In The Clubs
|Citizen Cope Live!
By Linda Spielman
It's been a long time since I have been
in to great jazz club. It's been even longer since I have seen & heard
a great new artist at a jazz club. Dowes, here in Pittsburgh is steadily
becoming quite the hot spot for many established musicians/artists, as
well as newcomers out on the touring circuit. While most of the city was
celebrating St. Patrick's Day in traditional fashion, I chose to check
out Citizen Cope. Between my friends in the business, the record label
and industry publications buzzing about Cope, I needed to see and hear
for myself if all the hype was true about this guy.
I specially decided that I would not read
my press materials, or listen to Cope's CD more than once before checking
him out live. I wanted to go into this show with no preconceived ideas
of who Cope was or what his music is all about. This is not a standard
practice for me, but something told me that to truly experience this artist
live was to go into this show ignorant of his musical history. That decision,
although not my typical approach to covering shows proved quite fruitful.
I was able to experience and embrace Citizen Cope in his purest form.
I immediately became mesmerized by Cope's
voice when he came on stage. It's streetwise and rough, yet melodic. His
songs get right to the heart of true storytelling. Promoting his CD "The
Clarence Greenwood Recordings" through his tour is the only way to experience
Cope's music, and to fall in love with it. It's not your typical jazz.
But it is definitely a new flavor of jazz that may just open a younger
generation to an appreciation of this musical art form. I guess the only
comparison I have to what Citizen Cope is doing for modern jazz, is the
first time I heard Digable Planets back in the early 90s. Not only does
Cope valiantly deliver exceptional song writing skills, a completely encompassing
live show, but he skillfully blends hip hop with traditional jazz that
makes it new, energizing
and fresh for jazz lovers of all ages.
The Washington, D.C. based artist grew
up listening to Sly Stone, Willie Nelson and Al Green along with whatever
he could steal from his sister's album collection. During high school,
Cope slowly gravitated to the world of hip-hop joining the locally known
Realizing that he wanted to make music
that he could proudly play for his own grandmother, Cope picked up the
guitar and never looked back. After one self-titled release on Dreamworks
Records in 2001, Cope then changed homes and now finds himself at RCA.
With this latest CD released by RCA, Cope's abilities as a songwriter/story
teller and musician are prominently showcased in their proper context.
As Cope so eloquently puts it into perspective,
"It might sound corny, but for me music should be able to transcend all
boundaries. Society has a way of trying to set limits, but there are no
limits in music. I don't believe in style over substance for me it's all
about the song. I like bringing together guys from different musical genres,
be it go-go, hip-hop or rock, and just follow where the music takes us."
I cannot pinpoint one highlight from Cope's
show at Dowes. I can say, that some of the patrons who were obviously diehard
jazz fans looked on with reservation at the beginning of Cope's set. However,
by the end of the evening I noticed those same people were into what Cope
was doing just as much as those who were there as fans already. It's one
thing to win over new fans. It's a whole other story when you can win over
the established fans of such a beautiful art form such as jazz and be accepted
as Cope was that evening.
The only way to properly describe Cope's
music, is jazz for a new generation. He successfully has taken elements
of rock, hip-hop, go-go, funk and fused it with jazz without losing any
of the roots of jazz. His voice is soulful, sincere as well as mesmerizing.
He is a refreshing addition to the jazz world, as well as the music community
as a whole. In my opinion, if one artist could help turn younger people
on to jazz it would be Cope. With his eclectic style and sound, many of
today's hipsters would find themselves fans of jazz music through Cope's
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