Tender as the night and in keeping with these introspective, troubling, times Spirituality builds on the achievement laid down by the earlier Song (The Ballad Book) from 2015 given the continuation of the conversation on bass clarinet with pianist Zoe Rahman with the addition of strings.
Pine's 'Black Water' begins the album the jazz icon's first in five years. The lapping sophistication of Rahman's accompaniment and Pine pushing hard to break into more bravura space by the end are spirited elements at play. The strings on Charlie Chapin's 'Smile' change the mood and a certain polish not done too much sends the ears into another direction. With Michel Legrand's 'Windmills of Your Mind' following Pine as he burrows deep down again familiarity is a potent factor in terms of melody and Pine manages through the different timbre of the bass to squeeze extra meaning that would have emerged completely differently if he had preferred tenor saxophone instead.
The inclusion of a Welsh hymn is a reflection of one aspect of Pine's Britishness, later with his homage to the Queen we get a quite different angle. 'Girl Talk' is one of the most interesting jazz statements and again strong melody is important and the rapport with Rahman here hits a peak.
The strings on 'Blue Moon' are soothing but the album as a whole isn't there to soothe although there is a certain balm. With its Indian music-influenced opening 'Motherless Child' also spans the mood of the African American spiritual and unites it with the East that was certainly meaningful to one of Pine's greatest heroes, John Coltrane. Spirituality is a very mature statement and is more complete a statement than Song where the terrain was first mapped out. A certain communion with deep jazz history on Irving Berlin's 'What'll I Do' is achieved and jazz history has always been an important factor in Pine's work as a scholar of the music since his late-teens. The strings arrangement on the Berlin is the pick of any on the album. 'Spirituality (interlude),' with the tramping sound of chains is the most significant statement of the album. I take it as an up to the minute indictment of slavery something none of us should ever forget and reflect as always on our failings today in terms of respecting our fellow citizens from all backgrounds. Pine's homage to the late Queen Elizabeth is a fine composition. One of Pine's best albums in a stellar career and one that taps our current mood as a nation perfectly given how Pine once again explores a tradition in transition with consummate skill and deep affection.
Out on 18 November