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Mike Wofford / Holly Hofmann Quintet: Turn Signal

Dan McClenaghan By

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Down in out-of-the-way San Diego, California (that's out-of-the-way in a New York-centric jazz world), flautist Holly Hofmann and pianist Mike Wofford have been steadily making world-class jazz for a couple of decades. Wofford—who has spent much of his career in supporting roles, backing vocalists Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, saxophonists Zoot Sims and Benny Carter, and many more—is evolving into a first-rate leader. His Live at Athanaeum (Capri Records, 2004) demonstrated the pianist's acumen in the trio context, while Live at Athenaeum Jazz, Volume 2 (Capri Records, 2007), with partner-in-life-and-music Hofmann, showcased the couple in an intimate duo setting.

For her part, Hofmann fronted a marvelous quartet on Minor Miracle (Capri Records, 2004), with Wofford holding down the piano chair, as well as teaming engaging in a true flute fest on First Date (Capri Records, 2003), with Ali Ryerson and multiple reedman Frank Wess, as part of a trio dubbed Flutology.

With Turn Signal, the Wofford/Hofmann collaboration veers into tribute territory, opening with the groove-centric "The Dipper, (for Horace Silver)." Employing a quintet with the inspired choice of trumpeter Terell Stafford in the frontline with Hofmann, the tune has a modern feel and uniquely silky harmonic sound with the melding of trumpet and flute. Hofmann blows a solo with nuanced coolness and some surprising phrases, while Stafford possesses a bright and succinct sound in front of a deliberate rhythm.

With beautifully unfolding harmonies, "Esperanca" is Wofford's quintet take on the orchestral original by composer/arranger Vince Mendoza. Wofford's pensive solo emerges from fluid smoothness of the horns, backed adeptly by Rob Thorsen's muscular bass lines and drummer Richard Sellers' subtle percussive intricacies.

The group takes saxophonist Bobby Watson's "Karita" aloft, a soaring in the clouds affair with more delectable harmonies from Hofmann and Stafford, whose solo reaches for heaven in front of the locked-in-tight, cranking-it-up rhythm section, leading to Hofmann's gorgeous songbird turn.

Polished and adventurous, this is a gem of a CD. Engaging and, with the teaming of trumpet and flute, not the standard quintet jazz experience, Jimmy Forrest's "Soul Street" is a lesson in serious soulful swing. The group closes out with Hofmann's juiced-up "M-Line," the flautist at her most inspired as Stafford burns hot and brassy.

Track Listing: The Dipper (For Horace Silver); Esperança; Karita; Soul Street; Pure Imagination; The Girl from Greenland; M-Line.

Personnel: Mike Wofford: piano; Holly Hofmann: flute; Terrell Stafford: trumpet; Rob Thorsen: bass; Richard Sellers: drums.

Title: Turn Signal | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Capri Records

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