Odean Pope Trio | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Odean Pope Trio


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John Coltrane spent his formative years in the City of Brotherly Love, and his spirit has hovered there since. Saxist Odean Pope, now 59, grew up in Philadelphia, and as a teenager he surely heard Coltrane in local clubs just before the visionary saxophonist rocketed to fame in Miles Davis's group in 1955. Though a common stamping ground might not seem like much of a connection, on tunes like "Coltrane Time" and his own "Knot It Off" Pope cements the link with a throaty tone and modal improvisations. Behind the Trane you can make out Jimmy Heath--Coltrane's contemporary and another prime influence on Philly saxists--in Pope's boppish melody lines, which get busy but not frenetic. In his trio (as opposed to his Saxophone Choir, a nine-reed ensemble that rarely tours) Pope also draws on two chapters of his personal history: early experience in Art Blakey's band and a long association with Max Roach have fortified his playing with walloping rhythms, and the music's long, strong jazz-funk grooves echo Pope's early-70s fusion band, Catalyst. Those grooves dominated his albums in the 80s, when his trio starred funkified, string-slapping electric bassist Gerald Veasley and its music borrowed heavily from Ornette Coleman's Prime Time. Pope's current trio, with Tyrone Brown on bass and drummer Craig McIver, hews to a less confrontational repertoire, as heard on his most recent CD, Ninety-Six, on Enja (named not for the year of its release but for the South Carolina town where Pope was born). But although the saxist has tamed his material, he still makes judicious use of circular breathing to build tension in his solos, piling up notes without a pause until the music bursts. Friday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Patented Photos.

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