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Hamptons Jazz Fest: Pianist Michael Wolff

Monday, July 1, 2024 @ 6PM

Watch it on YouTube!



Michael Wolff

Renowned jazz pianist/composer/author Michael Wolff, celebrates life and cancer rebound, with “Memoir,” his first new album in four years, set for release August 2nd on Sunnyside Records.The 11-Track Set Showcases Wolff with his trio, featuring Bassist Ben Allison and Drummer Allan Mednard.

After a miraculous triumph over a four-year battle with a rare form of misdiagnosed Cancer that had him at death’s door, internationally renowned pianist/composer Michael Wolff continues to celebrate his incredible recovery and life on “Memoir,” his first studio album in four years, set for release August 2, 2024, on Sunnyside Records. The highly anticipated collection will be available on Amazon, Spotify, iTunes, and Wolff’s website ( or wherever you purchase your music.

Wolff is known for playing with a Who’s Who of jazz legends from Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderly, and Sonny Rollins, to Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson, (he was also her musical director,) Sheila E., Christian McBride and so many more. In pop culture, he’s best known for his five-year run as the musical director and bandleader for Arsenio Hall on the star’s award-winning, late night TV talk show.

“Memoir” features Wolff in his trio with longtime collaborators bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard. The 11-track collection is a deeply inspired compilation of new music and fresh interpretations of some of Wolff’s favoriewte unreleased original compositions he decided to revisit. True to its title, “Memoir” is a rhythmically dynamic, yet simultaneously soulful exploration that highlights the rich, intricate quality of Wolff’s playing and the musicianship of all three artists. With over twenty-one solo albums to his credit, “Memoir” is one of Wolff’s most personal and significant records to date. “I wanted every note and song to resonate emotionally with the listener and reflect the journey of my experiences. This album conveys a feeling that’s very personal and thoughtful, but still has great energy,” stated Wolff.

That ‘personal feeling’ is expressed in several ballads reflective of Wolff’s more contemplative playing and composing, most notably on the charming and seductive “Afternoon,” written spontaneously at the piano while his wife, actress/writer/director Polly Draper was busy in the kitchen on a sunny afternoon in New York. A melancholy feeling is also expressed in another reflective piece, (and the album’s sole cover,) “You’ve Changed.” Originally popularized by Billie Holiday, Wolff’s interpretation evokes an emotional and tactile feeling, motivated by his memory of finally waking up after so long and beginning the process of exploring his inner self.

The record is a musical expression of Wolff’s amazing life story and how his experiences have impacted his evolution as a musician, whose fresh perspectives continue to move his music forward. “Memoir” follows the publication of Wolff’s recent Amazon best-selling autobiography, “On That Note: A Memoir of Jazz, Tics and Survival,” which chronicles his life and musical career from his unique roots growing up in the segregated south, his lifelong struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome, to his rise to fame in the jazz world and pop culture, and ultimately his amazing conquest over the grueling, life-threatening battle with the rare cancer that almost stole his life.

“The pieces on ‘Memoir’ truly reflect who I am today as an artist and person,” he adds. “Having gone through the frightening cancer battle and facing my mortality has made me a more mature artist. Writing the book was like finding myself and this music reflects and builds on my personal story of struggle, and ultimately triumph over the odds.” Wolff explains.

“Memoir” is truth, beauty, and freedom in the music,” says Wolff. The music is a manifestation of my feeling that artists should let what they play land, to give the music the space it needs. It’s about the space between the notes,” Wolff continued.

Known for his virtuoso performances and innovative style, Wolff’s musical exploration of new sonic ideas can be found on the polyrhythmic “Zawinul,” (an ode to jazz fusion keyboardist Joe Zawinul,) which is driven by propulsive grooves and Wolff’s percussive piano. His fresh approach is also evident on “No Lo Contendré,” one of the unreleased tunes he chose to revisit. The fiery, freewheeling Latin-influenced jam, with its dramatic piano riffs, spirited runs and Wolff’s improvisational playing is a musical celebration of life.

“My intention was to create an album that would be an important testament to my life and music. I wanted to make everything as meaningful as I could, not pushing for anything specific, but simply going with the feeling. With this material I was a musical explorer, able to find the melody within the melody, always at the mercy of inspiration.” Wolff expressed.

“While I have begun to feel less possessed by my music, and the accomplishments of being a musician, I have become more attuned to my inner voice – my inner ear, my spirituality, and my true musical self. I've almost lost the need to be hip, different, or consciously interesting, and instead, have been letting the music that feels right comes out.”

– Michael Wolff

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