Friday, January 27, 2012

Music Review: “Turn Signal” Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet


Turn Signal

I have to admit, when I first looked at this CD, I was hooked. It opens with my favorite hard bop pianist, Horace Silver’s “The Dipper”, a tune I always loved. Then, just to set the hook, the fourth track also caught my eye, one I remember from an Oliver Nelson album, “Soul Street”. It wasn’t on the iconic The Blues and the Abstract Truth, which probably hepped me to Nelson, but it was an album I remember falling in love with and a tune that stuck.

I knew of Mike Wofford from his days as an accompanist with the likes of ‘The Velvet Fog’, Mel Tormé, Joe Pass, Shelley Mann, Benny Carter’s orchestra, etcetera. Probably the most memorable album I remember was the Duke Ellington Song Book, which he did with “Sassy” Sarah Vaughn back in the ‘80s and I remember him accompanying Sarah at the Playboy Jazz Festival back then too . But I couldn’t recall him fronting his own group. I just knew he must be good from the cats he played with and for.Mike Wofford

On the other hand, I was more than familiar with Holly Hofmann, who, perhaps single handedly has destroyed the stereotype of the “be-quite-it’s-the female-flutist”. Hofmann swings. Hofmann bops. Hofmann will rock your ears and make your soul give standing ovations. 

Then, just to add the sinker to my fishin’ expedition, that swingin’ bluesy trumpet player, Terrell Stafford is a special guest. There are not too many trumpet players today that have the tone and the phrasing to touch Stafford.H2-serious

I continued to peruse the tracks and there, next to last on the CD was “Girl From Greenland”, by Dick Twardzik. For those not familiar with Twardzik, he was a brilliant, classically trained bebop pianist out of Boston in the ‘50s  who I remember most for his work with Charlie Parker. He was on tour with Chet Baker, in 1955 when he died of a heroin overdose during a tour of Europe at the tragic age of 24. Though he was very young, he left his mark on the bop era and serious jazz pianists still admire his work.

And, obviously one of those serious jazz pianists is Wofford. The tune really shows just how tight this rhythm section is (Mike is joined by Rob Thorsen on bass and drummer, Richard Sellers).

Holly Hofmann & Mike Wofford “Turn Signal”

Don’t get the idea that the album is a “nostalgia” album. There are some very nice pieces by contemporary cats; there’s “Esperanca” written by Vince Mendoza, “Karita” is a Bobby Watson tune that is very lyrical and very beautiful and shows off the wonderful unison phrasing that Hofmann and Wofford exhibit (they are married, after all). “Pure Imagination” is a shining interpretation of the Anthony Newly/Leslie Bricusse gem. Hofmann’s flute work here approaches genius as she plays the alto flute. And, then the album ends with a Hofmann composition, “M-Line”, a fearless swinging tune that will make you reach over and hit repeat on your player.

The album is an adventurous journey down memory lane but stopping to see some contemporary sites. Wofford really comes into his own as an arranger and leader. The harmonies are inventive, the melodies lush and the direction that is “signaled” for the husband and wife team is to explore new ground within main stream jazz.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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