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Byard Lancaster/Odean Pope/Ed Crockett/J.R. Mitchell: Philadelphia Spirit in New York

Although John Coltrane was born in North Carolina, and resided in the New York City area for most of his career, Philadelphia still claims him as its own since he lived there during his formative years. His spirit is very much alive in the city’s jazz scene and it can be felt in the playing of two of the city’s best saxophonists, Byard Lancaster and Odean Pope, who have teamed up for the great Philadelphia Spirit in New York. This pianoless quartet doesn’t play Coltrane’s compositions or even reference him in the liner notes-the closest thing to name-checking Trane is the song “McCoy T”-but they do wear his influence on their sleeves.

Lancaster (alto saxophone, flute, bells) and Pope (tenor and soprano saxophones) combine for magnificent interwoven melodies that are well supported by drummer J.R. Mitchell and bassist Ed Crockett. The quartet performs compositions written mostly by Pope or Mitchell, but there are a few spontaneous collaborations, a Lancaster work and an affecting version of Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann.” The band sounds like various Coltrane stages on the record: “Philly In 3 Part II” has a lot in common with Coltrane’s early dates for Atlantic, while “Collage” sounds like a late-period blowout with Pharoah Sanders.

Although Coltrane’s spirit is fully felt, these musicians still have their own voices.

Originally Published