Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Michael Wolff’s ‘Joe’s Strut’

Critics have described Michael Wolff as a “polyglot” and a “chameleon.” On Joe’s Strut he segues from sophisticated postbop (“Harbour Island”) to unapologetic boogaloo (the title track, a Joe Zawinul tribute) to rarefied Ravel harmonies (“Wheel of Life”) to ferociously swung standards (“If I Were a Bell”) to open cinematic atmospheres (“The Third You”) to ballads pared down to the bone (“Come Rain or Come Shine”).

Only very clever, very skilled pianists can pull off such a program. The risk with musical chameleons is that their ability to adopt diverse roles prevents them from developing their own identities and their own language to express their innermost selves. Wolff mostly stays on the surface. The odd piano runs and crescendos that interrupt “Harbour Island” sound contrived. The single-note repetitions on “Come Rain or Come Shine,” presumably meant as incantatory, sound mannered.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published