Reviews

REVIEWS OF THE GOOD LIFE (2016):

In 2008, composer, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Alvin Clayton Pope released his debut album Rise of the Phoenix. The second album Soul of Man, dates from 2012, and now has released a third on the list. Alvin was influenced by Roy Ayers, The Crusaders and Patrice Rushen. He played classical and gospel, but also rock, pop, country, hip hop and jazz. However, he began his career as a drummer, but now also plays keys, guitar and alto & tenor sax. He teamed with guitarist/producer Nils to put down nine original songs and two covers. Nils plays guitar on all the songs. Alvin said: “The title of the album reflects the fact that everything about the experience of making it is about the positive side of life. I’ve gone outside the box, exploring different textures and rhythmic ideas to create a blended style. It’s not straight funk or Latin – and a song like “Paraiso” is the perfect example of a song that fuses those two genres together. What makes this project more amazing than any other I have worked on is the combination of some of my songwriting with this solid cast of musicians and Nils’ great production skills. He and I are very like-minded, and as you can tell when you listen, both of us have a flair for the funk no matter the essential style of the track. He opens immediately with the catchy single “Body Heat”, a feel good tune, featuring Jeff Kashiwa on sax. On “Rio” you can hear the late drummer Ricky Lawson, while the soft cover “Amazing Grace”, features Reggie Codrington on his sax. Saxophonist Jessy J does so again on the Latin-like “Mr. Marco”. You can chill to “Chillin”, and groove on “Girls Night Out”, and then comes the ballad ”Bout That Time”, followed by the Latin track “Paraiso”. Donny Hathaway’s “Valdez In The Country” gets a modern arrangement, and Johnny Britt’s trumpet on the relaxed “One More Day”. Reggae is discussed in the closer “Island Girl”. With varying so, this is a great CD to listen to again and again. A release that modern jazz fans cannot afford to miss! – Patrick Van de Wiele, KeysandChords.com

“Pianist/keyboardist Alvin Pope (aka Alvin Clayton Pope) has a clear, cool approach on his beautifully arranged latest release, The Good Life. Alvin Pope created an album with very deep-reaching charm, melody, and rhythm. His light and airy touch on the ivories speaks the universal language of love and beauty in a most competent fashion. You can almost hear his piano singing to you and to you only. He is joined here by producer/guitarist Nils, saxophonists Jessy J and Jeff Kashiwa, and the late great drummer Ricky Lawson. What they all add to this both romantic and spirited album simply can’t be overstated. The Good Life covers all moods from sheer romance to soulful dance grooves to the exoticism and heat of Latin and reggae rhythms. Amid several originals, Pope offers two covers. His interpretation of “Amazing Grace” is simply not to be missed, and he conjures up that reminiscent Donny Hathaway magic with his version “Valdez in the Country” — both solid and undeniably rich. From the funky and steady lead track “Body Heat” punctuated with a good touch of sass and that trademark Kashiwa attitude on sax to the reggae shine of the last track “Island Girl,” Pope displays a keen awareness of the musical senses of jazzers everywhere who enjoy an abundance of eclecticism. Lend this one your ears and bask in the glow of music done right”. – Ronald Jackson, The Smooth Jazz Ride.com

“In reviewing Alvin Pope’s previous album Soul of Man, I called it “transcendently cool” and “one of them most satisfying independent releases of the year”. With its even more compelling melodies, ultra-dynamic production, dazzling multi-faceted keyboard lines and blasts of brilliance by Nils’ strings and an array of guest performers, I can up the ante on the adjectives to praise The Good Life. Beyond its multiple shades of amazing is this keen sense of adventure. Alvin Pope embraces the indie spirit by breaking genre boundaries in the service of creating great music from his soul that speaks directly to ours – without limits. This is his creative breakthrough that will give him the widespread attention he so richly deserves. Listening to these songs, you’ll experience nothing short of The Good Life!” – Jonathan Widran, Music Journalist

“What a fabulous day I’ve had – an unexpected series of musical delights – and they’re all on Alvin Pope’s The Good Life! I am so happy to have taken the time to listen to each organic and inspired song here …with the production of Nils involved, they are addicting! What I am hearing is Contemporary Jazz in a fresh and invigorated way, with fun and fearlessness intact. The Good Life is where you want music to take you, every single time. You can’t explain the joy, but you KNOW what you’re feeling. I’m grateful for the opportunity to FEEL this. Each song, a story unto itself. And a new chapter in Alvin Pope’s musical history. How fantastic to “ear” witness it!” – Trish Hennessey, Hybrid Jazz

Reviews of Soul of Man (2012):

“Perfectly fitting into the realm of smooth yet funky, contemporary urban jazz, Alvin Pope’s delightfully infectious second CD, Soul of Man is also a unique adventure that takes us back to the heyday of old school R&B, the silky cool Quiet Storm era and off on an unexpected jaunt to Brazil for the collection’s most unexpected number, Jobim’s “One Note Samba.” While he is listed as the primary artist, producer and composer, one of Pope’s great strengths is letting the amazing talent around him shine like his musical hero Quincy Jones always does. He’s a jack of all melodic and grooving trades, playing everything from guitar to sax and keys—and has a strong lead voice. But he wisely moves to the background on a few tracks to give his solid vocalists and spotlight horn players Brian Williams (trumpet) and Ron Smith, Jr. (sax) moments in the spotlight. Diversity is a quality that is not always appreciated in a musical world where radio formats and iTunes categories demand strict genre classification. That just makes the transcendently cool Soul of Man all the better. One of the most satisfying independent releases of the year.” – Jonathan Widran, All Music

“When it comes to showcasing music that inspired them, some make dubious choices. That’s not an issue for Alvin Pope, who grew up listening to the sounds of Motown, the British invasion and loads of soul and jazz. Case in point: instead of selecting the oft-covered “Forget Me Nots” from Patrice Rushen’s landmark “Straight From the Heart” album, Pope digs deeper with “You Remind Me,” with Jennifer Richburg’s dreamy vocals doing Rushen proud.

Pope, a multi-talented instrumentalist who plays drums, guitar, sax and piano, as well as singing on lead and background vocals, displays his smoky pipes on Bobby Womack’s “A Woman’s Gotta Have It.” Meanwhile, Richburg returns on Minnie Ripperton’s ballad “Inside My Love” and Vessa Fulton matches her soulfulness on Angela Bofill’s erotic “I Try”. On another cover, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s well-traveled “One Note Samba”, vocalist Michael Jenkins grooves on a compelling English-language version of the classic.

Pope offers a lot to contemporary jazz fans with his original instrumentals, where all his musical skills get to shine. “First and Goal”, “Groovin’” and “At the End of the Day” have brassy, retro vibes that will appeal to old-school jazz and soul fans. “Late Night Swing” and “Going Home” are romantic, swaying tunes showcasing Pope’s light touch on acoustic piano.

Emotional and compelling, Soul of a Man certainly allows Pope to connect to listeners through his intimate moods. – Brian Soergel, JazzTimes