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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 Basehead crew.
 
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 interpretations.
 



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