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The Tic Code represents to Michael Wolff more than a soundtrack album that he wrote and produced. It represents very personal music that helps depict his struggles with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition that involves involuntary tics, shouts and vocal sounds. As the musical director of The Arsenio Hall Show , Wolff was able to control the visible signs of the syndrome on camera. Polly Draper of the TV show thirtysomething appeared on the show, dated Wolff, eventually married him and now has written the semi-autobiographical screenplay for the movie.
Released concomitantly with Wolff's best album yet, Impure Thoughts , The Tic Code's soundtrack is one of those rare entities: an album that can stand on its own even without references to the movie. Joined by his long-time friends and musical associates Alex Foster, John B. Williams and Dick Berk, Wolff has written tunes, such as "Ballade Noire" or "Blues In Hoss' Flat," that represent outstanding performances in their own right.
Exhibiting an interest in world musics, Wolff includes "Ponta De Areia" from Wayne Shorter's Native Dancer album, the one that integrated Milton Nascimento's distinctive style with jazz vocabulary. In addition, The Tic Code includes two Thelonious Monk tracks: "Don't Blame Me" and "Straight, No Chaser." And one of Wolff's biggest musical inspirations, Cannonball Adderley, appears on the classic "Mercy Mercy Mercy." (Wolff performed with Adderley the year before his death.)
As connectors between the more fully developed numbers, "Fat Fat Fatty," "Miles Can't Play" and "Uptown Local" set moods and develop the album as a related thematic presentation of music.
Wolff's friend since high school, Alex Foster, obviously schooled in Coltrane, convincingly draws in the listener with urgency and fluity, not to mention a memorable tone. Wolff has performed with Williams and Berk for years, and they appear in the movie, which Wolff believes depicts the jazz musician's life with honesty. Further honesty develops in the dramatization of Tourette Syndrome, an affliction from which Monk may have suffered, according to one of the movie's more interesting suggestions. Even further revelation of truth through fiction is Draper's creation of the Syndrome as a metaphor for everyone who feels out of place in society. The alienation can be alleviated through jazz, or rather through music, because musicians value truth and talent over personal behavior.
The strengths of the movie The Tic Code are many, but none is so cogent as the music itself. The CD, The Tic Code , brings together seemingly disparate and beautifully expressed musical elements into a synthesis that dramatizes the curative and inspirational values of jazz.
Track Listing: Blues In Hoss' Flat; F
Personnel: Michael Wolff, piano; Alex Foster, reeds; John B. Williams, bass; Dick Berk, drums
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.