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Published: 2002/04/22
by Brad Weiner

Intoxicate – Michael Wolff and Impure Thoughts

Indianola Music Group

It would be easiest to call the music of Michael Wolff jazz. It has all of the ingredients: it is improvised and free, syncopated and lost in the moment. All that aside, it doesn't really groove like jazz should. Instead of being subtle and inviting the listener in, the music is very upfront, like a mother-in-law insisting that you eat more boiled liver. The first tune, "Badd Al," reminds me very much of recent work by Christian McBride. The piano, bass and drums work in a frantic melodic cooperative to deliver a speech instead of a conversation. In the middle of the tune there is room for Wolff to play with some real feeling on the keys, but it comes across as schizophrenic music with no real identity. "Witchhunt" is much more representative of the album on the whole. The Wayne Shorter cover is stylized with interesting tone colors such as the trance-like upright bass played by John B. Williams (why are there so many John Williams in the music industry?) and the groovealicious tablas inserted by Badal Roy. "Witchhunt" is where the album really gets going because it is at this point that the record doesn't work on the standard idea of soloists playing over a form. Often times, the band locks into one groove and keeps it going like slowed down techno as in "Kempta".

Intoxicate features two covers besides "Witchhunt. One is a heavily drenched
version of Lee Morgan's classic "Sidewinder". The melody is drowned out
by the rhythm section and, aside from the awesome bass line, it is nearly
impossible to distinguish the tune. It is pretty cool that they play a cover
without really covering. The other cover is Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing",
which features Charlie Hunter holding down the fort on the low end. Gaye's
soulful bliss is not lost with Impure Thoughts. They convey a version that
would make any soul fan proud.

At times, Michael Wolff and his band can really grab a room's attention.
times, they get lost in the jazzy doldrums and can't seem to find a map to
escape. The most troubling aspects of the music are when its attempts at
original make it stray too far from its original course. Still, it is a
chance to hear jazz musicians play their hearts out. The live feel of
Intoxicate is what makes it understandable and listenable, possibly
danceable if played in the right company.

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