Odean Pope

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Odean Pope
LABELS: In & Out
ALBUM TITLE: Odean Pope: Odean’s Three
WORKS: Odean’s Three
PERFORMER: Odean Pope (sax), Lee Smith (bass), Billy hart (drums)
CATALOGUE NO: IORCD771122

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I first heard Pope in 1967-8 during his first stint with drummer Max Roach’s group. Roach always kept abreast of new developments and presumably recruited Pope to add some free-jazz salsa to the band’s post-bop recipe. Now in his mid-70s, Pope still has fire in his belly, a warm, powerful, very human tone, a majestic way with a melody, and a fine sense of form as composer and improviser, although this occasionally gets obscured by a chromatic plethora of notes.

Billy Hart (like Roach) is a responsive, melodic player who knows a jazz drummer should do far more than spell out the beat. Smith’s nimble contributions are excellent, full of intriguing harmonic hints couched in a rich, sonorous sound. Pope’s soulful solo prelude to the opening track promises something special, and the rest of the album delivers: from the funky blues numbers, via bustling neo-bop to the gorgeous ballads, it’s a delight.

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Barry Witherden