Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet: Turn Signal

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Turn Signal

Turn Signal emanates from the San Diego region of Southern California, and the album is chaperoned by pianist Mike Wofford and flautist Holly Hoffman. Wofford is the elder statesman, dating back to the time of the Lighthouse All Stars, Zoot Sims, Art Pepper, Shelley Manne and their contemporaries; Hoffman, after years of study in the classical genre, fell in love with jazz and began working with artists such as Bob Magnusson, Bill Cunliffe, Ray Brown and Mike Wofford, whom she married in 2000. They have played together ever since. 

Trumpeter Terell Stafford, bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Richard Sellers belong to the later generations of jazz artists. Stafford, mentored by Wynton Marsalis, gained experience with the likes of Bobby Watson, Benny Golson, Kenny Barron and Jon Faddis. Thorsen tried many instruments — ukulele, guitar, flute, sax, tuba and electric bass — during high school, before settling on the acoustic bass. Drums have been a constant for Sellers, who also lead his own steel band. 

The tracks here relate to “favorite artists” with whom Wofford and Hoffman have worked during their careers, or to events and things that have been special for  them. Hoffman’s “M-Line” — the album’s up-tempo burner — refers to their dog, Emily, whose namesake is guitarist Emily Remler. Wofford wrote “The Dipper” as a tribute to Horace Silver; “Soul Street,” a chart done by Jimmy Forest, evokes Wofford’s time with Oliver Nelson. “Esperança,” written by Vince Mendoza, is one of Hoffman’s favorites; “The Girl from Greenland” honors the memory of pianist/composer Richard Twardzik.

The flute always has been one of my favorite jazz instruments, and Hoffman is — to quote another reviewer — “the standard by which jazz flute is being judged.” She swings beautifully. As for Wofford, Shelly Manne said it best: “Mike is outstanding — a musician’s pianist — and he inspires as he plays.” 

Don’t miss this one.

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