In & Out Records
udging from the similarities in their titles, packaging designs and mix of songs, Odean’s Three is meant as a pared-down sequel to Odean’s List from 2010. While the earlier album featured a five-horn frontline and a pianist, Odean’s Three puts Pope’s brawny tenor in the classic spotlight of a pianoless trio, retaining bassist Lee Smith while swapping out Jeff “Tain” Watts for the more filigreed rhythmic support of drummer Billy Hart. The heightened focus naturally brings Pope’s idiosyncrasies into greater relief. He accepts a little quaver in his tone for the sake of multiphonics, but still rides through phrases with the plush assurance of a big Buick, occasionally ambushing the listener with circular breathing that extends a slurred torrent of notes beyond expectations. In tone and conception, he’s bold but never even remotely out of control.
The lone cover and longest track is “Blues It” by Pope’s influential tutor from Philadelphia, pianist Hasan Ibn Ali, during which he indulges in the bottom-scraping emissions and bumpity swing that draw comparisons to Sonny Rollins. Two songs from Odean’s List are reprised, including “Blues for Eight,” which was already performed as a trio on that earlier date but is leaner and more rapidly paced here, closing with ample solos for Smith and then Hart as opposed to the Pope-Watts exchanges on the previous version. “You and Me” is more radically revamped, from a big-band style arrangement on Odean’s List to a knotty and more intimate exercise in which the first third is spent trading and echoing riffs among the trio and the final third has Pope in an extended skitter like an outcat, with the rhythm section fully engaged. It’s the parting shot from a now-74-year-old artist with a head full of ideas and the means to unpack them.