The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
"I've never done an album like this. Every track is driving!" said Courtney Pine of his 13th album House Of Legends.
It's a recording dedicated to his own Caribbean history and the people who made it, from Samuel Sharpe, the educated slave who organised the Christmas 1831 rebellion in Jamaica, to Trinidadian communist and maker of the Notting Hill Carnival Claudia Jones, to the young black Londoner and martyr Stephen Lawrence.
The breath of Caribbean verve, music power and imagination, it is Pine's apex, full of the islands' beauty and brilliance.
Courtney's band is its usual pan-Caribbean in body and spirit.
Cameron Pierre's Dominican guitar and Mario Canonge's Martinican piano sound out everywhere and the notes of esteemed guests are continually chiming at the door.
Hear Annise Hadeed's Trinidadian pan on Claudia's tune or The Song Of The Maroons, the South African earth of Lucky Ranku's guitar and Claude Deppa's flugelhorn on the anthem to Mandela, Ma-Di-Ba - or the trombone of Rico Rodriguez, whose slides I first heard on his Trojan album Blow Your Horn, which I bought for 14 and six in a Brixton record shop 40 years ago, still blowing strong on Pine's celebration of half a century of Jamaican independence Kingstonian Swing.
House of Legends is a praise-song to Caribbean musical achievement and burns like a wild beach fire of history.
Pine puts aside his tenor sax and bass clarinet throughout this album for his soprano saxophone.
"To me the sound of the soprano fitted, and was easier to sing through," he said, "on the types of grooves I was dealing with from the Caribbean." And the opening track is The Tale Of Stephen Lawrence, a duo lament between Pine's surging soprano and Mervyn Africa's piano.
There is pathos, beauty and resistance in their timbre.
Next up is Kingstonian Swing, where the first soprano notes sound like Peer Gynt in Jamaica.
Rico follows, full of rampage and ska memories.
"Liamuiga" is the word used by St Kitts' Caribs for "fertile land," also used to denote a cook-up.
It's a swinging feast indeed, nicely spiced by Hadeed's pan.
There's an anthemic theme at the centre of Samuel Sharpe and the courage and brainpower of the great rebel rings through Hadeed's solo and Pine's stinging chorus, reminding us once again of the title of Richard Hart's great books of slavery and resistance, the seminal Slaves Who Abolished Slavery.
Think of this tune while you read them.
Ca C'est Bon Ca, written by Pine for his wife, and based on the Zouk Love musical style from Dominica and St Lucia, brings in a string quartet and an exquisite melodic strain.
The tribute to Claudia is full of dance and headed up by her homeland's steel pan.
Pierre's solo flickers and skips before Pine's soprano sings out in love, joy and remembrance.
The society of runaway slaves in Jamaica's Cockpit Country is soundpainted in Song Of The Maroons.
Pine plays banjo and Michael Bammi Rose plays solo flute in an ensemble of respect and an evocation of the people's defiance of slavery.
One of my first memories of television in the mid-'50s was watching the Grenadian bandleader and dancer Leslie "Jiver" Hutchinson, also known as "Hutch."
House Of Hutch is Pine's salute to this musical pioneer.
Pine's horn and the trombone of Trevor Edwards lead the way.
Canonge plays a jivey piano solo above Rod Young's drums and Miles Dango's plunging bassline.
The sheer velocity of Pine's notes and their boiling sound express the power of Hutch's inspiration.
From The Father To The Son acknowledges Pine's life-array of teachers and exemplars.
He soars through a colloquy with trumpeter Eddie Tan Tan Thompson before Hadeed's splashing pan enters to make a declamatory threesome. Five minutes of Caribbean sonic heaven here.
Ma-Di-Ba unites South Africa and the Caribbean in a darkening London studio.
Lucky Ranku and Pierre make an amalgam of hot, improvising guitars and Deppa's on-the-edge flugelhorn creates a special transcontinental excitation calling into recognition Mandela's 94 years.
The familiar Latin sounds of the Brazilian Choro opus Tico Tico, one of Canonge's indelible tunes of boyhood in Martinique, close the album.
Canonge lets himself loose all along his keys after a springing solo from Pierre before Pine springs home as fast as his three Jamaican brothers who came one, two and three in the Stratford Olympic 200 metres - full of zest and Caribbean glory, like this entire album.
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