By likemindblog


Michael grew up in New Orleans and Memphis.  His family moved to Berkeley, California when he was 9 years old, where he lived and went to college.  He went to UCLA and UC Berkeley, and studied music.

He spent the first part of his career surrounded by jazz legends.   Someone on his website said and I quote:  <Anything can happen when pianist/composer Michael Wolff enters a studio.  From the heavy grooves of his band Impure Thoughts to intimate solo and duo recitals, Wolff the recording artist is a man of many skills and moods.  “It’s never intellectual for me when I record,” he emphasizes.  “It’s about what I feel”>

“I went on the road when I was 20 years old with  latin/jazz vibist Cal Tjader, and stayed on the road with many bands for the next 14 years, saysMichael_Wolff_9538Michael. I played with Airto Moreira and Flora  Purim, with Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, and Nancy Wilson. Then I became the band leader for the Arsenio Hall television show.

When that show ended in the mid 90’s, I put together some bands and began recording and touring worldwide. I’m currently living in NYC, teaching at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and touring and recording.”

Michael, thank you so much for participating in this project and sharing your thoughts and talent with us by answering the following questions.

No. 1)  What is music to and for you?

1. music is beyond a physical aural thing to me. it is spiritual and soulful, emotional, and intellectual. But mostly spiritual and emotional. It has its own power and as a performer and composer i try to tap into that force and use my body and mind as an expression of that musical feeling and soul and idea.

No. 2)  What inspires you?

2. I’m inspired by a lot of different things. of course, all kinds of music inspires me. My emotional life is probably the most inspiration thing for me. what I’m feeling, my reactions to the world. Certain people in my life inspire me-family, friends, other artists. Plays, movies, books, nature, these all inspire me at different times.

No. 3)  When you are creating, playing, where does it take you?  Where does your mind travel? 

3. When I’m creating and playing , and it’s going well, i am one with the music. I’m not particularly conscious of being anywhere. I’m observing the music flow through me. when performing live i often feel the audience as a physical presence on my right side, as that is the side that usually is turned toward the audience. i feel a connection that is beyond the normal connection one experiences in normal life. I’m especially comfortable onstage performing and improvising at the piano.

Michael Wolff - 1No. 4)  Do you think music, visual art and health are related, and if so, how? 

4. I think music, visual arts and health can be connected. I certainly love to play music when inspired by beautiful, or even disturbing, art. and I imagine ones health can be affected by the vibrations of music in a positive way. And being in good health makes performing more fun and comfortable.

No. 5)  How do you feel when you are playing, for yourself, and for an audience, is there a difference?

5. I much prefer to play for an audience than to play for myself, though at times playing for myself is very rewarding. Playing for an audience is like surfing on a wave, the audience’s energy acting as the wave, and performing at the piano as the surfboard. The wave gives me speed and excitement and variety. Playing for myself is much calmer, and allows me to experiment and not need to succeed at what I’m attempting. Practicing music is a great experience, where I can enjoy working on one particular problem musically.

Playing for an audience is the most  fluid, exciting, and stimulating thing I do. It is when I am happiest. And when I am playing with a band of musicians that i love, playing for an audience is even that much more fun.

No. 6)  Under what conditions do you do your best work? 

6. I do my best work performing  live with a great piano, a great band, and great sound ystem and a great audience.  It could be a large venue, or a small club. I love Snug Harbor, a small club in New Orleans. I love Knickerbocker, a restaurant /jazz club in NYC. I love a place in Half Moon Bay called Bach Dancing and dynamite society, which is a 200 seat venue that is the upstairs of a guy’s house. His name is Pete Mcdonald, and he’s been there for 40 years or so. When you’re playing, you are facing the ocean and seeing huge waves crashing on the rocks. It is very inspiring. I love Carnegie Hall, fantastic acoustics and appreciate audiences.

No. 7)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level?Michael_Wolff_9344

7. I guess I identify with my music, in that it expresses my inner feelings. But I like to play in the moment, so it’s different every time.

No. 8)  Do you find playing music helps you connect with your higher self, whatever that is for you?
8. I think music IS my higher self. It’s where I channel some force that is beyond my control. I see myself as a vessel for the creative energy that goes through me.

No. 9)  How do you feel about creativity in the public school system?

9.I don’t know much about the public school system’s creativity now. I image creative kids will find an outlet for themselves somehow anywhere they are. When I went to grammar school there was music and art for everyone. I don’t know if all public schools have that now.

No. 10)  In your opinion, what would be a simple solution to improve creativity in the public school system?

10. I don’t know a simple solution to improve creativity in the public school system. I  guess it’s about money and direction, and if the school is missing either it’s hard to have much creativity at school.

No. 11)  How do you feel about improvisation in music?

11. Improvisation is my favorite thing about playing music. But it’s not totally free improvisation, though I like that also. It’s within certain structures most of the time. But I love spontaneity of all kinds.

Michael Wolff 75147165_461b14bee7No. 12)  Do you think in public establishments that has live music, a place should be reserved for people who actually want to listen to music and another for those who want to talk?

12.  I think if there is a  public establishment that has music, it’s a miracle and we should’t look a gift horse in the mouth. If it’s a restaurant gig, I don’t get bothered if people are talking. That’s the atmosphere of the place. After  the dinner hour people listen if they’re into it.

No. 13)  You’ve just released a new album, can you tell us a bit about it?

13.My latest album features five of my compositions and 3 compositions by others. Two jazz standards and one piece by a great mentor of mine, keyboardist and composer Joe Zawinul. He founded the great fusion band, WEATHER REPORT, and played piano with Cannonball Adderley for 10 years. I was proud to be the last pianist in Cannonball’s band and to follow in Joe Zawinul’s footsteps. The album features Victor Jones on drums, Chip Jackson or Rich Goods on bass, and Steve Wilson on alto and soprano saxophones, and Ian Young on tenor sax. I’m very proud of this CD. It’s called JOE’S STRUT, dedicated to the memory of Joe Zawinul. It was in the top 10 of jazz radio when it came out.

Michael, again, thank you for this most interesting article.  You have been most generous and I wish you a lot of success with your new album.  Until our paths cross again, I wish you well.  Be blessed!



You are invited to visit Michael’s website to find out more about him and his wonderful music.  Your comments are always appreciated, enjoy!





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Filed in: MUSIC • Friday, December 3rd, 2010


By Vincent Létourneau on December 5th, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with this most interesting interview.


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My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours