Mike Pope is a real renaissance man. He is a musician of broad scope and tremendous talent. His virtuosity on electric and acoustic bass is rare even by today's standards. His harmonic sophistication is matched only by his ability to improvise on a very high level with great consistency. To top it off, he's no slouch on the piano either(it's in the family genes). In addition I'd also like to note that Mr. Pope is an inventor as well(designs and builds pre-amps for basses etc.). All this plus he can take your car apart and rebuild it for you. Is there anything Mike Pope can't do????
John Patitucci 2/1/02
-CD Liner Notes-
If you're a fan of the bass and this CD is your first encounter with Michael Pope, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The Lay of the Land is a wonderful session, full of the leader's great writing and playing, with brilliant essays along the way by the members of this all-star line-up. Given the fact that this recording makes such a mature artist statement, the only surprise should be that we all don't have music by Michael Pope in our collections already. To that I can only say - good things are worth waiting for.
Michael did not emerge fully formed from nowhere. After completing his studies at North Texas State, he moved to Los Angeles for a time, then to New York City, where he rolled up his sleeves and went to work paying dues with an array of r&b, rock and jazz groups, on both acoustic and electric bass. I first came across Michael when I was looking for an electric bassist for Wirewalkers, my group at the time. I already knew him by reputation, and he came highly recommended as an articulate musician with a lot of harmonic knowledge, who could also really groove on the r&b influenced material we were playing in Wirewalkers. He was a perfect fit for the band. We had a weekly engagement at a NYC coffeehouse and we were having a ball, developing the group's repertoire, trying new ideas, just having a great time. We started sneaking some straight-ahead jazz tunes into the book, and Michael said, "I'm gonna bring my acoustic bass next time. It might be nice on some of these songs". I was amazed to discover that his acoustic bass playing was equal to his electric playing. On the bigger instrument he's as fluent a soloist as he is on the electric, consistently able to serve up brilliant improvisations with taste and clarity, even at fast tempos. Fleet-fingered though he may be, it's in his supportive role as a rhythm section player where Michael's musical depth can truly be felt. His ears are wide open and he instinctively knows what to do in the moment. Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts says of Michael, "He's an intelligent musician who makes good decisions quickly on the bandstand. And he has a selflessness, always playing in service of the music."
At the outset I stated that bass fans would like this CD. But the bass playing is only part of the picture here. Michael is a creative musical thinker, and the original compositions and arrangements which comprise The Lay of the Land are evidence of that. The insistent forward motion of "The First Order of Business" the appropriately titled opening track, the plaintive cry of "Essence", the lilting beauty of "At Home Again", the rhythmic plate tectonics of the title track; these songs are the mirror of the man, reflecting the complexity and humanity of the artist. Go further into the CD and more is revealed; his refreshing, left-of-center take on "Cherokee", the tip of the hat to Miles' '60s quintet on Henry Hey's "Climate", the hip re-working of "The Way You Look Tonight" ...... Hey, you don't need me to chatter on, just dig it for yourself. Every time I listen to it I find something new that hits a nerve, touches my heart, makes me shake my head or laugh out loud.
It was a great experience to be a part of this project; great music, good friends, a relaxed vibe, and a bandleader who knew what he came for; to make some good music. For Michael Pope, that's always the first order of business.
New York City