WHEN jazz genius Courtney Pine comes to Bridport next week the intimate Electric Palace gig will be as important to him as any of his performances in the world’s largest and grandest venues.

“Every concert is a challenge,” said the affable father-of-four, taking a break from recording his latest album, Europa, a mammoth, musical history charting the birth of Europe.

“I walk into the venue, open my eyes and think, ‘What can I do with this – and what can this space do for me? How can I present my music?’ “It’s an attitude that keeps me on my toes and means that I don’t get bored.

“I like to do something different every night. It is an addiction for me, and I hope it entertains the audience.”

He says: “Sometimes I get to venues and they are setting out the tables and chairs and thinking that an evening of jazz means that people will be sitting round politely, drinking wine.

“But I get on stage and say, ‘I am Courtney Pine CBE, please feel free to dance – you are allowed to dance.’ That is a shock to some.”

Born of Jamaican parents and raised in an atmosphere where “music was always in the air”, Courtney hit the big time in the mid-1980s with his album Journey to the Urge Within.

He took the stultified world of jazz and set it on its head, daring to blend it with other musical genres and open it up to a younger audience.

It is a process he is continuing to this day.

“With other families of music you are trying to record a sound and play exactly how they used to play, whether it is reggae, rock or classical music,” he said.

“But with jazz you are expected to make something up right now, you have to do something that has not been done before. That is its calling card and it is magic.

“It’s like Japanese food where you choose what you want to eat and they prepare and cook it in front of you so you are totally immersed in its fragrance and ambience.

“That’s what I love about jazz, because it’s not something where you can get on stage and play the greatest hits.

“The audience is there to soak in the ambience and creativity of the evening.

“I will mix jazz with different sounds, with drum and bass, ska, reggae and more. I perform with a Cuban violinist called Omar Puente and people don’t expect him.

“I love to fuse jazz and classical music.”

Courtney is proud of the fact that he is still in demand – and also of his CBE, awarded last year.

But he rails against the state of British music, especially the prevalence of programmes such as the X-Factor, which he dismisses as “miming and getting through to the next round”.

He says: “But I am still here after 20-plus years and there must be a reason why my music is still relevant.

“I think people will turn out for a jazz concert, all over the world.

“There is a relevance in what jazz does to people, it keeps the world alive.

“That’s why I was thrilled to get my CBE. Jazz music doesn’t usually get recognised in this way and to be in this exclusive club is unbelievable and inspiring.

“It shows me that maybe I am on the right path.”