Released June 27, 2008
Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2008
The original Jazz Warriors, formed in 1984 by Courtney Pine, made a huge impact on the UK jazz scene, but dispersed after just one album. Recorded live at the Barbican, “Afropeans” is Pine’s response to the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, featuring superb tracks such as ‘Abolition Day’ in which the slaves’ guarded joy is suggested by Omar Puente’s violin spirals over restless rhythms.
Listening to ‘Blak Flag’ is like walking through a carnival, as the steel drums of Samuel Dubois give way to a monumental ska display above Harry Brown’s trombone.
The message of Pine’s 1995 ‘Each One (Must) Teach One’ seems pertinent here as the Warriors pass on the lessons of the past. Indeed, they are a force to be reckoned with.
1. Intro – Roots 0:26
2. Abolition Day 4:54
3. Remercier Les Travalleurs 6:18
4. Blak Flag 11:33
5. Apunta Un Lapiz 7:15
6. Crossing the Sands 5:14
7. Civilisation 6:42
8. We Are a Warrior 8:34
Courtney Pine: alto flute, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, shaker
Jason Yarde: soprano and baritone saxophone, wind shaker;
Nathaniel Facey: alto saxophone, finger cymbal
Shabaka Hutchins: clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, finger cymbal
Byron Wallen: trumpet, flugelhorn, tambourine
Jay Phelps: trumpet, flugelhorn, shekere
Chris Storr: trumpet, flugelhorn, tambourine
Harry Brown: trombone
Alex Wilson: acoustic piano
Samuel Dubois: alto and bass steel pans, cabasa
Femi Temowo: electric and acoustic guitar
Ayanna Witter Johnson: cello, voice
Omar Puente: electric violin
Darren Taylor: double bass
Robert Fordjour: drums, Egyptian tabla
Recorded at The Barbican on 6th October 2007
Producer: Courtney Pine
Recording engineer: Corin Giles, Evolution Media
It’s 1712, on the banks of the James river in Virginia. A child’s voice explains: “I am here to help you solve some of the problems with slaves”. So, the record starts. It’s an ironic echo, a reclaiming, of the text of a notorious speech by slave owner Willie Lynch. What follows, recorded live at the Barbican last year, is Courtney Pine and the Jazz Warriors Afropeans’ response to slavery with a perspective of more than 200 years on from its abolition in the former British Empire. A new formation made up of musicians, many of whom Courtney has worked with, and new stars in the making, chiefly steel pans player/altoist Samuel Dubois and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson.
The direction of the music flows in a cinematic way. The bass clarinet at the beginning has a sense of foreboding about it but this then gives way to gloriously arranged and performed high register harmony horn work. By the fourth track when Dubois solos and a chaos ensues it’s a sort of natural punctuation which even includes a small quote from Ornette Coleman’s ‘Lonely Woman’ followed with composure by Harry Brown’s trombone lines that then finds a space for blue beat into ska. There isn’t room to detail all the ensuing stylistic shifts but this album is a must-have.
Courtney’s approach is always best appreciated live but when you listen to Jazz Warriors Afropeans it’s clear that the music has successfully made the leap from the concert to disc and also makes you stop to think.
Stephen Graham (Jazzwise)