Category Archives: Wolff & Clark Expedition

Herald de Paris Interview with Michael Wolff

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Interview: Jazz pianist extraordinaire, Michael Wolff

BY AL CARLOS HERNANDEZ ON FEBRUARY 19, 2013

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) — After several critically acclaimed performances in 2012, jazz masters Michael Wolff and Mike Clark, the Wolff & Clark Expedition, are preparing to release their self-titled debut album in February 2013. Performing with bassist Chip Jackson, the Expedition’s initial outing aims for uncharted, compelling musical territories while still entertaining a wide audience of astute listeners.

Michael Wolff says, “We have been playing together for many years – we share the same vision, energy and excitement for jazz music, for improvisation. The musical goal of The Expedition is to utilize well-known tunes in addition to intriguing originals and to deconstruct them, then reconstruct them as vehicles for self-expression. We believe it is time to bring modern sensibilities and styles of playing (and writing) to music that comes from the blues and the roots of jazz to create fresh rhythmic and harmonic/melodic adventures.” Performing together since the 1970’s, both Wolff and Clark have each had stellar music careers. Michael Wolff is an internationally acclaimed pianist, composer and bandleader, and is best known for his melodically fresh and rhythmically compelling piano style.

Wolff made his recording debut in 1972 with Cal Tjader and went on to record with Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Sonny Rollins, Tony Williams, Christian McBride and many others. As pianist and music director for jazz singer Nancy Wilson, Michael wrote orchestral arrangements and conducted more than twenty-five major symphony orchestras worldwide. From 1989 to 1994, Michael served as the bandleader for the Aresenio Hall Show, which heightened his visibility and gave him the opportunity to perform with many established artists such as Ray Charles, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and saxophonist/President Bill Clinton. Michael Wolff has released twelve critically acclaimed solo albums as a leader, ‘Joe’s Strut’ being the most recent.

He was a recipient of the BMI Music Award for television composition and was also the winner of the Gold Disk Award in Japan for piano. On Feb 23, 2012 Michael performed a solo piano concert at the University of Toledo, in Toledo, Ohio, as part of their Art Tatum solo piano concert.

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez had the rare opportunity to speak to both Wolff and Clark before their jazz project takes off into the universe. Their collaboration is causing a major buzz in Europe these days…

AC: You were born in New Orleans but were raised in Berkeley. What childhood experience pointed you toward a life in music?

MW: I spent my first couple of years in New Orleans and then, until I was 9 years, old in Memphis, Tennessee. What got me into music was the fact that my father was an amateur musician. He loved jazz and always played music for me in the house. He also played clarinet, saxophone, and piano, and he taught me to play W. C Handy’s The Saint Louis Blues on the piano when I was four years old.

AC: What did you listen to growing up? Where you influenced by the heavy music scene in the Bay Area with its eclectic styles of music?

MW: When I was young I listened to the music my father loved: Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles and George Shearing. I loved Ray Charles and George Shearing. I didn’t know their names but knew they were both blind. I’d say to my Dad, “Play the blind guys. Play the blind guys!” When we moved to Berkeley, California in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was exposed to many types of music. I was involved with the rock and roll scene, and listened to all the bands that played for free in Provo Park in Berkeley on the weekends. I played the drums and sang in a local band called The Electronic Cucumber. We got that name by having a contest in the neighborhood for the band name. Can you imagine the names that we didn’t use?

AC: When was the exact moment when you realized you were going to be a pro musician. What was the dream at that point?

MW: I don’t remember just one moment where I decided to become a professional musician. I do remember that when I was fifteen I started taking jazz piano lessons with a great pianist/teacher in the Bay Area named Dick Whittington. I would practice every day after school and imagine myself playing a real concert in a big concert hall or recording in a real studio. I would actually feel what it would be like to play the piano in those situations. After studying and practicing and beginning to play at clubs with a jazz band, I just couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do besides be a jazz musician.

AC: Tell us about your teenage years. What attracted you to Latin music and jazz?

MW: In my teenage years I was lucky to have a great jazz band and music teacher in my high school, Berkeley High School. His name was Bill Elliott and he was very encouraging to all his students. I studied ear training and music theory, and played and composed for the jazz band. We had many talented musicians in the band who became professional musicians like saxophonists Lenny Pickett and Steve Elson, trombonist/composer Nic tenBroek, and percussionist Johnny Otis Junior. Duke Ellington once came to a rehearsal of our jazz band and heard us playing. He even heard one of my compositions. He was very complimentary. He said, “Am I going with you or are you going with me?” He was a great guy and an inspiration to all of us. I also got to hear Roland Kirk (the great multi-reed player) play across the street from our high school at Washington Elementary School. The Bay Area was a great place to grow up because Jazz and Latin music were really appreciated and encouraged. Berkeley High was the only public high school in Berkeley so all races went to school there. It was 40 % black, 40 % white, and the rest Asian and Latin American. We all influenced each other and I think that was a positive for the music scene in Berkeley. It was also a very turbulent time, the late 60’s, and was politically wild and exciting. Music was changing constantly during this time. Miles Davis put out some amazing albums and began experimenting with electric instruments and Jimmy Hendrix was around. Rock, Blues, jazz, Latin, classical . . . it was all intermingling and that affected all of us musicians at the time. The boundaries of musical styles were melting away and we all were proud to play all styles of music and to mix them together in a soulful gumbo.

AC: How did you land the gig with Cal Tjader at only nineteen? What did that experience teach you? Do you still color some of your chops with a little Latin soul source?

MW: I had a gig at Fantasy Records in Berkeley while I was in college at UC Berkeley when I was nineteen years old. I was supposed to write out the songs of rock and roll bands that couldn’t read or write music. In order to copyright the music it needed to be written out. I wrote it out exactly and the guy who hired me told me to write it out simply, not as it was actually sung. I told him that didn’t make sense and he fired me from the job. I was walking around Fantasy and spied Cal Tjader in a small room listening to a copy of his new album. I introduced myself and told him I was a jazz pianist and was ready to play in his band. He was polite and told me to come see him later in the summer at El Matador jazz club in San Francisco. I forgot about it, but my friend reminded me and I went to the club. I wasn’t allowed in because I was under twenty-one. I went back every night and on that Sunday night a nice waitress snuck me in. I said, “Hi!” to Cal and he let me sit in on the last set. I played well and he told me to come back the following week. I sat in every night that week and he gave me the job. The first gig we played was two weeks at a club in Tucson, Arizona. The second gig I did was a huge concert at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Latin Jam. I was playing with Cal Tjader on vibes, Al Mackibbon on bass, Armando Peraza on congas, Willie Bobo on timbales, Dick Berk on drums, and Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry on trumpet. I learned to play Latin music while with Cal. He loved Afro Cuban and all the different styles within that and Brazilian. I was exposed to those styles and their leading proponents and had the opportunity to play those styles every night. I still infuse my music, my composing and my playing, with all those rhythmic feels.

AC: Why didn’t you pursue pop and rock which are much more profitable?

MW: I loved pop and rock and was exposed to it and I did play drums in a rock band and some piano, but jazz was my favorite music and I wasn’t thinking about money. I was just thinking about how jazz music made me feel so good. I also love the fact that with jazz you can play however you feel in the moment. We always included rhythms and sounds from blues and rock and soul and funk and Latin in our jazz. There was a Bay Area band, The Fourth Way that was combining acoustic jazz improvisation with rock rhythms and song forms.

AC: Tell us about hooking up with jazz heavy weights Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. What did you bring to the table and what did you learn from them.?What is the good and bad of working with cats of that caliber?

MW: I was lucky to play with the greatest musicians in jazz in the 70’s. I played for a year with Airto Moreira and Flora Purim. Then I was the last pianist with the great Cannonball Adderley Quintet. That was my favorite sideman gig I’ve ever had. I loved the soul and blues feel underneath the jazz that Cannonball’s band played and he was a wonderful mentor to me, telling me to play the way I play all over the piano and never listen to anyone who tells me how to play. He encouraged me to compose for the band and, had he lived, the next album we were going to record was to feature the music I had written for the band and that we were playing live.

I played with Sonny Rollins for two years. I got the gig because the drummer, Eddie Moore, knew me and called me to come rehearse with Sonny. I loved playing with Sonny but don’t think I appreciated how great he is at that time. I think he’s the best improviser ever in jazz. His theme and development are unique. He has an amazing energy and sound on the saxophone and transcends time and style to create singular, beautiful and soul stirring music.

I think what I brought and bring to the table as a musician is an exciting energy, a focus on rhythm, and an open mind every night about what the music will be. I like to be in the moment and create on the spot. I am willing to be experimental and open harmonically at any moment. I love to react to the musicians I am playing with on the spot and go into areas that are unexpected and fresh.

I learned a lot from all the people I played with – most often non verbally. In my whole career we never discussed harmony or rhythm or anything technical. It was always what we were bringing to the audience and how we could improve that – how we could improve the set. Nat Adderley did tell me to build a solo by starting with regular musical ideas and then build up to using the effects I was using at the time on the electric piano. That was great advice. It was all good playing with those great musicians. Playing every night with wonderful musicians taught me how to play, how to bring my individuality to the music, how to be a great sideman, and how to be an effective leader.

AC: How did you land the job as musical director for Arsenio Hall? What was that experience like? How does it affect your music and career to do a steady TV gig like that? I’m told that Arsenio was you greatest tutor? How so?

MW: When I became musical director for the great singer Nancy Wilson, I learned to conduct orchestras, arrange for vocalist and orchestra, and to sing backup with her. I learned always from being on the bandstand. It was on the job training. Much different from the way musicians learn in school now. Our opening act for Nancy Wilson was comedian Arsenio Hall and he and I became good friends. He always said he’d have a talk show and he’d hire me to lead the band. And he did! It was a great experience. I got to play with so many great musicians of all styles including: Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Al Green, Ray Charles, Ringo Starr, Warren Zevon, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Patty LaBelle, Yo Yo Ma, Placido Domingo, Grandmaster Flash, and Teddy Riley. I also learned to compose music quickly, because often Arsenio would shoot a short video that needed music and I had to watch it a couple of times, write music immediately, and record it with our band on the spot. It was a fantastic experience that helped train me to write music for film and television. What I learned from Arsenio was to be in the moment and to respond to whatever was going on around you onstage. He is an amazing talent and responded to whatever was happening onstage and off immediately.

AC: You are one of the few straight-up jazz players that really entertain the audiences. Recently in San Francisco they said you did a little standup comedy and even danced a little on stage. How important is it to engage a jazz crowd?

MW: I learned to talk to the audience by watching Cannonball Addereley talk to the audience. He told me if you open yourself up to the audience you can take them further musically and that they will go with you musically anywhere. I’ve found that to be true. I love to make people laugh so I incorporate that into my performance. It’s not usually planned out; I’m as in the moment with my talking as I am with my playing.

AC: Tell us about your musical relationship and friendship with the late Joe Zawinul? Do you have a desire to continue his legacy?

MW: I always looked up to Joe Zawinul. He was one of the pioneers of fusion jazz and wrote some of the greatest music ever written. I met him after I got the gig with Cannonball. The drummer, Roy McCurdy, took me to Joe’s house in Malibu (in LA) and I spent the day with Joe. He showed me all kinds of cool chords on the piano. He loved music and had a healthy ego about his music. He was always friendly and supportive of me. It was like I was family because I was a pianist who had played with Cannonball Adderley. I think I continue the legacy of Cannonball and Joe Zawinul by bringing the feeling of the blues and soul in my music. There was also warmth to the music of both Cannonball and Zawinul that I hope I infuse into my music.

AC: What do you think of smooth jazz?

MW: I’m fine with smooth jazz. I like a lot of the players and enjoy playing with them. It’s not my main thing, but I like any music where players are playing their hearts out, and smooth jazz players do that. I’ve played a lot with Kenny G and Dave Koz, among others, and they’re all very talented, committed musicians.

AC: Tell us about your friend Michael Clark. What made you decide to put a project together with him?

MW: Mike Clark and I met in the 70’s in the San Francisco Bay Area. We were both on the scene there. I heard Mike on his first gig with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters at Keystone Berkeley. We started playing together regularly in the 80’s when we were both in New York City. We had a regular trio with bassist Jon Burr. We all lived within a couple of blocks of each other on the Upper West Side.

AC: The American press says, “When two of the best musicians on the planet decide to combine their talents, they create a band without boundaries.” What does that mean?

MW: We played as a trio on our own and also with a bunch of crazy singers. We’d play with whoever hired us, playing live in clubs and recording a lot. After the gig we’d stay up all night drinking beer and playing cards or monopoly. I moved to LA in 1988 to be musical director for Arsenio Hall TV show. I returned to NYC in the late 90’s, and we began playing together again. Mike Clark played and recorded with me in my band, Impure Thoughts, and I played with him in his band. A year or so ago we decided to get together and form our own band, Wolff & Clark Expedition, so we could pursue the music we love, jazz influenced by blues and funk. We decided the band would be the two of us as the main members. We choose whoever else we want to record or play with for specific gigs or projects.

AC: What can people expect from the Wolff and Clark CD? Who are some of the artists featured?

We push the boundaries of music by not respecting limitations of styles. We play freely and what we feel. We can play with a trio, like our first album, ‘Wolff & Clark Expedition” on Random Act Records, featuring the great bassist Chip Jackson. We deconstructed known tunes, funky ones like ‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’ by Zawinul, and ‘For the Love of Money’ by the Ojay’s, more soul jazz with ‘Song for My Father’ by Horace Silver, jazz standards like Cole Porter’s ‘What Is This Thing Called Love?’ a really gospel song by Nat Adderley ‘Hummin’ and modern originals by Chip Jackson, Mike Clark, and me. We have also played gigs with horns and could play with any instruments.

AC: Touring?

We begin our touring with a concert at Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. We then tour in March and April in the United States: New Orleans, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Oakland, Denver and other cities. We hope to tour in Europe and Asia in the summer and next fall. Our March US tour will feature the amazing Jeff Berlin on bass.

AC: Personal plans?

MW: I want to record a solo piano album in the next year. I’m also working on using cross rhythms in my playing and composing. And I want Wolff & Clark Expedition to record another album and utilize some horns on it.

AC: Advice to young people who want a career in music?

MW: I teach at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. My advice to all students is to learn everything technical they can. Learn to write music on computer writing programs, to record on Logic Audio and Pro Tools, to make sure to compose their own music, to master the use of the internet and social media in the music business, and to practice and become great on their instrument.

In order to have a career in music now, the musician has to be able to do many things in order to cobble together a decent income. Play, compose, teach, arrange, publish, record, engineer – learn to do everything competently and some things extremely well.

AC: Legacy?

MW: As far as a musical legacy, I would like to be appreciated for my playing, the energy and originality of approach, and the quality of my compositions. I am currently writing a book on my BIG IDEAS about music, and I hope that will leave a mark.

http://www.michaelwolff.com

Edited by Susan Acieves

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Herald de Paris Interview with Mike Clark

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Headhunting jazz drum master Mike Clark

BY AL CARLOS HERNANDEZ ON FEBRUARY 20, 2013

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) – When two of the best musicians on the planet decide to combine their estimable talents to create a band without boundaries, the result is the Wolff & Clark Expedition. Dizzy Gillespie famously said that jazz must have, “One foot in the past and one in the future.” With the Wolff & Clark Expedition, the music embraces the past, ventures into the future, but remains rooted in the improvisational present.

Drummer Mike Clark is a true percussion legend – Clark gained worldwide recognition as one of America’s foremost jazz and funk players while touring and recording with Herbie Hancock’s group in the early 1970’s. Mike became known as a major innovator through his incisive playing on Hancock’s ‘Thrust’ album which garnered him an international cult following. While often referred to as the “Tony Williams of funk,” Mike, a JAZZ musician, has, in fact, become one of the most vital to ever sit behind a set.

He has performed with jazz greats Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Bennett, Bobby Hutcherson, Christian McBride, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Wallace Roney, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Fred Wesley, Vince Guaraldi, Chet Baker, Larry Coryell, Eddie Henderson, Geri Allen, Billy Childs, Chris Potter, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, Dave Liebman, Oscar Brown Jr., Lenny White (Mike has a two-drummer band with Lenny called “New Brew”), Mose Allison, Gil Evans and his Orchestra and many more luminaries.

Mike is currently finishing his forthcoming solo CD ‘Indigo Blue’, which features Randy Brecker, Christian McBride, Donald Harrison, Rob Dixon and Antonio Farao. Clark said, “We have years of combined experience playing with many masterful jazz artists so we share an innate understanding as to how to play at a consistently very high level with a feel for improvised music. We both spent time in the Bay Area and since we’ve been friends and band mates for many years, The Expedition is a natural result of our shared, cumulative experiences.”

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez spoke with Mike one day before he spoke with band mate Michael Wolff in a Herald De Paris world exclusive interview.

AC: Growing up, tell us about how your dad influenced you. I’m told you would sit in at some of his gigs at seven and eight years old.

MC: Yes there was always a set of drums at home and he played jazz records all the time. When I made my way to the drums I could play right away – it made sense and had a beat. He was really excited about this and he took me to a nightclub that night and I played with some of his friends. He booked me as a child drum prodigy on many gigs from then until I was about fourteen. I played with some famous people while I was very young.

AC: How did the music of New Orleans and Texas in the early days inform your musical palate today?

MC: Well I think I assimilated the regional sounds, dialect, style and feel of those places as I was young and didn’t think about it. In Texas I really learned the blues and the Texas shuffle. The cats in New Orleans were real funky and could play as well. I also moved to the East Coast which is where my style fits the best as far as jazz goes.

AC: What kind of music did you listen to? Who impressed you the most? Any musical mentors?

MC: Jazz music. Coltrane, Miles, Blakey, Philly Joe, Roy Haynes, Monk, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Basie, Duke Ellington, Clifford Brown, Ray Charles, James Brown and all blues and R & B artists. Most all jazz artists impressed me deeply from the time I was a child until now. I can’t name them all or we would be here forever. There aren’t many that I don’t like no matter what the style.

AC: When was the moment when you realized you were going to be a professional musician? What was the dream at that point?

MC: At four years old: the first time I played the drums and that night playing with the band. I knew this is what I am going to do.

AC: Tell us about your teenage years. What attracted you to R&B, and jazz?

MC: Well, as I said, I was already deep into the music way before being a teenager but I guess the exhilaration of swing, the blues and the feeling was the attraction.

AC: Why didn’t you pursue pop and rock which are much more profitable?

MC: This type of music never hit me where I live. I never listen to it. I don’t hate it; I just have no connection to it.

AC: Tell us about meeting up with Herbie Hancock and life in the 70’s as a headhunter. What was the good and bad of all that?

MC: I met him through Paul Jackson – I auditioned and he hired me. He was a genius as a person and an artist so I tried to understand how he thought and what he held in high esteem. He also told me a lot about the band with Miles and Tony and I wanted to know everything about that. Playing with him was fantastic and it was at a very high level so I could play easily in that setting. This also made me a very well known drummer. Herbie also encouraged me to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and practice Nichiren Buddhism. I am still practicing today.

The unattractive part for me was that the music was limited and I became known for playing funk which is not my passion. It is something I like to do now and then, but jazz music is what speaks to my inner world and what I have the most experience playing. It was also very loud and hard to find space for self expression. Most of the musicians involved were always talking about making a lot of money and being commercial. Exploring new vistas musically, which is where I was coming from, was not part of what seemed to be important or even talked about during my time in that setting. When I did bring it up it brought out a bad vibe.

AC: Did being a headhunter open the doors to work with Brand X and Phil Collins? Isn’t he quite a drummer himself? What was the objective of that project?

MC: Yes it did. I really enjoyed playing with Brand X as it was a totally creative experience and they let me play anyway I saw fit. I had never played rock or rock influenced music before so it was all new and exciting for me. I really had a great time with them. They were innovative cats trying to break new ground. Yeah, Phil Collins could play his ass off – a natural.

AC: Why did you leave the West Coast and go to New York? What did you find there?

MC: The jazz music on the West Coast, at least in the Bay Area where I am from, was very polite and almost like hotel type playing or playing for a wedding. People seemed upset if it really swung hard with no blues influence. After all I had experienced there was no way I could return to this type of understanding so I came to New York. There I found everything I was looking for in jazz music and more. All of the masters where alive and lived here at that time and I heard them every night. The music was raw and on fire. This is what I love.

AC: Tell us about your foray into the young jam scene. How would you characterize what they were doing and what was your level of participation? Les Claypool?

MC: I had a manager and he wanted me to try to mix my style with what was going on with those cats so I did. Some of it was pretty good but a lot of it was at a high school or junior college level and sort of like fake funk. Many were trying to do what I had done much earlier with Herbie but it wasn’t really funky with zero harmony. Many young artists are still very popular on that scene and still are playing at the same level as there is no room for growth, even though it is dressed up like a forward-thinking scene. It was moving backwards for me. I knew cats like that in high school. I didn’t really dig it but I did meet some great cats and still play with them at times. Les was a raw and soulful artist that was totally natural and had a hell of a groove.

AC: Some of your beats are the most sampled by hip hop artists. How do you feel about that? Should they pay royalties?

MC: Well, how I feel about that is: if you don’t know how to play, if you use people’s beats or music that they have spent a lifetime learning how to play and you don’t know how to play, then it is a crime not to pay them. It is ripping them off. It is doing the same thing many rap artists are complaining about – being ripped off by the man. So don’t rip musicians off. I am flattered that some of those artists liked my playing but I would rather them not like me and pay me. I would like to be paid just as they like to be paid. You don’t see me wearing a Rolex (not that I would want to) and I am on a ton of those CD’s.

AC: Tell us about being a faculty member of Drummers Collective. What is that all about?

MC: I haven’t taught there in many years but it was great. It is a great school with great teachers and a great staff. I always look forward to stopping by there or doing a clinic or whatever. A musician can learn a great deal about playing from that school. Top shelf place to learn. I recommend this to any young musician trying to learn his craft.

AC: Talk about Blue Prints of Jazz – one of the most critically acclaimed recording of the decade according to Downbeat magazine.

MC: I was offered a chance to make a CD playing whatever music I wanted to play. I called Christian McBride, Patrice Rushen, Christian Scott, Jed Levy, and my dear friend Donald Harrison. These are some bad folks who can swing real hard and they certainly did on this record. We had a blast making it and it reflected where I was at with hard bop with a twist on it at that time. Great people who were involved and a great experience.

AC: What about Carnival of Soul with Delbert McClinton. How was it to work with a country blues singer?

MC: Delbert is great. He can sing anything. I worked with him in the sixties briefly and I love playing with him. He is totally instinctive, natural and can sing the blues with the best of them. He is a real talent and has lived it. Much respect! Also check out Rob Dixon on sax, Delbert Bump on organ and Steve Homan on guitar – all top notch artists. These cats are waaay into feeling it. Check it out.

AC: Tell us about your friend Michael Wolff. What made you decide to put a project together with him?

MC: Michael and I have played together since the seventies. We seem to share a musical understanding that does not have to be talked about. We had done so much playing and enjoyed it so much that we finally said, since we are working together all the time and see a similar vision, why not put a group together? And we did! He is brilliant and I never know what he is going to play even though I have played with him for so many years. Totally creative and refreshing. We have skeleton arrangements and we fill them out differently every night. Very open!

AC: The American press says, “When two of the best musicians on the planet decide to combine their talents, they create a band without boundaries.” What does that mean?

MC: It means that we don’t adhere to the norm but the tradition is with us big time. In other words, we stretch out or not; whatever or whenever the feeling hits us. It is always improvised although we know the tunes forms.

AC: How do you combine the roots of jazz and blues together? How much does improvisation have to do with the final product?

MC: Let me just say that for me if you can’t play the blues you can’t play jazz. Improvisation has everything to do with everything about Wolff and Clark.

AC: How do you deconstruct a tune in order to construct a new one?

MC: I would say this is different according to the tune and the moment. We start to experiment harmonically and rhythmically and push the boundaries without falling off the cliff and still having it swing. Like playing without a net.

AC: What can people expect from the Wolff and Clark CD? Who are some of the artists featured?

MC: On this CD it is a trio: Michael, Chip Jackson on bass and myself. I would say you will hear some very nice surprises and we are beholding to no one except ourselves. We try to marry what went before us into the future and never lose sight of the blues. We bend it many different ways and never sacrifice the groove.

AC: Plans on touring?

MC: Yes we are touring the US this March and April and are looking at festivals around the world.

AC: What are some of the musical things in life you would still like to accomplish?

MC: Having Wolff and Clark and my own visions on the main stages at jazz festivals and clubs worldwide. This is now more about business than anything else. We are always looking for people who love our music to help us and many have joined the effort. As far as music, I practice every day and want to deepen my playing on every level; to present music that I believe in so people can hear an interesting musical conversation, find music that is uplifting, non-patronizing and to enjoy!

AC: What advice would you give a young jazz player who wants to follow in your footsteps?

MC: That practice and learning never stop no matter what shape your career is in; good, bad or in the middle. To study everything you can, listen to everything you can and play as much as you can in a band setting. Playing with others, learning how to listen, comp and interact is the most important tool to master at the end of the day. Playing with live artists is crucial.

AC: Someday, when it’s all over and done, what would you like your musical legacy to be?

MC: That I could swing hard, had my own style, broke new ground and made the listener feel good.

Check him out at: http://www.mikeclarkmusic.com

Edited by Susan Acieves

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Jazz Legends MICHAEL WOLFF and MIKE CLARK To Release ‘WOLFF & CLARK EXPEDITION’ Debut CD Available February 19 on RANDOM ACT RECORDS

wolff and clark expedition

For Immediate Release

Jazz Legends MICHAEL WOLFF and MIKE CLARK To Release ‘WOLFF & CLARK EXPEDITION’ Debut CD
Available February 19 on RANDOM ACT RECORDS

New York, NY – When two of the best musicians on the planet decide to combine their estimable talents to create a band without boundaries, the result is the WOLFF & CLARK EXPEDITION. Dizzy Gillespie famously said that jazz must have “one foot in the past and one in the future.” With the Wolff & Clark Expedition, the music embraces the past, ventures into the future, but remains rooted in the improvisatory present. After several high profile performances in 2012, jazz legends Michael Wolff and Mike Clark, the Wolff & Clark Expedition, are preparing to release their self-titled debut album in February 2013. Performing with creative bassist Chip Jackson, the Expedition’s initial outing aims for uncharted, compelling musical territories while still entertaining a wide audience of astute listeners.

From The Beatles to Zawinul, Wolff & Clark navigate a disparate set of beguiling material. They commune with “Come Together,” determine “What Is This Thing Called Love,” before showing no “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Wolff’s beautiful composition in 7/4, “ARP,” precedes a burning “Flat Out,” rout. By the time Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” is proffered, listeners will realize this is not their fathers’ jazz trio. This is something very new, quite different…This is exciting, sublime but accessible music.

The sizzling “Is There A Jackson…?” leads to Wolff’s soulful intro to Brother Nat’s “Hummin’.” After church, the trio tears up Gamble and Huff’s “For The Love Of Money” before winding down with the gorgeous ballad “Elise,” Michael’s homage to his late Mom.

Expedition: A journey undertaken by a group of people with a definite objective; or the group undertaking such a journey. So it is with the fearless, tuneful negotiations of the Wolff and Clark Expedition. Although the name may recall other explorers from another era, Wolff and Clark are thoroughly modern: They blaze musical trails, fresh and fertile, with sounds not previously heard.

Says Wolff & Clark, “We have been playing together for many years – We share the same vision, energy and excitement for jazz music, for improvisation. The musical goal of The Expedition is to utilize well-known tunes in addition to intriguing originals and to deconstruct them, then reconstruct them as vehicles for self-expression. We believe it is time to bring modern sensibilities and styles of playing (and writing) to music that comes from the Blues and the roots of Jazz to create fresh rhythmic and harmonic/melodic adventures.”

“The Wolff & Clark Expedition is what happens when great musicians come together and mean business, but sound like they’re having fun doing it!” – Vinnie Colaiuta

Performing together since the 1970’s, both Wolff and Clark have each had stellar music careers. Michael Wolff is an internationally acclaimed pianist, composer and bandleader, and is best known for his melodically fresh and rhythmically compelling piano style. Wolff made his recording debut in 1972 with Cal Tjader, and went on to record with Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Sonny Rollins, Tony Williams, Christian McBride and many others. As pianist and music director for jazz singer Nancy Wilson, Michael wrote orchestral arrangements and conducted more than twenty-five major symphony orchestras worldwide. From 1989 to 1994, Michael served as the bandleader for the Aresenio Hall Show, which heightened his visibility and gave him the opportunity to perform with many established artists such as Ray Charles, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and saxophonist/President Bill Clinton. Michael Wolff has released twelve critically acclaimed solo albums as a leader, ‘Joe’s Strut’ being the most recent. He was a recipient of the BMI Music Award for television composition and was also the winner of the Gold Disk Award in Japan for piano. On Feb 23, 2012 Michael performed a solo piano concert at the University of Toledo, in Toledo, Ohio, as part of their Art Tatum solo piano concert.

Drummer Mike Clark is a true percussion legend – Mike Clark gained worldwide recognition as one of America’s foremost jazz and funk players while touring and recording with Herbie Hancock’s group in the early 1970’s. Mike became known as a major innovator through his incisive playing on Hancock’s ‘Thrust’ album, which garnered him an international cult following. While often referred to as the “Tony Williams of funk,” Mike, a JAZZ musician, has, in fact, become one of the most vital to ever sit behind a set. He has performed with jazz greats Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Bennett, Bobby Hutcherson, Christian McBride, Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Wallace Roney, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Fred Wesley, Vince Guaraldi, Chet Baker, Larry Coryell, Eddie Henderson, Geri Allen, Billy Childs, Chris Potter, Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, Dave Liebman, Oscar Brown Jr., Lenny White (Mike has a two-drummer band with Lenny called “New Brew”), Mose Allison, Gil Evans and his Orchestra and many more luminaries. Mike is currently finishing his forthcoming solo CD ‘Indigo Blue’, which features Randy Brecker, Christian McBride, Donald Harrison, Rob Dixon and Antonio Farao.

Says Wolff & Clark, “Together, we have years of combined experience playing with many of the greatest jazz artists of all time, so we share an innate understanding as to how to play at a consistently very high level, with a mutual feel for improvised music. Since we both spent time in the Bay Area, and since we’ve been friends and band mates for many years, The Expedition is a natural result of our shared, cumulative experiences.”

“It’s a joy to hear musicians with so much experience approach the music with such great passion.” – Fred Hersch

Together they bring a combination of swing and groove to a unique deconstructive take on classic jazz, popular standards, and original compositions that creates a freedom in the sound to electrify listeners and audiences worldwide. With their collective vast experience, Wolff and Clark can play with anyone, anywhere, always defying boundaries of genre, mingling and mixing with a kaleidoscope of changing players, keeping the music interesting and dynamic. As such, they are excited to present their VIP (Very Impressive Players) List: Dependent upon the gig, they invite one or several musicians from a roster of colleagues to join them – Jeff Berlin, Larry Coryell, Steve Wilson, James Genus, Christian McBride, Donald Harrison, Randy Brecker, Wallace Roney, Tom Harrell, Alex Foster, Lenny Pickett, Seamus Blake and others constitute explorers willing to join the Expedition’s adventures.

Wolff & Clark states, “We strive to take all listeners on unparalleled musical journeys, to unexplored sonic realms. W&C adheres to past musical traditions while pushing the envelope further into the future. We hope to bring great improvised music to as many intrepid listeners as possible; we know that Jazz can be highly entertaining! So hold on tight and join the Expedition…!”

On this expedition, the possibilities are limitless.

The WOLFF & CLARK EXPEDITION Release February 19, 2013
Random Act Records, USA

The Wolff & Clark Expedition CD can be purchased at Amazon.com, iTunes, and at most music stores.

For more information:
Random Act Records: http://www.randomactrecords.com
Michael Wolff: http://www.michaelwolff.com/
Mike Clark: http://www.mikeclarkmusic.com/
Wolff & Clark Expedition Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wolff-Clark-Expedition/000000000000000

Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR, PH: 828-350-8158, glassonyonpr@gmail.com