By Matthew Kassel | Published April 2020
Pianist Michael Wolff’s latest album, Bounce, operates as a kind of benediction. That’s because Wolff, 67, recently recovered from an aggressive form of cancer for which, he was told, there was no cure. It turned out that there was—Wolff is now cancer-free—and the album functions as a celebration of the music he loves. It’s a solid and soulful piano trio record, featuring bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard—able accompanists both. Wolff’s touch is just right, too: lovely and restrained when he needs it to be, and forceful and expressive in other moments.
Wolff has had a long and fruitful career in music, having played with the likes of Cannonball Adderley, Cal Tjader, Nancy Wilson and Warren Zevon, among others. His previous album, Swirl, released last year, features the same group here, and is similar in style. Bounce is a grab bag of sorts, including both originals and covers. The opening title track is bright, buoyant and bluesy, with an optimistic mood that recalls Ramsey Lewis. The second track, “Chill,” is a hip-hop–inflected nod to LL Cool J’s “Around The Way Girl.” “Milton,” on the other hand, composed by Allison, tips its hat to Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento, and the last track, “Omar Sharif,” comes from the musical The Band’s Visit.
Allison’s tone is deep and grounded. Mednard’s drumming is never showy but always impressive. And Wolff clearly relishes the opportunity to record with these top-shelf musicians. Indeed, it is obvious, listening to this lively album, that Wolff and his bandmates have a strong rapport and are grateful for the opportunity to continue working together.
Bounce: Bounce; Chill; Caribbean Rain Dance; Long Lost; Resuscitate; Cool Kids; You And The Night And The Music; Milton; Picasso; Omar Sharif. (50:09)
Personnel: Michael Wolff, piano; Ben Allison, bass; Allan Mednard, drums; Nat Wolff (6), vocals.