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Live At Athenaeum Jazz by Mike Wofford

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, California has been around for 105 years, and the jazz concert series in the auditorium of the Neurosciences Institute for the Athenaeum started when the library was a young 90 years in existence. But Live At Athenaeum Jazz is the first recording that has been released from the locally popular series.... in fact, the longest-running series of jazz concerts in the San Diego metropolitan area. And local resident Mike Wofford, of whom those associated with the Athenaeum are so proud because of his assistance in bringing world-class jazz talent there, was there to help kick off the Athenaeum Jazz Series at its start. So it’s only appropriate that Wofford’s would be the first recording that would be released as a live recording from the Athenaeum.

Let’s hope there are more. Everyone involved in the project, and especially jazz series director Dan Atkinson, made sure that it resulted in a high-quality recording that authentically captured the feeling of the live concert that Wofford’s trio gave. The result is a CD that reaffirms the warmth of Wofford’s touch at the piano, the pulse of Peter Washington’s bass and the sizzle of Victor Lewis’ drumming. Moreover, Wofford, the former musical director for Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, prepared a varied program for the listeners of that performance in November, 2003, and it ranged from Ellington to Sting.

All of the musicians of Wofford’s trio are by now veterans of some of the most respected groups in jazz, including the Jazz Messengers, the Tommy Flanagan trio and the Stan Getz quartets. And their experience shows. For Wofford’s originality of approach and intricacy of harmonic detail come through in an inviting performance that spurs the audience to repeated applause, caught on tape.

The originality comes through from the start of the concert, when Wofford injects some oxygen into that old flickering standard, "My Old Flame." Wofford’s interpretation combines the metrical surprise of 5/4 with the joys of reharmonization, the song consisting of richer colors and the unpredictability of irresolution as Wofford keeps chords sustained and phrases stretched.

In contrast, Wofford’s medley of Leonard Bernstein’s "Lucky To Be Me" and Duke Ellington’s "I’m Just A Lucky So And So" claims the listener’s attention through contrasts. Wofford starts the two-tune combination with a solo chorus, contemplative and delicate, of "Lucky To Be Me" before the musical exclamation point that leads into the irresistibly swinging "I’m Just A Lucky So And So." In addition, Victor Lewis contributed "Dex-Mex" the propulsive tribute to Dexter Gordon, one of the many saxophone greats he accompanied which presents a more restrained, lower-volume description of Gordon than we usually heard on his records. Wofford’s friend, Conte Candoli, wrote "Macedonia," which Wofford’s trio develops as an inviting tune of loping bass lines and Carl Perkins-like "Grooveyard" ease.

Not only does Live At Athenaeum Jazz let jazz listeners from around the world in on an example of the excellent performances of the past 15 years in La Jolla, but also it ranks as one of the top piano jazz trio albums of 2004.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mike Wofford
  • CD Title: Live At Athenaeum Jazz
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Capri Records
  • Tracks: My Old Flame, Take The Coltrane, Macedonia, Dex-Mex, Lucky To Be Me/I’m Just A Lucky So And So, It’s Probably Me, The Best Thing For You
  • Musicians: Mike Wofford (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Victor Lewis (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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