Mike Pope: The Lay of the Land

Mike Pope roams far and wide throughout The Lay of the Land (Whaling City), his strong and auspicious debut. Pope, an alumnus of the North Texas State jazz program, has become something of a staple on the New York scene, and this album should solidify his talents as a musician even as it establishes composer cred. The common currency here is postfusion acoustic straightahead jazz (if that makes any sense). Pope employs a strong supporting team-saxophonists Michael Brecker and Seamus Blake, guitarist Mike Stern, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and pianist Henry Hey are among the album’s contributors-and his bass serves as an anchor and center. Joe Locke, who wrote the appreciative liner notes, lends his vibraphone to a valedictory reharmonization of the national anthem-a typical move on this album of modest but persistent innovations.