Salon Series: A Concert with Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir
June 16, 2017
NYU Washington, DC and CapitalBop presented Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir and the Reginald Cyntje Group as the final concert of the 2017 Jazz Loft Series and part of DC Jazz Fest.
The DownBeat Blindfold Test is a listening test that challenges the featured artist to identify and discuss the music and musicians who perform on selected recordings. The artist is then asked to rate each tune using a 5-star system. No information is given to the artist prior to the test.
Odean Pope is a saxophonist, composer, educator, and living legend of Philadelphia’s jazz scene. He weilds a distinctive, quicksilver tenor saxophone sound that skates between gospel-inflected, straight-ahead jazz playing and unbounded expressionism.
Odean Pope was born in Ninety-Six, South Carolina to musical parents who rooted him in the sounds of the Southern Baptist Church. After moving to Philadelphia at the age of ten, his lifelong study of music began in earnest and was buttressed by The Graniff School of Music and Benjamin Franklin High School’s music program.
Odean grew up in jazz rich territory with other Philadelphia notables such as: John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Benny Golson, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy and Percy Heath, Ray Bryant, Bill Barron, Kenny Barron, Archie Shepp, Jymie Merritt, Jimmy Garrison, Philly Joe Jones and Dizzy Gillespie. Coltrane chose Odean to replace him in Jimmy Smith’s Group when he left for New York to join Miles Davis. Although he was close to Coltrane and continues to revere his artistry, Odean was always searching for his own musical sound. This led him to study with Ron Rubin, the principal woodwind player in the Philadelphia Orchestra. At a later time he studied at The Paris Conservatory for Music under Kenny Clarke. It was there that he received his Certificate in Orchestration, Modern harmony, African rhythms, Be-Bop Art Forms and Arrangement. He studied with the pianist, Ray Bryant, bassist, Jymie Merritt and was significantly influenced by the brilliant, if not eccentric pianist, Hasaan Ibn Ali. Odean adds, “Then being able to study with Max (Roach) from ’79 up until ’02, was like going to one of the highest institutions in the whole world.”
Integrating several musical influences including the church choir of his youth, Philadelphia jazz and R&B of the 50’s and classical woodwind chamber music, led Odean in the early 70’s to help form Catalyst, a collective of musicians and music representing his new aesthetic. A two-CD set was reissued in 1999 on 32 Records as: “Catalyst: The Funkiest Band You Never Heard.” It was music ahead of its time. In 1979, Odean joined the Max Roach Quartet as a regular member for more than two decades. It was as the tenor man with Max Roach that Odean perfected the techniques of circular breathing and multiphonics, both allowing him to stretch his solo improvisations from dazzling elevations to the throbbing, husky sounds for which he is so well known, to all kinds of delicacy in getting from one to the other. Odean won acclaim from Australia to Japan, even winning “Best Tenor Saxophone Player” at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
Odean works with his trio, (Lee Smith, Craig McIver) quartet and saxophone choir. The saxophone choir is formatted with nine saxophones, and was established by Odean in 1977 and premiered in 1985 with a Soul Note album called “The Saxophone Shop.” The saxophone choir has been the realization of his southern legacy; a medium for creating the richly textured harmonic sound that has permeated his musical soul since childhood. Even though he plays clarinet, oboe, piccolo, flute and piano, Odean feels an affinity for the tenor saxophone because it most closely mimics the human voice. He constructs layers of melodic sound by playing within the fourth system in different tone scales using multiphonics, achieving several pitches together, for which he is well known. The choir reaches a stunning intensity that is simultaneously one voice and is also, as described by Francis Davis, “harmonically engorged.”
Odean has led two musical lives. Whereas his musical legion left for New York, Odean kept Philadelphia as his home base. Having grown up in North Philadelphia, Odean has always felt a strong commitment to his community through working musically with the children. He was musical director of a Philadelphia cultural initiative, “Model Cities.” He started the jazz studies program at the Settlement Music School and he continues to give master classes in the School District of Philadelphia, as well as nationally and internationally.
Odean Pope’s artistry as performer, composer, arranger and educator has earned him three citations from the City of Philadelphia. Also, among his many awards are: The Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Music Composition (1992); The Rockefeller Foundation (1992); Cleveland Community College; Afro -American Historical Society; #1Tenor Saxophonist at North Sea Jazz Festival; several from Chamber Music America and Artist of the City (2009). Mr. Pope is honored to be the 2017 recipient of the Mid Atlantic Living Legacy Award.
The saxophone choir is formatted with nine saxophones, and was established by Odean in 1977 and premiered in 1985 with a Soul Note album called "The Saxophone Shop." The saxophone choir has been the realization of Odean's southern legacy; a medium for creating the richly textured harmonic sound that has permeated his musical soul since childhood. The choir reaches a stunning intensity that is simultaneously one voice and is also, as described by Francis Davis, "harmonically engorged."
Reginald Cyntje is a remarkable trombonist and composer who has been called “one of the most prominent composer-bandleaders of the mid-Atlantic” by NPR Music.
Born in Roseau Dominica and raised on St. Thomas, he grew up in the US Virgin Islands and was steeped in the rich cultural music known as Quelbe (the official music of the USVI).
Quelbe was Reginald’s introduction to improvised music. One of his favorite Quelbe songs, Queen Mary, has a powerful message set to syncopated rhythm. This song sets the tone for his mission as a musician - to inspire change with music.
With cultural heritage at the forefront and social justice as the message, this passionate performer has “a deep-seated knowledge of Caribbean music and culture which has settled into his jazz trombone playing” (NPR Music).
After being featured on NPR's Jazz Night in America, Cyntje recorded his fourth album on February 10, 2015. Spiritual Awakening (TOP 5 Best DC JAZZ Albums of 2015) musically embodies humanity’s complex journey from introspection to a celebration of freedom. Cyntje (Washington City Paper Composer of the Year) released Spiritual Awakening on May 4, 2015.
Cyntje's third album was released on April 22, 2014 (Earth Day). Elements of Life (Washington City Paper Recording of the Year) features pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Herman Burney, drummer Amin Gumbs, vocalist Christie Dashiell, steel panist Victor Provost and saxophonist Brian Settles. The album explores the connection between the human being and the elements that nurture us.
In 2013, Cyntje released his sophomore album simply titled Love. The Washington City Paper said Love “is thoughtful and surpassingly gorgeous.” After debuting at #3 on the CMJ Jazz chart, Love made it to #10 on the CMJ Top 40 Jazz Chart. The album is a tribute to the human spirit.
His highly anticipated debut album, Freedom's Children: The Celebration, was released in August of 2011. The album quickly became a favorite among fans with hits like Queen Mary, Children’s Parade, Daybreak and a performance favorite Peace and Love.
RC has performed with Amiri Baraka, Dr. Billy Taylor, Illinois Jacquet, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Dion Parson and the 21st Century Band, Nasar Abadey, Ron Blake, Michael Bowie, Herman Burney, Paul Carr, Marc Cary, Sharón Clark, Cyrus Chestnut, George Duke, Benny Golson, Sean Jones, Tarus Mateen, Jason Moran, Steve Novosel, Johnny O'Neal, Nicholas Payton, Victor Provost, Rueben Rogers, Vanessa Rubin, Terrell Stafford, Gary Thomas, Tim Warfield, Larry Willis, Warren Wolf and many other extraordinary artists.
As a trombonist, educator and activist, he's toured the United States, Europe and the Caribbean.
On his recordings, you can hear the sounds of calypso, reggae, and other African influenced genres which now give his music a unique flavor.
Reginald Cyntje, “blessed with impressive facility and an immediacy of sound” now resides in the Washington DC area (The Independent Ear). Capital Bop views him as “arguably D.C.’s most agile and expressive trombone player.”
Reginald Cyntje has won the Washington City Paper Best Trombonist Award (2011, 2013, 2014).
Reginald is a graduate of the University of the District of
Columbia and received his master’s degree at the University of Maryland. Currently, he leads his own groups and works as a sideman in numerous bands.
He is also the founder/owner of Jegna School of Music, LLC, a school that provides music lessons, workshops and mentoring concerts for intergenerational students; the founder and creative director of Cyntje Music, LLC, a one stop music boutique that includes booking, curating and assisting artists; and a professor of music at Montgomery College and Prince George's Community College. Cyntje has also worked with Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Syncopated Leadership."
Mr. Cyntje is the author of Stepping Stones: 15 studies in improvisation.
The concept of his music ministry is to spread love, peace and social justice with each expression.
Reginald Cyntje Group
With cultural heritage at the forefront and social justice as the message, the Reginald Cyntje Group (RCG) blends Jazz, Caribbean rhythms and Afro-beat. The group’s recent release, Spiritual Awakening, represents humanity’s complex journey from introspection to a celebration of freedom. The band features Reginald Cyntje (trombone), Brian Settles (tenor sax), Hope Udobi (piano), Herman Burney (bass), Lenny Robinson (drums).
Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir
Reginald Cyntje Group
CapitalBop, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and presenting jazz in Washington, D.C. We build audiences in order to build community around this music, because it’s important to the city’s historic identity, but also ever-changing and contemporary. CapitalBop.com is designed to help everyone from newcomers to jazz die-hards find live music that will fit their preferences.
The CapitalBop DC Jazz Loft Series is funded in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The performance of Odean Pope Saxophone Choir, presented in collaboration with Arts for Art, Inc. and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, is supported, in part, by Presenter Consortium for Jazz, a program of Chamber Music America funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The NYU Washington, DC Salon Series: Conversations with Writers & Artists offers an opportunity for the NYU and Washington, DC community to meet and engage in dialogue with acclaimed writers and artists as they reflect on their craft. This program provides facilitated conversations that aim to illuminate the guests’ creative processes, discuss their current works, and explain the impact of their work on the world around us.