Mike Wofford, Jazz Pianist



San Diego Music Awards 2013

Mike Wofford – It’s Personal

Nominated for Best Jazz Album

After winning the Life Time Acheivement Award in 2012, Mike Wofford is once again recognized for his contribution to the Jazz community. His latest album, “It’s Personal” is nominated for best Jazz Album in 2013. The 2013 San Diego Music Awards continues to appreciate the honor of having him as one of the living legends of Jazz as part of it’s rich heritage.

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LA Beat: Holly Hofmann and Mike Wofford Trio With Special Guest Julie Kelly at Sunset Jazz at Newport

Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene
Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Producers Joe Rothman and John McClure have been presenting some of the best jazz on the planet for a number of years at Newport Beach Jazz Party and Summer Evening Jazz Concerts. On Wednesday, July 17, the lovely and very likeable Holly Hofmann and her husband, Mike Wofford, brought their trio to Sunset Jazz at Newport. The ensemble included Hofmann, of course, on flutes, Wofford on piano, young Mike Gurrola on bass, and the inimitable Jeff Hamilton on drums, along with their special guest, vocalist/guitarist Julie Kelly. The outdoor concert in Marriott’s Rose Garden was completely full with an audience of happy jazz fans.

Rothman made some announcements, kept some humor in it all and introduced the band. The trio, (Wofford, Gurrola and Hamilton) began the set with a Lerner/Loewe composition, “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Wofford brought Hofmann to the stage to play a medley that included Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love” and a tune by late, great bassist, Ray Brown, “CRS/Craft.” Brown had appeared on Hofmann’s Live at Birdland (2000). Gurrola came out with a remarkable solo on his wonderful upright bass. On her larger alto flute, Hofmann played the beautiful standard, “The Very Thought of You,” with the band backing her to a tee.

Next, Hofmann introduced the evening’s special guest, vocalist/guitarist Julie Kelly. Kelly spent quite a bit of time in South America, particularly in Brazil. She knows the music that has come from this section of the world, and sings very well in Portuguese, Spanish and English. She began with “Ela E Carioca,” a pretty Brazilian number. The blending of Hofmann/Wofford’s trio behind Kelly perfectly complemented the music. Kelly also sang and played her lovely guitar on Jobim’s “Favela.” Her voice is clear, expressive and joins her own guitar work very well. The audience loved the music, giving much appreciative applause.

For the second set, the trio (Wofford, Gurrola and Hamilton) played “Intimacy of the Blues,” an earlier composition by Billy Strayhorn. This number rocked the audience in the Rose Garden and included vibrant solos from all three! Hofmann and Gurrola performed a special duo number, “Embraceable You,” followed by another duo with Hamilton, “Caravan.” Both were true show pieces. Kelly came up again and played a medley of “Two Kites (Fotografia)” by Jobim and “Berimbau” by Baden Powell. The band blended these well into lovely jazz! Closing the concert, Hofmann performed a gratitude medley on her alto flute with the trio: “I’m Glad There Is You,” a sweet ballad; “Lucky To Be Me” with solo by Mike Wofford, and “I’m Just a Lucky So and So.” Everyone loved this concert!

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The touch of a master:
Mike Wofford live in La Jolla

Everything Wofford plays has a purity of expression.
By Robert Bush


Piano master Mike Wofford has lived such a storybook career that it’s easy to get lost in the long maze of his past accomplishments and forget about what a vital force he is right now.

Fortunately, Dan Atkinson and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla gave local jazz fans the opportunity to experience the virtuoso live, in celebration of his soon-to-be-released solo CD, It’s Personal, in a rare double-feature performance on June 30.

Wofford’s improvising aesthetic has risen to a level of pure communication –stripped free of artifice and cliché, his touch alone can trigger an array of feelings. The pianist doesn’t just enter the “zone”, he holds the door open for the listener.

As he began disseminating “Little Melonae,” into different dimensions of time, bluesy asides brushed against pastoral expression and extraordinarily tasteful manipulation of the bass register.

The title track of the new album found him soaring gracefully over choice voice-leading –Wofford’s ability to organize harmony is so deeply informed he can induce a reverie simply by striking lush and resonant chords that become complete statements in and of themselves.

He distilled “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” into oblique angles — using sparse single notes set with devastating sure-footedness that refracted pure connections to the blues. Continuing with the noir-ish “The Eighth Veil,” his thematic extrapolation conjured up a litany of cinematic images.

Indeed, Wofford’s gift lies in the way he is able to transform the material into a personal narrative way beyond the theme-solo-theme pattern that dominates much of the standard jazz practice.

Balancing a stripped-down stride with impressionistic harmonies, his dedication to Earl Hines, “Hines Catch-up,” toggled between left-hand colors and right-hand filigree, and the way he opened up the Talking Heads tune “Once In A Lifetime,” defied explanation.

Intimate, sublime and full of surprise. What more could you ask for?

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Mike Wofford / Holly Hofmann Quintet: Turn Signal



Mike Wofford / Holly Hofmann Quintet: Turn Signal
Down in out-of-the-way San Diego, California (that’s out-of-the-way in a New York-centric jazz world), flautist Holly Hofmann and pianist Mike Wofford have been steadily making world-class jazz for a couple of decades. Wofford—who has spent much of his career in supporting roles, backing vocalists Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, saxophonists Zoot Sims and Benny Carter, and many more—is evolving into a first-rate leader. His Live at Athanaeum (Capri Records, 2004) demonstrated the pianist’s acumen in the trio context, while Live at Athenaeum Jazz, Volume 2 (Capri Records, 2007), with partner-in-life-and-music Hofmann, showcased the couple in an intimate duo setting.

For her part, Hofmann fronted a marvelous quartet on Minor Miracle (Capri Records, 2004), with Wofford holding down the piano chair, as well as teaming engaging in a true flute fest on First Date (Capri Records, 2003), with Ali Ryerson and multiple reedman Frank Wess, as part of a trio dubbed Flutology.

With Turn Signal, the Wofford/Hofmann collaboration veers into tribute territory, opening with the groove-centric “The Dipper, (for Horace Silver).” Employing a quintet with the inspired choice of trumpeter Terell Stafford in the frontline with Hofmann, the tune has a modern feel and uniquely silky harmonic sound with the melding of trumpet and flute. Hofmann blows a solo with nuanced coolness and some surprising phrases, while Stafford possesses a bright and succinct sound in front of a deliberate rhythm.

With beautifully unfolding harmonies, “Esperanca” is Wofford’s quintet take on the orchestral original by composer/arranger Vince Mendoza. Wofford’s pensive solo emerges from fluid smoothness of the horns, backed adeptly by Rob Thorsen’s muscular bass lines and drummer Richard Sellers’ subtle percussive intricacies.

The group takes saxophonist Bobby Watson’s “Karita” aloft, a soaring in the clouds affair with more delectable harmonies from Hofmann and Stafford, whose solo reaches for heaven in front of the locked-in-tight, cranking-it-up rhythm section, leading to Hofmann’s gorgeous songbird turn.

Polished and adventurous, this is a gem of a CD. Engaging and, with the teaming of trumpet and flute, not the standard quintet jazz experience, Jimmy Forrest’s “Soul Street” is a lesson in serious soulful swing. The group closes out with Hofmann’s juiced-up “M-Line,” the flautist at her most inspired as Stafford burns hot and brassy.

Track Listing: The Dipper (for Horace Silver); Esperanca; Karita; Soul Street; Pure Imagination; The Girl From Greenland; M-Line.

Personnel: Holly Hofmann: alto flute, piccolo; Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Wofford: piano; Rob thorsen: bass; Richard Sellers: drums.

Record Label: Capri Records

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