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Take Five With Mike Pope


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Meet Mike Pope:
Mike Pope is a virtuoso acoustic and electric bassist who has toured extensively with Chick Corea, David Sanborn, Al Di Meola and Bill Bruford, and more recently, Joe Locke and Eldar Djangirov. Raised in Ohio by two parents who were both classical musicians and educated at the University of North Texas, Pope came under the influence of legendary saxophonist Michael Brecker and eventually played with him in New York City, as well as with Blood Sweat and Tears, The Gil Evans Orchestra, Manhattan Transfer, and many other jazz stars. Pope has recorded three albums, with artists such as Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, John Patitucci, and Jeff "Tain" Watts. As John Patitucci writes, "Mike Pope is a real Renaissance man. He is a musician of broad scope and tremendous talent. His virtuosity on electric and acoustic bass is rare even by today's standards." Mike Pope's touring band, the House of Cardinals, includes four phenomenal musicians: vibraphonist Joe Locke, Brazilian drummer Mauricio Zottarelli, Russian pianist Eldar Djangirov, and tenor saxophonist Bob Franceschini. In 2014, the group played Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., An die Musik Live in Baltimore, and Regattabar in Cambridge.

Acoustic and Electric Bass. I have a mid-1960s Pollman Acoustic bass, and I've been with Fodera for electric basses for years, now. I play the Mike Pope signature model, the Viceroy.

Teachers and/or influences?
I think almost every bassist influences me. If a bassist is making music, I feel it. My first teacher was Jeff Halsey, an amazing bassist who lives in Bowling Green, Ohio, where I grew up. He taught me how to be a BASS player" and what it meant to swing and to support a band.

At the University of Northern Texas, I studied classical bass with Ed Rainbow, with less than stellar results. Thus, I am once AGAIN studying classical bass, this time with Victor Dvoskin at Towson University where I'm aiming for a master's degree. So I'll finally officially be a master :-)

Over the years, John Patitucci has been a great friend, mentor, and teacher. It became evident to me that in order to achieve mastery, I needed some skills that I could learn only from studying the classical repertoire. Having to repeatedly play the same thing the same way fosters growth in areas outside your comfort zone.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I was born :-) Music has been a daily means of communication among my family members as long as I can remember. It was natural. Never forced or expected. It was just THERE.

Your sound and approach to music:
I typically go for as loud and fast as possible. :-) When that doesn't work, I generally go with sincerity. Seriously, though, for me it's all about being real. I want the music I play and write to be honest, to be a reflection of something inside me, and not a construct. That can be difficult when composing, because writing music is generally not a real-time process. Very often, technique and procedure cloud the musical picture. The same can happen when playing. I hear so many great bass players and piano players (the two instruments I can play well enough to be expressive) who play with so much facility and have so much to say and say it so succinctly that it becomes easy to focus on HOW to play. But with music, the "what" comes first, and the "how" comes second. We are results-oriented creatures, like it or not, and the best results start with the best intentions.

Your teaching approach:
I would refer you to the answer to the previous question. Teaching technique is obviously important insofar as it facilitates musicians' ability to develop an interface between their musical mind and the part of them that actually does the playing: the body (or really the motor nervous system).

But SO often I've had students come to me to learn how to improvise or play jazz, and when I ask them what they like, they reply that they don't really like jazz, don't really listen to it, and don't really know what they want to be able to do, except that they heard me or someone else play and thought, "that's pretty cool. I wanna be able to do that." Music is nothing without inspiration, at least from my perspective. I try to inspire by exposing my students to music that might inspire them. But there's "inspired" in the immediate sense, and "inspired" in a general sense. I believe the former is affected by the teacher, but the latter is either there or it isn't. It's an inherent state of mind. I've also learned that great teachers really put time and energy into teaching. They truly WANT to see their students' lives changed.


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