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On That Note-Review

On That Note

By pianist Michael Wolff

Jazz books and the discussion of jazz books can both be a bit misleading. They are often too technical for the average reader. Michael Wolff’s latest, On That Note A Memoir of Jazz, Tics, and Survival’ is so much more than a chronological timeline of performances, recording sessions, and namedropping of famous people he knew. This well written book is an easy read for musicians and lovers of music. It is also a story of how life can take well laid plans and turn them on their head.

Mr. Wolff is a stellar jazz musician. He is unorthodox in his approach, so he wonders aloud in the book if the music that he plays is even categorizable as jazz, which ironically tells the reader that he is indeed playing jazz at a high level. Wolff does not take for granted that he is always at the top of his game, and this humble attitude humanizes this gritty portrayal of a life in jazz.

The child of therapists, Wolff had southern roots. The family moved to Berkley, California before Wolff attended high school. His parents were open and encouraging with their son’s musical talent. They were content to watch their son develop in-an-organic-manner, into a full-fledged musician. This openness seems to say, ‘there’s the piano, do with it what you will’. Wolff seems to treat the piano like just another good friend. One that he wanted to spend time with, instead of being pushed to practice, practice, practice.

Lucky breaks led Michael Wolff to travel with Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson in his twenties. Both artists recognized Wolff’s talent and guided him in the same loving manner as his free-thinking parents. This is a perfect book to be with this summer, as we slowly begin to slip out once again, into the jazz night.


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