Saxophonist Courtney Pine talks toTerry Grimley about his battle for survival in a changing musical landscape...
Courtney Pine is in the midst of a 40-date national tour at the moment, and it's evident that he's doing a lot of interviews: "It's the only way to do it," he says. "Just playing is not enough."
Even for the British jazz musician whose name is most likely to be recognised by non-specialist audiences, the economic realities of t oday's music business are daunting.
"It's getting worse as time goes by. I think the music industry is struggling, full-stop. Record companies are closing, outlets for music are closing. There used to be a big Tower Records store that doesn't exist any more."
The internet is fundamentally changing the way people access music, but isn't there an up-side to that as well, with niche music building a critical mass of supporters online?
"The internet has changed things, as demonstrated by the story of the Arctic Monkeys. But you still have to let people know that your music is on the internet. I've got to tell people that my record is on my website to sell.
"Time was, if you went to buy a record by Grosvenor Washington Jr someone in a record shop might say have you heard David Sanbourne, and you would get more than you bargained for.
"It makes it harder for the average person. But who knows what will happen in the future?
"Can you imagine someone knowing that you can't really afford to live on record sales and still wanting to be a jazz musician? It has to be more than financial."
And yet the UK jazz scene seems to have as many players and to be at least as creative as it ever was. And not just in London: Birmingham, for instance, probably has more players and better infrastructure than ever, and an emerging star like Soweto Kinch no longer automatically moves south.
"I'm talking about the music scene as a whole," says Pine. "But if you're talking about jazz it's a whole different ball game. There are more venues opening their doors to young musicians, and musicians from all over are coming to make a living in the UK. What's nice about Soweto is that he had the opportunity to come to London a few years ago.
"I think years ago Andy Shepherd's career was held up because he didn't move to London, but Soweto can be an international artist in Birmingham. After all, Birmingham has had big success before with people like UB40."
It's more than 20 years since Pine burst on to the scene, and it's interesting now to hear how much of an outsider he felt at the time, having side-stepped into jazz from reggae and funk.
"I didn't go through the National Youth Jazz Orchestra - I'm not a part of that scene at all. I was signed to Island Records which didn't do that much jazz.
"I remember doing a show with Charlie Watts. The great jazz drummer John Stevens, who supported me, got me into it and I was on stage with all these jazz players like Evan Parker and Stan Tracey. I was 18 or 19.
"By the time we finished performing everybody knew me, but I remember being treated like I shouldn't be there. But John explained to me that's just the way it is."
The band Pine is bringing to The Drum on Saturday features him on tenor and soprano saxophones with drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion and violin.
It will be performing music from his new album Resistance, which blends jazz with rock in a way that has surprised some critics.
"That was probably because I should be playing black music and that kind of surprised a couple of people. But for me it's just music.
"We've just finished three nights at the Jazz Cafe in London, and it's a band that doesn't always play everything the same way."
Recent photos of Pine have tended to show him with a soprano in his hands, but he plays at least as much tenor. But he likes the soprano - historically regarded as a treacherous instrument which is difficult to play in tune - and reveals that he has recently acquired a soprillo, a newly-invented instrument which extends the saxophone's range into the stratosphere.
He also points out there is a new chromatic saxophone which revives the long-defunct C-melody instrument, pitched between soprano and alto: "There are still developments going on, and the saxophone will evolve," he says.
Meanwhile, he is looking forward to returning to The Drum, scene of some memorable performances in the past and where he enjoys the role of honorary patron as well as visiting artist.
"Its a good venue," he says. "Sometimes you go to places and you're just making up the numbers but there are some that know how to look after you.
"I'm talking about venues all over the world. There are some that really support what we do and that's one of them. So I'm glad to be back."
* Courtney Pine plays The Drum, Potter's Lane, Aston, on Saturday at 8pm (Box office: 0121 333 2444)