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Michael Wolff and Impure Thoughts: Intoxicate

Pianist Michael Wolff, perhaps best known for his stint on the Arsenio Hall show, has created a most interesting hybrid here. It seems like a calculated blend: nothing to challenge or put off, and a deep commitment to groove. This is a more layered groove than that espoused by Medeski, Martin and Wood: Impure Thoughts features three percussionists, including the redoubtable Badal Roy on tabla, flanked by percussionist Frank Colon and drummer Victor Jones. Bassist John B. Williams is more than solid in doing his part to hold the groove down, even when that means foregoing a bit of subtlety once in a while. Wolff himself is a fluid pianist, and saxophonist Alex Foster brings real firepower to the front line.

The band’s debt to classic fusion is intriguing: for example, the opening track’s title, “Badd Al,” is not quite an anagram of “Birdland,” but it’s close enough, musically as well as orthographically, and Roy provides a direct link to one era of Milesian electricity. That said, the band’s take on Wayne Shorter’s “Witchhunt” works well-though I can do without its remix, despite Charlie Hunter’s efforts to enliven it.

Originally Published