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April 1998

Michael Wolff
Portraiture, The Blues Period
MCA

Michael Wolff is an eloquent pianist who plays standards in an unconventional style. His fourth album as a leader was inspired by seeing the Pablo Picasso exhibit of portraits at New York's Museum of Modern Art. The influence shows.

Wolff performs four standards, two Miles Davis hits and three originals, each filled with sophisticated harmonics, surprising twists and intriguing changes. Working with bassist John B. Williams and drummer Roy McCurdy, "'Round Midnight" emerges as a gorgeous, textured tapestry woven with a vocal by Kenny Rankin, who also contributes a wordless rendition of Joe Zawinul's "In a Silent Way." Wolff's solo reading of "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" is as dazzling as "On Green Dolphin Street" is magical. The title track is an unconventional ten-bar blues filled with unusual rhythms and harmonies.

Wolff delivers solo improvisations the way abstract artists paint-with creative, unfettered energy.

Originally published in April 1998
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