Philadelphia saxophone great Odean Pope doesn’t perform with the same frequency that he once did. Originally from South Carolina, Pope was raised in Philly and got his start playing behind some of R&B’s most legendary artists at the Uptown Theater before befriending John Coltrane before the tenor legend left the city. Pope’s most enduring musical relationship was with Max Roach, with whom he played for nearly 40 years until the pioneering drummer’s death in 2007. In the early 1970s Pope co-founded the ground-breaking early fusion group Catalyst, and later corralled many of the best young saxophonists in Philly and beyond for his rousing Saxophone Choir. His sound is brawny and barbed, a bridge between hard bop, soul jazz, and the avant-garde.
The last few years have been marked by several monumental changes for Pope – last fall he turned 75, in 2011 he spoke publicly about his 30-year struggle with bipolar disorder and was celebrated at a fundraising concert at the Clef Club, and most importantly, in 2012 he lost his beloved wife Cis, the inspiration for one of his most beautiful compositions. So it’s already a special occasion that Pope will lead a quartet at Chris’ Jazz Café on Saturday, bolstered by the fact that it will be the saxophonist’s first show ever at the city’s sole remaining full-time jazz venue. He’ll front a group of local all-stars featuring bassist Lee Smith, pianist Tom Lawton, and drummer Craig McIver. Tickets and information for the show can be found here.