Odean Pope

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As one of the leaders in post-John Coltrane jazz expressionism, saxophonist Odean Pope has been at the forefront while also offering challenging music with different options. In size and shapes, brilliant personnel choices, and compatible sounds conceived in unique ways -- all have been Pope's calling card since his estimable time spent with Max Roach's combos. Teamed with fellow saxophonists James Carter and Walter Blanding alongside trumpeters Terrel Stafford and David Weiss, Pope has a formidable band, yet harnesses the energy of these firebrands. Pope takes the bulk of solos and introductions, occasionally letting his bandmates cut loose, but overall their roar is muted, their shout outs constrained to only slightly smoldering burning. As rich as the horns are, it is Pope's vision that brings the music to full fruition, especially from an angular, harmonic standpoint. Check out the modal waltz "Little Miss Lady," a rambling "To the Roach," where the horns are everywhere at once in a manner similar to fellow Philadelphian Coltrane's "Giant Steps," or the Spanish-flavored "Phrygian Love Theme" in parallel to 'Trane's "Ole." Standing tall in a blues vein, "You & Me" also reflects another influential giant, Charles Mingus, in its flexible, elastic rhythms that shift at will. Through it all, Pope's tart sax is clearly identifiable from start to finish, for as impressive a project as he has produced in a challenged, fruitful career in progressive jazz.

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