Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Odean Pope Trio with Marshall Allen, In This Moment

I sometimes swear to myself that I will never again review music received as downloads. It is a nightmare of PDFs, clogged hard drives, download glitches that cause skips, drop outs and mysterious track disappearances, and toggling back and forth in totally counter-intuitive ways to get information that when in hard copy form takes only a minute to transcribe. Who says our technology is so great? A bunch of 12 year olds, mostly, who will soon learn perhaps that their future is dismal thanks in part to those "labor saving devices" we are no longer allowed to do without. You go shopping and see people smiling like idiots in the aisles because. . .not because they recognize you or your humanity, but because they are talking remotely to somebody you'll never know. It's a thankless, cold and nasty world out there. Our technology in some ways has made it worse. I am no Luddite, but the current state-of-the-world can be frustrating and alienating, OK? But no I know, it's all here to stay and I am in the thick of it without thought of turning back. We cannot.

Paradoxically I now get to the subject at hand, in a medium that would not have existed several decades ago. The CD thank the stars was received as a real concrete entity so I can get this review done in half the time and be sure that it will play on my machine as I typo-type this. So what is it all about? It's the master tenor Odean Pope, and I will take a leap and say of all the players out there, Maestro Pope is at the very top in terms of of unsung brilliance. Anyway it's the Odean Pope Trio with Marshall Allen and their recent release In the Moment (CIMP 394).

The group includes Marshall of course on alto plus Lee Smith on acoustic bass and Craig McIver on drums. The sound is full and purist in the CIMP fashion and that works out just fine. The group takes a pure music, gimmick-less approach, which is always the Pope method. Producer Bob Rusch has been a staunch supporter of such things and Odean's music for many decades, as many of you will know.

There is an Allen-Pope duo track and one with Pope and Smith. There is also a brief but interesting Lee Smith unaccompanied track. The rest is the band all the way. Allen and Pope, as you might expect, hit it off musically and have a sort of vinegar and oil identity-in-separateness which is quite pleasing. The Smith-McIver rhythm team get friction and frisson by playing a strong "hostess with the mostest" foundational role to some very hip two-horn improvisations, some hip horn solo moments and otherwise set the pace with heat and subtlety as needed.

The program is well thought-out and Pope's compositional sense gives it a guaranteed substance that the performances and improvisations make into an excellent totality.

This is free-thinking free music, with soul and thought put into every bar, not that bar lines are a big factor when the band gets full-out into the moment. In This Moment has that state-of-the-art feel to it. Pope is doing great work. You should support this music because it deserves support, but of course also because it is so good.


  1. I remember Marshall Allen in the good-old/bad-old Sun-Ra-at-Playhouse-Cafe-on-McDougall-Street days. I would like to say hello to him. I'm glad we both survived.

  2. Hey Tom,
    I can imagine. I saw them at the short-lived "new" Five Spot a bunch of times--and they blew my mind of course! I am glad you both survived too! Those were great but also some very rough times, depending. I was almost starving up in Boston around then.

  3. It seems Marshall left the EVI home for this session (?). I wonder why? Not that I'm a huge fan of the instrument, but it might have been interesting to put the EVI up against Odean's tenor from time to time.

  4. Hello AGM,
    One of the reasons may be that CIMP generally does not favor electric/electronic instruments in its releases, other than the electric guitar. I agree it might have added another timbre in his interactions with Odeon, but ultimately they have plenty to say without it. Thanks for your comment,

  5. Oops "Odeon" should of course be "Odean". Haste makes...