Tenor saxophonist Odean Pope is wellversed in the art of playing in pianoless trios, which again is the setting for his latest release, "Ebito." Like Sonny Rollins, who long ago mastered the form, Pope boasts a big, resonating tone and possesses the harmonic and rhythmic agility to compensate for the absence of a keyboard.
A longtime member of drummer Max Roach's quartet and a disciple of John Coltrane, Pope opens the album with the original two pieces -- "Prince La Sha" and "Me and You" -- that occasionally evoke those associations. On the first tune, Pope generates a Coltrane-esgue spiritual fervor, playing coiled lines over drummer Craig McIver's tumbling rhythms and bassist Tyrone Brown's racing pulse before the tumult subsides. The second piece has a more relaxed, romantic and bop-based tone, punctuated with limber solos by both Brown and McIvers.
Brown is the author of "Tribute to Duke and Mingus," which provides Pope an opportunity to display the more subdued and soulful side of his personality and the rhythm section a chance to indulge in some undulating swing. As its title suggests, Pope's "Speaking to the Clouds" is an incantation of sorts, but it swings too, propelled by the rhythm section's gliding momentum. As the album unfolds, Pope contributes other attractive pieces, including the sinuous title track and deep-toned rhapsody "Cis," that find all three musicians closely attuned to the same wavelength.
Appearing Wednesday at Blues Alley. n To hear a free Sound Bite from Odean Pope, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8110. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)