Odean Pope Brings Philly to DC

Matt Merewitz By

Sign in to view read count
At an early age, I sort of cancelled saxophone players out?I found out that you never get any recognition if you played too much like someone else.
A markedly different and original musician, Odean Pope offers a saxophonic approach that sounds nothing like saxophone. In fact if anything it sounds more like wood flute or mellophone despite a typical tenor setup (with metal mouthpiece).

Odean Pope was born in the town in the town of Ninety Six, South Carolina, but grew up in the city of brotherly love. While paying his dues, he played behind such R&B acts as James Brown and Marvin Gaye. He studied with Ray Bryant. Though cognizant of Coltrane's presence and contributions to the music, Pope developed in his own way and managed to escape the shadow of Coltrane's legacy, which many critics used to categorize players over the years. Unfortunately as a result he doesn't share the same name-recognition as many of those same players who were branded as Coltrane followers.

'At an early age, I sort of cancelled saxophone players out'I found out that you never get any recognition if you played too much like someone else. I started to listen to piano players'Dynamically, harmonically and melodically, I think I got a tremendous amount of knowledge from that experience,' says Pope in an old issue of Downbeat.

Pope's heyday was in an era of experimentation. It was after hard-bop, but not quite in the heart of the free jazz vein. For over two decades he was the tenor saxophonist in drummer Max Roach's group. This job certainly shaped his conceptions of music as one might expect when working with a drummer who brings out the subtle effects of the drum set ' converting it into a tonal instrument with a melodic range almost as open as a horn player.

His strapping tone runs from a low thin drone (especially on the low end) to joyous shrieks of pain and joy as his solos climax. Backed by a duo of fellow Roach devotees, drummer Craig McIver (of Roach's M'Boom) and bassist Tyrone Brown (of Roach's groups with the saxophonist), Pope cruised through four drawn-out tunes with well-built solos that explored each melodic possibility of each tune's changes.

Joined by John Coltrane's cousin, altoist Carl Grubbs (a fellow Philadelphian), whose sweet singing tone was of distinct contrast to Pope (though their 'out' harmonic concepts were interestingly similar yet Grubbs reverted more to Coltrane-esque licks and re-harmonizing). At the same time, Grubbs ventured over to a darker sound that brought out an entirely different side of him than I had previously seen in his numerous previous DC appearances.

Though the saxophone solos were the featured attraction, the electric bass (played sitting down as one would play a cello with a floor peg) of Tyrone Brown truly wowed the audience with his rich tone and well-constructed solo. He had me dancing in my chair and since his approach was so original, I feel I have to retell it to you avid jazz fans.

He sets in real nice and easy (swinging hard). Then he goes into a routine where he'll start a walking motif running eighth or sixteenth-notes lines in double time against the drummer's 4/4. And thus he plays a game of catch me if you can with the drums. This really was a pleasure to watch, but what brought the most attention was his impassioned introduction and obligato on the last piece, McCoy Tyner's Eastern-tinged Wise One.

I thanked Odean for bringing such an interesting set that exposed the audience to these players and brought the Philly tradition to the District.


More Articles

Read Vossajazz 2017 Live Reviews Vossajazz 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: April 21, 2017
Read Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights Live Reviews Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 18, 2017
Read Tallinn Music Week 2017 Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
Read Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017
Read Miles From India at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Miles From India at SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
by John Ephland
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "Helsinki Festival 2016" Live Reviews Helsinki Festival 2016
by Anthony Shaw
Published: September 3, 2016
Read "The Chris Robinson Brotherhood at The Rusty Nail" Live Reviews The Chris Robinson Brotherhood at The Rusty Nail
by Doug Collette
Published: August 13, 2016
Read "Matt Schofield at Nectar's" Live Reviews Matt Schofield at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: July 11, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!