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Saxophonist Odean Pope has enjoyed a long and seemingly fruitful relationship with the great drummer, Max Roach yet not everyone realizes that Pope has also performed with McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Chet Baker and a slew of others besides fronting his successful “Saxophone Choir”. Nevertheless, Pope is an exhilarating performer who often utilizes circular breathing techniques coupled with an often powerful or beefy presentation on tenor sax. On EBIOTO, Pope and his “exciting” rhythm section surge forward with all the intensity of a runaway train or perhaps – similarities to Coltrane and the Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison rhythm section sans McCoy Tyner. Young drummer Craig McIver is a man with a future as he provides polyrhythmic fury along with the solid walking bass lines of veteran and longtime Pope-Roach affiliate, Tyrone Brown. Folks, this is a killer rhythm section, which is outwardly evident from the opening moments of “Prince La Sha” where Pope’s delightfully rough-edged, muscular yet overall melodic phrasing is chock-full of impact and panache. Throughout, the trio maintain a “swinging” vibe through interludes of complex, precise unison lines and keen harmonic development. Pope is also adept at injecting brief microtonal half tones as in “Good Question Too” atop the frenetic and dynamic nature of this potent rhythm section. “Tribute To Duke and Mingus” captures the small group stylizations of Mingus along with the appropriate Ellingon overtones.
The title track, “EBIOTO” is a tour de force featuring an engagingly memorable chorus stated in unison by Pope and Brown, yet don’t let that fool you! The overall fiery attack and deterministic approach is light years away from smooth or contemporary jazz as Pope’s significant compositional efforts deserve praise and honorable mention. The trio is ablaze throughout yet the arrangements, soloing and synergistic ensemble work pays huge dividends as EBIOTO is a standout effort and holds its own among the top modern jazz releases of 1999. * * * * ½