Music » Livewire

Michael Wolff's Impure Thoughts

Thursday, March 1, at Nighttown.


For the moment, jazz pianist Michael Wolff might be better known for his involvement in the film The Tic Code. Wolff's wife, Polly Draper, wrote and starred in the independent film about a young piano prodigy who suffers from Tourette's syndrome. Though in writing the screenplay she drew inspiration from the life of her husband -- a pianist with a mild case of Tourette's -- Draper did not base her protagonist directly on Wolff himself. Nevertheless, the project turned out to be a great gig for the pianist, who served as its music director and wrote and performed most of the music on the soundtrack. He also coached the director and the lead actors, and even scored a cameo in the film. Wolff's own music certainly deserves at least equal billing, and if the hype leads more ears to Wolff and his very exciting new band, all the better. After spending his first few years on the jazz scene playing with heavyweights such as Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Rollins, Wolff took the job of music director with singer Nancy Wilson. Wolff subsequently moved to television, leading the house band on Arsenio Hall's talk show. In recent years, Wolff has shifted his efforts back to jazz and to leading his own band, called Impure Thoughts. On Impure Thoughts, his first album with the band of the same name, Wolff augments a standard horn-plus-rhythm quartet with a percussionist and tabla player, Badal Roy, whose beats many may recognize from Miles Davis's still-controversial On the Corner. With Impure Thoughts, Wolff manages to fuse Indian drone, Afro-Cuban rhythm, and funk into a surprisingly cool, spacious foundation for his own equally spacious, inventive, and capricious playing.

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