Mike Pope has earned a reputation as Gotham's latest envelope-pushing plucker. Pope's extensive skills are best summed up by Patitucci, himself: "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."
Indeed, Mike's mastery of the 5- and 6-string electric bass has led to live and/or recording stints with a wide array of artists, including Mike Stern, Chuck Loeb, Anton Fig, Jason Miles and Blood Sweat & Tears. His precision and poise on the upright has brought calls from Joe Locke, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Bruce Barth and David Berkman. And his stylistic and technical command of both instruments has led to "doubling" gigs and cross-idiom hits with the likes of Randy Brecker, the Gil Evans Orchestra and Steve Smith. As a recording artist, Pope's playing and composing is showcased on his two fine solo albums. Walk Your Dogma, his stirring solo debut, features bebop-ignited 6-string blowing that Bass Player magazine said, "burns with white-hot intensity." Lay of the Land, Mike's new release, largely focuses on his fluid upright work and boasts guests such as Michael and Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, John Patitucci, Seamus Blake, Joe Locke and Henry Hey. The nine tracks range from six serious originals to two standards (including a 6-string-and-drums duet on "Cherokee") and a timely version of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Fast becoming an in-demand educator, Pope also participates in clinics worldwide and is on the faculty of the Bass Collective in New York City.
Interestingly, piano - not bass - is at the root of Mike Pope's development. Born in Bowling Green, Ohio, Mike was raised on the sounds of his parents' classical piano playing and their jazz-heavy record collection, which favored the finger fare of Bill Evans, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Following piano lessons at age 7, Mike discovered bass through his brother Dave, a budding drummer and guitarist who turned him on to Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny. Just 12, Pope began emulating Jaco lines on the lower strings of a folk guitar, before getting an electric bass shortly after. Two years later, his teacher, Jeff Halsey, encouraged him to begin upright studies, leading to the additional influences of Ray Brown, Ron Carter and Patitucci. Turning 15, Mike received special permission from his dad, who was on the faculty of Bowling Green State University, to play in the school's lab bands. He also got the okay to stay out late gigging at local jazz clubs, gathering a wealth of experience in the process.
Pope left Ohio at 18 for North Texas State's renowned music program, where he earned a degree in jazz studies performance. Among the visiting guest musicians he got to play with was tenor titan Michael Brecker, who encouraged Mike to move to the Big Apple. Upon his arrival in New York City in 1993, one of his first gigs was with trumpeter Randy Brecker, who offers, "Mike has become a fixture on the New York jazz scene. I've had the pleasure of playing on his CDs, using him in my band, and recommending him for other situations. He's an incredible acoustic and electric bassist - one of the few who is comfortable on both instruments - and a very talented composer." Guitar god Mike Stern, who provided another early outlet for Pope, adds, "Mike is an extraordinary musician. This is very evident in both his playing and his writing. His talent shines brightly in all situations, especially on his new CD."
For more information about Mike Pope, please visit: http://www.mikepopejazz.com.
Aaron Immanuel Wright