Michael Wolff


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From the first cunning abstractions the pianist improvises on Wayne Shorter's classic "Pinocchio," it's clear that Michael Wolff is more than just another one-trick pony. As the leader of Arsenio Hall's musical posse, Wolff proved himself an adept bandleader and sidekick, performing in a variety of styles, particularly in the jacked up contemporary funk mode the audience came to expect.

However, as JUMPSTART! makes plain, Michael Wolff is a modern jazz player with authentic credentials in the post-'60s idiom. This virtuoso keyboardist plied on his trade with numerous leaders, most notably Cannonball Adderley, whose heady blend of soul, hard bop, funk and modality made him one of jazz's most respected improvisers before his untimely death. Wolff evokes his presence through the tippling tempo, jagged harmonies, funky grace notes and teetering melodic runs of "Cannonblues."

Like many pianists enamored of the '60s, Wolff is clearly indebted to the free-form inventions of Herbie Hancock, but throughout JUMPSTART! Wolff betrays a knowledge of pre-bop piano--evoking the likes of Milt Buckner when employing a bouncing two-handed attack. On the jittery starts and stops of the title tune, Wolff's jagged snaking lines, sudden rhythmic rushes of consonant and dissonant variations, and his agitated layers of chords indicate a broad romanticism of "I Fall In Love Too Easily" and his own "Ballade Noir" are indicative of a graceful touch and elegant melodic conception.

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