Michael Wolff: 2 AM

When pianist Michael Wolff started making albums he got buzz for being the bandleader of Arsenio Hall’s show. That’s old news. Between his last disc, Jumpstart, and this new release, 2 AM, Wolff can let his music stand on its own merits for what it is: solid modern jazz that probes intervals and harmonics in search of inventive patterns and voicings. Like one of his inspirations, Bill Evans, Wolff’s playing is sensitive yet forceful, employing a dynamic range of rhythms and accents. The title cut here ingenuously merges modal passages with New Orleans blues. On “Nat is Here” he gets into angularity and with “Poppy” he goes for thick chords and riding arpeggios while digging into offshoots of a central melodic motif. Wolff likes to push limits and he clearly enjoys using the full range of his instrument, lowest to highest registers. Christian McBride on bass and Tony Williams on drums offer him solid support as well as some memorable sonic explorations. – Deni Kasrel