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Mike Wofford: Synergy

The catalogue of the HeavyWood label, operated by trumpeter Dick Titterington and pianist Randy Porter, consists of these two CDs. Both contain music of substance and quality by players functioning in voluntary or involuntary semi-obscurity.

Pianist Mike Wofford’s album is the most complete look so far at a protean player who has had a small, enthusiastic following for more than 30 years. Here’s what I wrote in a 1967 review of his first album, Strawberry Wine (Epic BN 26225): “[This is] an excellent piano player who is much under the spell of Bill Evans.There are some tracks on which Wofford’s individuality shows. His approach includes humor, a quality many musicians his age have avoided like the plague.” That was then. Now Wofford’s individuality shows on every track of Synergy. He has long since melded Evans into a style notable for daring, thoroughgoing musicianship and, yes, humor. This CD provides generous exposure to a musician who makes equal use of brain, heart and muscle. What he still has in common with Evans is a concept of the trio as an interdependent unit. Joe LaBarbera, Evans’ last drummer, naturally supports that idea and interacts superbly with Wofford and bassist Rob Thorsen. Listeners who accept Wofford’s challenges can expect rewards, whether in “My Old Flame,” a familiar jazz standard like Gerald Wiggins’ “Sonar,” Ellington’s “Great Times” or Wofford’s own intricate compositions. This album is highly recommended.

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