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07/23/13

Wolff & Clark Expedition
Michael Wolff/Mike Clark
Random Act Records

Pianist Michael Wolff and drummer Mike Clark’s Wolff & Clark Expedition is an interesting case study: This trio’s groove-minded, harmonically savory style is so accessible, yet there aren’t a lot of other bands like it. Being immediately likeable somehow fell out of fashion for a large part of the jazz set, and that’s a pity.

These 10 tracks aren’t heartbreaking or groundbreaking or indebted to some esoteric overarching concept, but they are inventively arranged, expertly performed and a lot of fun to listen to. And if you’re reading this magazine you’re probably already familiar with a big chunk of the repertoire: “Come Together” flaunts the sly, tough sort of cool that defined the Beatles’ original; “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “Song for My Father” are given deftly swinging postbop reads; “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” a tune whose legacy has been victimized by so many rhythmically challenged school bands, is made anew via Clark’s stealthily unshakable pocket; Wolff nails the gospel uplift of Nat Adderley’s “Hummin’”; and bassist Chip Jackson brandishes the hook on Leon Huff’s “For the Love of Money.”

The original material, like the noodly shuffle/free exercise “Flat Out,” stokes the trio’s sense of adventure more, but this disc is essentially a treat for jazz fans who believe in the shared ground between bop and funk. And Clark sounds extraordinary, filling in every nook of the groove but maintaining a simmering dynamic that staves off any “drummer’s record” vibes.

Originally published in July/August 2013
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