My perspective, speaking as a reviewer with access to large amounts of music, may not be that of the average fan, but 2004 seems to be shaping up as the year of outstanding piano trio work by higher profile players like Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau, as well as by a slew of lesser-known but no less talented artists like Randy Halberstadt ( Parallel Tracks, Origin Records), Satoko Fuji ( Illusion Suite, NatSat Records), and now Mike Wofford, with Live at Anthenaeum Jazz.
This set mixes some lesser-known standards"My Old Flame," Ellington's "Take the Coltrane," Irving Berlin's "The Best Thing for You"with the unfamiliar and exotic "Macedonia" (which sounds just like its title: full of gentle, smooth-flowing syllables), along with a Sting tune, "It's Probably Me."
Wofford, who worked as musical director for Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, has played with everyone: Art Pepper, Benny Golson, Bud Shank, James Moody, and for the past fifteen years flutist Holly Hofmann. His sound reflects a classical touch and a huge technical proficiency mixed with a soulfullness and inventiona sort of cross between Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson. And he sometimes dashes off zingy right hand splashes that flow into pretty runs and rivults of intricate notes; this skilled player doesn't eschew playfulnesscheck out the short right hand detour in a "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" on Berlin's "The Best Thing for You."
Wofford's rhythm team here, the always on-mark Peter Washington on bass and Victor Lewis on drums, perform to perfection, by turns insistent, laid-back, bouncing or propulsive, and always in sync with the pianist's ideas.
And the sound quality: remarkable! Gone are the days when you could dismiss most live sets out of hand, for murky, muddled, ill-mixed sonics. The band sounds sharp and clean here, like these three musicians are playing in your living room.
A top notch piano trio set!
My Old Flame, Take the Coltrane, Macedonia, Dex-Mex, Medley: Lucky to Be Me/I'm Just a Lucky So and So, It's Probably Me, The Best Thing for You
Mike Wofford--piano; Peter Washington--bass; Victor Lewis--drums