Odean Pope is a pioneering jazz saxophonist, composer, performer, and educator who has collaborated with jazz luminaries such as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Benny Golson, and McCoy Tyner. Pope joined the Max Roach Quartet as a regular member in 1979 and remained with the group for more than two decades. He has released more than 20 albums with various groups such as his nine-piece Odean Pope Saxophone Choir. Having grown up in North Philadelphia, Pope says he’s always felt a strong commitment to his community and working with the city’s children. He started the jazz studies program at Settlement Music School, and he continues to give master classes in the School District of Philadelphia, as well as nationally and internationally. Pope has received awards and fellowships from The Rockefeller Foundation, North Sea Jazz Festival, and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and he was honored in 2017 with the Living Legacy Jazz Award from Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. In 2018, Pope received a Center Project grant to create Sounds of the Circle, an evening-length suite evoking the “distinctive sonic environment” of North Philadelphia and the mid-20th-century innovators who helped build Philadelphia’s jazz legacy.
Award-winning jazz composer and saxophonist Odean Pope will present a new evening-length suite, evoking neighborhood histories and the musical ideas of Philadelphia jazz innovators of the mid-20th-century. Pope, a 1992 Pew Fellow, will take inspiration from what he describes as the “distinctive sonic environment” of black North Philadelphia neighborhoods between the late-1940s and early-1970s, established by jazz luminaries such as John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, and Jymie Merritt. Pope says he intends to “weave a web of remembrance” for the place-driven creative energy and collective innovation he experienced during this period when an “inspired circle” of colleagues and mentors practiced in each other’s homes, shared schools and teachers, and honed their skills in the neighborhood’s music venues—an environment he says, that “motivated me and my generation to embrace experimental music and improvisation as a life-time endeavor.” During the work’s development process, workshops and open rehearsals throughout North Philadelphia will give audiences opportunities to experience the creative process and to connect with the role their communities have played in building Philadelphia’s jazz legacy. The resulting new composition will be performed by an ensemble of notable Philadelphia musicians, including Pope on tenor saxophone, with Gloria Galante (harp), Tom Lawton (piano), Craig McIver (drums), Diane Monroe (violin), Lee Smith (bass), and Bobby Zankel (alto saxophone).
Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.