Michael Wolff Trio

Jazz, Jazz, Jazz

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Michael Wolff has been heard in a variety of musical settings along the way; on the appropriately titled Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, he leads an acoustic piano trio that keeps things decidedly straight-ahead. Most of the songs on this 2001 session are warhorses that have been recorded countless times over the years; that is true of "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" and "Autumn Leaves" as well as Miles Davis' "Solar," Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma," and Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance." Wolff even performs "My Funny Valentine," a standard so beaten to death that it inspired the following joke: how many jazz singers does it take to sing "My Funny Valentine"? Answer: all of them (not that jazz singers are any more warhorse-obsessed than instrumentalists). But because of what Wolff does with these warhorses, one is inclined to cut him some slack -- actually, a lot of slack. Yes, most of the songs on Jazz, Jazz, Jazz have been beaten to death, but Wolff's versions are so full of intriguing twists and turns that the 65-minute CD never sounds generic or commonplace. Wolff, who is joined by bassist John B. Williams and drummer Victor Jones, performs these warhorses in a way that is angular, cerebral, impressionistic, and very deconstructionist; like Walter Norris (a highly adventurous pianist), Wolff really turns the songs inside out both melodically and harmonically. The result is an album that, although not quite avant-garde, certainly doesn't go out of its way to be accessible; Jazz, Jazz, Jazz would rather challenge the listener than comfort the listener. Jazz, Jazz, Jazz is the type of disc that must be accepted on its own difficult, unsentimental terms, and those who can do so will find it to be an intellectually stimulating listen despite the warhorse factor.

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