Wolff & Clark Expedition: Michael Wolff/Mike Clark

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.

Evan Haga

Evan Haga worked as an editor and writer at JazzTimes from 2006 to 2018. He is currently the Jazz Curator at TIDAL, and his writing has appeared at RollingStone.com, NPR MusicBillboard and other outlets.