comes in with the words of the title, not only on time and in tune, but complete with Jamaican intonation. It's good enough to make you cry.
You can knock his knock-em-dead populism, but it takes a hard man to gainsay Courtney Pine. Alone of all the star sax-men of the 1980s jazz revival, Pine still has a major-label record contract. And he is still playing night after night up and down the country and filling people's hearts with, well, joy. His records follow fashion, but really he's an old-style entertainer who knows how to give his audience what it wants - basically, a good time - without seeming to either preach or pander. He even ends by thanking us all for supporting British jazz. We may not have known it was British, we may not have known it was jazz, but it was a very good night out, and we will all come to see him again, year after year after year.
Courtney Pine's new album of remixes, 'Another Story', is on Talkin' Loud.Reuse content