In a perfect world, Herbie Hancock smacking down Amy Winehouse and Kanye West to win album of the year honors at this year's Grammys would mean a flood of new jazz releases from a record industry frantically trying to keep up with the public's insatiable demand. Of course, we don't live in that world, and Hancock's win (for River: The Joni Letters) undoubtedly has more to do with familiarity than with any uptick in the commercial viability of jazz. But if it sheds some light on a chronically overlooked corner of the industry, that can't hurt, and one recent release that might theoretically benefit is pianist Michael Wolff's Jazz, Jazz, Jazz. A straight-ahead (and aptly titled) jazz record if ever there were one, this is the kind of album that made Blue Note famous in the 1960s — put three guys in a room, roll the tape, press the vinyl. Wolff's eclectic career has recently veered from Harry Connick–esque crooning (on 2006's Love and Destruction) to the electrified fusion of his Impure Thoughts band, but Jazz, Jazz, Jazz shows that his jazz piano roots haven't been neglected. The set list here could hardly be more standard, as Wolff, bassist John B. Williams, and drummer Victor Jones trot out warhorses like “My Funny Valentine,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “Softly as a Morning Sunrise,” but the playing is inventive and occasionally even transcendent — as on Wolff's unaccompanied introduction to Dizzy Gillespie's “Con Alma.” Good (and lucky) enough for another jazz Grammy? Probably not. But certainly a reminder of why we listen to records like this in the first place.
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