Michael Wolff : Bounce Review
Acclaimed jazz pianist Michael Wolff is releasing his new album titled Bounce on Sunnyside Records on February 7th, 2020. Bounce is ten compositions that convey a wide range of emotions and sounds as Wolff celebrates his health. The album’s upbeat state of mind follows Wolff’s ‘miraculous’ recovery from aggressive cancer. Wolff explains, “Isn’t it great to be alive? I’m celebrating life every day. This album is dedicated to that celebration. Come Bounce with us!!!!!! I have the good fortune to play with these fantastic musicians: Ben Allisonon bass and Allan Mednardon drums. Their playing, ideas, and vibes imbue this music with creativity and soul. It’s really a listenable album. I thought about what I’d like to listen to at home and tried to make that album.” Bounce is mostly original compositions by Wolf with a tune by Ben Allison, and two covers: “Omar Sharif” and the standard, “You and The Night and The Music.”
The title track opens the album. Allison’s bass snakes between Mednard and Wolff playing a rhythmic pattern. This flows to Wolff playing the playful melody set to a Blue Note Era funky groove. The band is in the zone as Wolff takes us through his improvisational choruses. His smooth phrases combine jazz and Latin jazz vocabulary, which keeps the solo building to a climax. The trio lands at an ostinato for Mednard to explore his kit against. The melody is revisited, and the trio drives to the cadence. There is no doubt that this music is evoked with the energy of celebrating life and the joy that music brings to it and flows from it.
“You and the Night and the Music” is adorned with an inspiring arrangement. Again, Wolff combines Latin jazz elements with the traditional jazz vocabulary to create a memorable interlude. The rhythm section of Mednard and Allison creates an up-tempo swing that feels wonderful, and Wolff seems to be inspired by this, and he digs in for one of his best solos on the date. The trio is buoyant and fluid as Wolff darts between complex chordal statements and singing single lines. The harmonic and rhythmic freedom is there while still maintaining the core harmonic flow of the original progression. That is the fun of Wolff’s playing, you never know what is coming, but it will undoubtedly be something of musical interest.
Bounce is a celebration of life, and what better way to do that than expressing music in the moment with good friends. The ten tracks have a flow that is entertaining and present varying feels and tempos. The recording is warm, and John Newcott did an excellent job producing the date. Wolff’s son Nat sings on “Cool Kids,” which is a unique sonic twist. Overall, do not sleep on this one, go ahead and get Bounce.
February 7, 2020