Listeners will sense that they’re in for an exhilarating ride
From the opening trill of repetitive block chords on Michael Wolff’s piano and brash hip-hop drumbeat complements of Mike Clark on the opening title track, listeners to Dangerous Vision will sense rather quickly that they’re in for an exhilarating ride. This third recording by Wolff’s working band, Impure Thoughts, is its finest moment on record.
It is also a musical autobiography of sorts for Wolff, who is best known by many as the musical director for TV’s defunct Arsenio Hall Show. At the very least, it touches on past and present and gives some hints to the future of this well-rounded bandleader. Wolff, who was Cannonball Adderley’s pianist in his final band, invited an audience to this studio session, mindful of Adderley’s use of that technique to give his sessions a live club feel, which the band feeds off. He also tips a hat to his Adderley days by featuring Nat’s classic jazz composition “Work Song” with a funky, bluesy rearrangement.
Impure Thoughts tackles five of Wolff’s originals and total of four jazz classics. In addition to “Work Song”, the chestnuts include John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” and the Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo tune “Soul Sauce.” The latter was a favorite groove tune during his first professional gig — with Latin jazz vibes player Cal Tjader. On each of the covers, the band adds rhythmic and melodic twists that take the tunes into new territory. The piece de resistance is the band’s wild take on “A Love Supreme,” on which Wolff’s Tyner-esque keyboard takes on a hint of Latin clave and rides an exotic cushion of berimbau (Airto), tablas (Badal Roy) and drums. Wolff’s originals share the same feeling of improvisational adventure as the band explores their various film score moods with rhythmic oddities.
All of the players contribute mightily, showcasing the elastic bass technique of longtime bandmate John B. Williams.
All About Jazz, Ken Franckling, 1/05