Pianist Michael Wolff Conjures up a Magical Performance

Blending Indian, African and American jazz rhythms, pianist Michael Wolff, brought his innovative brand of jazz to the H.L. Stoutt Community College on Friday. The personable performer, who was the musical director of the Arsenio Hall Show and has played with countless jazz greats, took the audience by storm with his vibrant piano playing and soft vocal renditions.

Accompanying Wolff was his band “Impure Thoughts”, a tight knit and multi-dimensional band made up of the talented Richard Goods on bass guitar, Michael Clark on drums and Badal Roy on tabla. Both the bass and percussion played a key role in the band’s sound with Roy’s tabla playing adding pure joy to the mix as he clicked his tongue and eased a variety of astonishing sounds out of these traditional Indian drums. In between songs, Wolff displayed the patter and wry humour of a late night talk show host. He quipped that his bass player had played with musicians “like Miles Davis.” He added with a subtle grin, “not Miles Davis, musicians like Miles Davis.”

In addition to being the musical director of the Arsenio Hall Show for its five-year run, Wolff was also musical director for Nancy Wilson and has played with Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley and Jean Luc Ponty, among others. He has also recorded three albums, his newest, Dangerous Visions, was released in 2004 on Artemis records. The spotlight on this album which was recorded in front of a live audience, focuses on Wolff’s vibrant piano, backed by the band’s mixture of ethnic infused jazz. Wolff says, “With this band, we can play anywhere from a mainstream club like Birdland in New York to jam band places like Higher Ground in Vermont, to performing with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. But whatever we play, whenever we get together, we feel like we’re creating some magic.” Without a doubt, Wolff and his talented band, Impure Thoughts, conjured up some magic at the College on Friday, putting this island audience under their spell.

THE ISLAND SUN newspaper (British Virgin Islands), Claudia Colli, March 4, 2006