Jazz pianist Michael Wolff follows his recent appearance at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center (which NPR will broadcast on April 1) with a return to his hometown of New York City and a multi-show stand at lower Manhattan’s Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, which Wolff calls the “only venerable restaurant/jazz joint left in NYC.”
Wolff will play multiple sets each night, delivering a mix from his catalogue of CDs as well as some new music and old favorites (likely some Monk and Wes Montgomery). He’s also expected to introduce a new approach to playing he’s taken in recent months. He explains: “I discovered a new way of improvising on chords that is actually very simple, but sounds very fresh to me, and, incorporated with my other tools, is exciting to me. I was practicing on one of my older songs, “Little M,” from my Jumpstart CD — just outlining the chords and arpeggiating them — and I found a really great way to connect them together and stagger them rhythmically. I don’t hear pianists do this much, and it helps to break me away from playing scales, which feel overused, at least by me.
“I’m having fun playing with this new improvisational material, which is not harmonically dissonant, but seems unique. I don’t think it’s anything earthshaking in and of itself, except as it applies to piano. It’s more of a saxophone approach to piano, which is bigger arpeggios. I’m also combining that with something I discovered and clarified about my own playing and approach when I gave a short lecture/demonstration on jazz and Tourette’s syndrome last fall at a Lincoln Center conference on music and the brain. It was how I use my physical impulsiveness in my playing, putting a certain energy into the musical ideas. It’s abstract, but demonstrable.”
Here are the dates and musicians for Wolff’s stand at the Knickerbocker (33 University Place, NYC; 212-228-8490):
February 26 and 27: Wolff with drummer Victor Lewis and bassist Chip Jackson
March 5, 6: Wolff with Victor Lewis and bassist Ugonna Okegwo
March 12, 13: Wolff with drummer Mike Clark and Chip Jackson
March 19, 20: Wolff with Mike Clark and bassist Rich Goods
For more information on Michael Wolff, go to www.michaelwolff.com.