My Secret Life: Courtney Pine, jazz musician, 45

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The Independent Online

My parents were ... My father, Keith, was a carpenter and my mother, Violet, was a housing manager. They are both still alive, hardworking, traditional and determined to survive in this cold environment.

The home I grew up in ... was on Bravington Road in west London. It was one room, with a steel bath to wash the kids in, a paraffin heater and a black and white telly.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... an astronaut, then a doctor. Now I am a professor and a doctor of music, so I'm not too far off.

The first time I got drunk ... When I was 15 or 16 years old I was in various reggae bands. We used to play venues around the country and I'd often acquire – and then consume – a tin or five of Tennents Super from the bars we played. Those were the days.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... cycling, though I can't seem to find the time or the right weather for it in Britain.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... maths.

At night I dream of ... music.

I drive ... a Toyota Previa.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would have been more determined to stay in school and fight the cultural bias of the early 1980s, which stopped a lot of people like me from achieving higher qualifications.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... Somebody who needs a haircut.

My favourite item of clothing ... SAS-style black combat socks. I wear nothing else.

I wish I'd never worn ... purple-tipped platform shoes in 1970s, which my mum used to dress me in as a toddler for trips to church and special occasions.

A book that changed me ... was 'Africa: Mother of Western Civilization' by Dr Josef Ben-Jochannan. It went against everything that I'd been taught about European history in school and opened my eyes to my cultural heritage. The last album I bought ... was a collaboration between Rudresh Mahanthappa and Kadri Gopalnath Kinsmen released on Pi records. Both men are Indian saxophonists: one was brought up and taught to play jazz in America, the other is an older southern Indian veteran who plays traditional music on his saxophone.

Movie heaven is ... Spike Lee's film 'She Hate Me'. It's a film that is full of everything: I cried, I laughed, the lot. That's what Spike always does: he comes up with things so out of the box.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is Felix Dexter. His humour is so deep you feel the pain afterwards. His punchlines make me feel as if he's lived my life; he understands life from my perspective at least. He has a way of conveying humour that's very personal to me.

The last time I cried ... was when my mother-in-law passed away.

My favourite work of art ... is the Sphinx in Giza. Even though it's damaged, it has an amazing power when you stand in front of it.

My favourite building ... is the Horniman Museum in south London. It contains every type of musical instrument you can think of.

My greatest regret ... Not practising the saxophone more when I was younger.

My five-year plan ... To provide a platform for talented jazz musicians to release music.

What's the point? Modern life is about the realisation of the constant battle between good and evil, the choice between selfishness and selflessness, yin or yang, heads or tails. If we side with negativity then we have to be ready to live (or die) with the consequences.

My life in six words ... Music reflects life / Life reflects music.

A life in brief

Born in west London in March 1964, the saxophonist Courtney Pine CBE is known for integrating modern styles, including drum'n'bass and UK garage, with contemporary jazz. Pine lives in London with his wife, Dr Jeune Guishard-Pine, and their four children. He will perform at Ronnie Scott's in London on 14 August as part of the Brit Jazz Festival. Visit for details