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Mike Wofford: It's Personal (2013)

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Mike Wofford: It's Personal How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Pianist Mike Wofford can boast decades of high-caliber sideman gigs: notably with vocalists Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
(for whom he served as music director), Mel Torme
Mel Torme
Mel Torme
b.1925
vocalist
and Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
, as well as drummer Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
1920 - 1984
drums
, saxophonist Phil Woods
Phil Woods
Phil Woods
b.1931
sax, alto
, guitarist Joe Pass
Joe Pass
Joe Pass
1929 - 1994
guitar
and others. His studio work is amply represented on records by a dizzying variety of artists. And his frequent collaborations with his wife, flutist Holly Hofmann, have been warmly received. Solo sets are not unknown in Wofford's lengthy discography but, on the evidence of the solo recital It's Personal, would be welcome with greater frequency.

In particular, Wofford's style is well-suited to the solo recital format, given his attentive rhythm and full harmonies, his chords lushly provided in the manner of pianist Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
(Wofford's liner notes point to the influence of pianists Jimmy Rowles
Jimmy Rowles
Jimmy Rowles
1918 - 1996
piano
and Ellis Larkins). As a producer, it's clear that his focus in this record was on the loveliness of the melodic line.

Wofford's own compositions are among the strongest in this coherently organized set. The title tune, dedicated to Hofmann, exudes the kind of stately soul that is pianist Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
b.1978
piano
's stock-in-trade. His tributes to Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Porter
1891 - 1964
composer/conductor
and Earl Hines
Earl Hines
Earl Hines
1903 - 1983
piano
evoke the spirt of their dedicatees.

The other material spans decades and styles with more than a little audacity. Perhaps the finest moment of the set is "The Eighth Veil," written by pianist Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
and his longtime arranger Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
. Wofford slows down the mid-tempo, vaguely Latin 1940s-vintage original to reveal an elegiac melody of surpassing beauty. Wofford's version of "No More," meanwhile, a balladic vehicle for Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
, is taken straight, and provides even more elegiac beauty . Bop-era numbers from alto saxophonists Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
1932 - 2006
sax, alto
and Gigi Gryce
Gigi Gryce
Gigi Gryce
1927 - 1983
saxophone
add dynamic variety.

The greatest delight of It's Personal is the medley of two songs called "Once in a Lifetime." Both are in fact quite well known, and neither is remotely part of the jazz standards book. The first was written by vocalist Anthony Newley (whose picture appears in the dictionary next to the entry for "mannered") and Leslie Bricusse for the 1961 musical Stop the World—I Want to Get Off; the second is the highlight of the Talking Heads' post-New Wave album Remain in Light (Sire, 1979). Separated by a scant 18 years, the songs inhabit vastly different esthetic worlds; Wofford gamely milks each for its abundant musical pleasures.


Track Listing: Little Melonae; It's Personal; Cole Porter; The Eighth Veil; Spin; I Waited For You; Springsville; Candle; Nica's Tempo; Hines Catch-up (for Earl Hines); Once in a Lifetime/Once in a Lifetime; No More.

Personnel: Mike Wofford: piano.

Record Label: Capri Records


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