It’s only befitting that jazz artist Courtney Pine is revisiting the Albany for its 30th birthday celebrations; it’s one of his favourite venues and the place where he recorded his only live album. “The Albany is one of those spaces where you can touch, feel and breathe in the atmosphere. As a performer you feel connected to the audience,” he says.
Although jazz has always been a community genre, often seen as ‘minority music’ it’s the closest musical style that reflects humanity, the musician says.
Originally in New Orleans jazz started out in brothels, clubs and restaurants before breaking out of this community and becoming more mainstream, Courtney says. However, the experimentation and improvisation that is now a key part of the genre’s style first got its start through Jelly Roll Morton, a youngster who started out playing in a brothel in New Orleans in 1914, unbeknownst to his Mum. The Madam of the house realised if he played faster the clientele would ‘speed up’ with the music, so to speak. “Eventually they had a peep hole and he would play music to accompany the prostitutes but because he only knew a few rag-time runes he started improvising and that’s where the whole concept started,” Courtney tells. It’s this musical freedom that first drew him into the genre and kept him there for over 20 years.
“Jazz has always been in that situation of competing with prostitution, drugs, alcohol, food, and what this music does is try to cut through all of that. The concept of jazz has a space in everybody’s heart.”
Courtney Pine is playing at the Albany, Douglas Way, SE8 4AG on Saturday May 18 from 7:30pm. Admission: £18 in advance. Phone: 020 8692 4446. http://www.thealbany.org.uk/