Continuing to strut after more than 40 years of playing piano
**** out of *****
Jazz pianist Michael Wolff got his start in Cannonball Adderley’s band in 1975. ‘Joe’s Strut’ is dedicated to Joe Zawinul, a fellow jazz keyboardist and former member of Adderley’s band who died in 2007.
With instrumentation consisting of an alto saxophone, tenor sax and rhythm section, it gives each player plenty of opportunity to solo. The soft ballad “Wheel of Life” even features Steve Wilson on soprano saxophone.
Also, the use of an upright bass, as opposed to an electric bass, gives the walking bass lines a much more authentic, less-modern sound while Wolff doesn’t hesitate to use nearly all of the 88 keys on his resonant Steinway piano.
The title track “Joe’s Strut” showcases Wolff’s skills as a pianist with his left hand playing the same line as the bass and his right hand hammering out fast melodies. “Freedom” features over ten minutes of playing and the sound of Ian Young’s rich warm tenor sax fills out the quintet. Written by Zawinul, “74 Miles Away” closes the album on an upbeat note.
While tracks like “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “The Third You” are a little on the slow side, ‘Joe’s Strut’ as a whole is excellent. With over half of the tracks being composed by Wolff, it is evident that he is one of today’s more accomplished jazz musicians.
Even those that are reluctant to accept modern jazz should check this out because it has a very traditional sound.
Nick’s Picks: “Joe’s Strut,” “Freedom,” “74 Miles Away”
-By Nick Fetty