Mike Wofford, Time Cafe

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A master pianist fuses two distinct traditions

During the span of a more than forty-year recording career, West Coast pianist Mike Wofford has developed into one of the most singular artists jazz has produced. Time Café, a CD that alternates solo and trio tracks (with bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz and drummer Duncan Moore), may be his most accomplished recording to date. Wofford synthesizes two distinct jazz piano traditions (Art Tatum and his linear descendant Bud Powell on one hand, Bill Evans on the other) and emerges with a voice that's recognizably his own. He's got formidable technique and a precise, elegant touch — an entirely polished performer — but he's no conservative. His harmonic reworking of standards is inevitably radical; Wofford always finds things in the material that lesser pianists would miss. He's also an adept composer, constructing pithy themes that provide a palette on which to build. His solo on the album's closer, "You and the Night and the Music," could serve as an exemplar for contemporary jazz pianists. Time Café shouldn't be missed.