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Composer, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Alvin Clayton Pope named his 2008 independently released debut CD Rise of the Phoenix but that was just the start of an exciting solo career which reaches even greater creative heights on his upcoming release Soul of Man. Unlike many urban contemporary jazz artists who stick with the same dynamics from track to track, Pope draws from a wide array of influences throughout the ten tracks, including old school R&B, soul ballads, funk and Brazilian music. While he showcases the keyboard as his primary instrument when he does live performances, the multi-talented performer also plays alto sax on the opening track “You Remind Me” and “At The End of the Day” and handles lead vocals on a cover version of Bobby Womack’s “A Woman’s Gotta Have It.” He also plays guitar on “Inside My Love”.
True to its title concept, Soul of Man takes the listener on a journey colored by the many artists that inspired Pope as a musician and the associations he has had with some of R&B’s most legendary groups. The Wilmington, Delaware native grew up a fan of Motown and British Invasion music and later began listening to artists who perfectly fused R&B and jazz like Roy Ayers, The Crusaders and Patrice Rushen. Over the years, he has performed everything from classical and gospel to rock, pop, country, hip-hop and jazz. He also opened shows for The Temptations and the Four Tops and later served as production manager for these groups and other classic acts like War. Considering this background and his desire to expand into film and TV composing, one of the musical idols he would like to emulate is the great Quincy Jones.
“Soul of Man taps into more emotional territory than any other project I have ever worked on, tackling all the nuances of relationships, including the subtle ones,” says Pope, who is also a full time music teacher, mostly working with grades K-5. “On the first album, I was feeling my way around stylistically and focused very much on the logistics of simply getting a recording done. This time, I was able to really dig deep and express passions I have about many different things, from the cool, chill time of ‘At The End of the Day’ to ‘First and Goal,” which I wrote as a showcase for my trumpet player, Brian Williams, who is a passionate football fan. The song reflects his intensity for the game. One thing that also sets it apart from most projects in this genre is that I conceived it as an ensemble project in which the many great musicians I work with are in the forefront as much as I am. I am comfortable with the idea of giving them a spotlight to showcase their talents, and am honored to work with such amazing musicians and vocalists.”
FROM THE BEGINNING
“The one thing about music is you never know where the journey will take you!” Pope often shares this thought with his students as a music educator for the past ten years. Though he works mostly with kids from Kindergarten through 5th Grade at a Wilmington public school, he has also developed musical curriculums for schools outside his main district for classes of students from K-12. In his capacity as a teacher, he imparts his passion for music, which extends back to his love for the swing era, with the goal of passing on the tradition of older styles to the next generation. Prior to becoming a music educator, Pope worked in production management and sound engineering.
Pope began his musical life as a drummer but found that he also enjoyed the timbre of other instruments. He now plays drums, guitar, alto/tenor sax, and piano as well as sings lead and background vocals on numerous works. “As a child I’d hear a song and ask myself what is the composer trying to say? How can I get into their head as a listener?” Composition came early in the form of instrumentals and continued with ensemble works of various genres. Alvin now composes and arranges music in Jazz, Pop, and Gospel, just to name a few. While earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education, Alvin worked on acquiring knowledge in the field of recording by working with various independent artists in both commercial and non-commercial studios.