Destin-E CD 777103579X

Courtney Pine, bass clarinet and saxophone; Zoe Rahman, acoustic piano; Elaine Blair, violin; Natalie Taylor, viola; Mira Glenn, viola; Jenny Adejayan, cello

Recorded at The Church Studios and Holodeck Studio A, London, UK, 15th January 2022

Courtney Pine is a multi-instrumentalist playing saxophone, for which he is mostly known, then bass clarinet, clarinet, flute and keyboards. Zoe Rahman and her acoustic piano have accompanied Pine before – on Song (The Ballad Book) the duo seen as one of his most pensive and profound associations.

Spirituality is a collection of songs led by Pine playing a deeply resonant bass clarinet which alone would generate the peaceful spirituality sought for the project. Alongside of this sanctity is a melancholy air, doubtless an echo for Pine, recording it in January 2022, of the loss of a number of friends.

Courtney Pine has a formidable history in the jazz environment in the UK as one of the first, black, British jazz artists to make a serious mark on that scene. He was a co-founder of the band Jazz Warriors, whose debut album, Journey to The Urge Within (Island, 1986) entered the charts at No.39.

That was, previously, fairly improbable in that synth-pop-dominated era. Through the 1980s, Pine was to be a creative muse to many, young musicians. His activity led to a comparison with Jamaican jazz trumpeter Joe Harriott, acknowledging him as ‘the most influential jazz musician of Jamaican descent on the UK scene.’

Spirituality is a fairly stunning and sensitively reflective album, perhaps especially in its selection of songs.  However, the idea of including strings doesn’t always work. It’s a question of tonality – no criticism of the musicians or their instruments, nor what they play, but simply of their inclusion. They are often overwhelming, sinking the poignancy of the beautiful bass clarinet.

Even the magic of Pine’s and Rahman’s duets are clouded in parts, largely due to the two violas playing together, making everything murky. Should you like to hear some effective works of reeds and strings played together, may I recommend cellist Abdul Wadud, saxophonist Julius Hemphill and ‘Coon Bid’ness?  Nothing murky, I promise. Or perhaps Zoe Rahman with brother Idris on clarinet and a bass and violin – ‘Where Rivers Meet’?

Otherwise, I uphold the voices of others: It’s a stunning and inspiring work by two of our finest players.

Reviewed by Ken Cheetham