As time stretches the fabric of reality, what with venues closed or operating under incredibly restrictive mandates since March of 2020, it's starting to feel like it's been a decade since we've been able to gather in the quiets of a club to take in a rapturous set of music. So it's only fitting that this ten-year-old gem should drop into the world at this juncture, giving pause to bemoan what's been lost and appreciate a music found.
Recorded in the summer of 2011 at the titular L.A. spot, this seven-song program helmed by pianist Michael Wolff finds four friends engaged in melodious mood painting, swinging sojourns, funky throw-downs and post-modern play. It's a collaborative effort built around beauty, strength and grooving jollity, but when boiled down this is primarily a document of the spirit of a moment binding musicians and their audience. A beautifully transportive set that floats the mind beyond conscious concerns, Live at Vitellos speaks to the power of live music and the eternal quest to bottle and preserve that magic.
Teaming up with trumpeter Mark Isham, bassist John B. Williams and drummer Mike Clark, Wolff is in incredibly good company. The music, not surprisingly, plays to that gathering's many strengths. The leader's harmonic acuity and depth of feeling permeate every piece, Isham's lustrous horn work adds rich detail to crepuscular climates, Williams' bass bolsters the music in its many forms and Clark brings an inimitable brand of class and strength to bear in this environment. Whether basking in the calming cool of "Ballad Noir," creating some Mach 1 magic on the up-tempo "Lagniappe" or capitalizing on a mooring bass ostinato and some linear funk drumming on "Falling Down," this band always seems to be in its element. Nobody's just going through the motions here. Simply said, Michael Wolff and his bandmates take great pleasure in the art of deep listening and the act of engagement.
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