Taking his musical “game” to the next level, Pope vibes with genre superstar and #1 hit maker Nils to create an infectious set of nine dynamic originals and powerful covers of Donnie Hathaway’s “Valdez in the Country” and the always uplifting “Amazing Grace.” The title of the album came to the keyboardist towards the end of the recording process, and it perfectly summarizes the joyful spirit of the collection and Pope’s optimism moving forward: The Good Life.
The core flow of the album is centered on Pope’s freewheeling melodic magic on piano and retro keyboards (including Hammond B-3 organ and Fender Rhodes) and Nils’ funk-driven production and acoustic and electric guitar energy. For both artists, it was truly The Good Life every day in the studio as some of contemporary jazz’s most acclaimed artists and musicians contributed to bringing Pope’s eclectic compositions to life. Pope often uses sax to create exciting horn sections and doubling for his keys. The Good Life features performances from renowned indie players Reggie Codrington (“Amazing Grace”) and Charley Langer (“Island Girl”) in addition to veteran smooth jazz chart toppers Jessy J (“Mr. Marco”) and Jeff Kashiwa (“Body Heat”). Bassists include Reggie McBride (“Body Heat,” “One More Day,” “Chillin’”), Darryl Williams (“Rio,” “Amazing Grace,” “Island Girl,” “Paraiso,” Valdez In The Country,”) and Larry Antonio (“Mr. Marco”), while Oliver Brown handles percussion and Richard Wrightman keeps the beat steady on drums. The album also includes some of the last studio sessions by legendary drummer Ricky Lawson before he passed away in late 2013; he appears on “Rio” and “Mr. Marco”. Pope, who has been a music educator to grades K-5 and a staple of the music scene around his home of Wilmington, DE for years, is excited that he and Nils were in “lockstep,” developing a solid chemistry and freewheeling energy as they went from, in his words, “the city to the coast, down to South America and back again.”
The keyboardist adds: “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 kind of gone outside the box, exploring different textures and rhythmic ideas to create a blended style. It’s not straight funk or straight 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 likeminded, 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.” Continue reading