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From the opening trill of repetitive block chords on Michael Wolff's piano and a brash hip-hop drumbeat compliments of Mike Clark on the opening title track, listeners tuning in 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 gigwith 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 band mate John B. Williams.
Track Listing: 1. Dangerous Vision 4:48 2. Work Song 6:27 3. Love Supreme 3:11 4. St. Thomas 6:31 5. Rupak 7:45 6. Heart and Soul 6:29 7. In the Moment 5:36 8. Empty House 7:11 9. Soul Sauce 6:00.
Personnel: Michael Wolff, piano and electric piano; Airto Moreira, percussion (all but 6); Badal Roy, tablas; John B Williams, upright electric bass; Victor Jones, drums (3-9); Mike Clark, drums (1-2).
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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