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Hot! Episode #9

Episode #9

Recording Date: June 7, 2003
Location: Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia


Michael Wolff – Keyboards
Badal Roy – Percussion
John B. Williams – Bass
Mark Douthit – Saxophone
Victor Jones – Drums

Papa Was A Rolling Stone     BUY
Heart & Soul                         BUY
Work Song                             BUY

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This was perhaps the fastest Studio Jams session I ever put together. I had just spent a good 3 weeks or so prepping for a session that was to take place on that date – Saturday, June 7. All the details were set…the studio, engineers, gear, crew, travel, musicians…all of it, firmly in place. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the day before the gig, 3 of the musicians for that session – who were all traveling together – had a sudden schedule change and had to cancel. Well, I had made arrangements to tape back-to-back sessions at the studio that day, so I suddenly had the studio, the gear and engineers all in place for a 3-hour block…but no musicians to fill it. So…what to do?

Well the first thing I did was immediately check to see who was scheduled to play that evening at Zanzibar Blue, (at that time) Philadelphia’s premier jazz supper club. It was pianist Michael Wolff and his band Impure Thoughts. Quite honestly, I had heard about Michael, but never actually heard him play. I knew he had been musical director for 8+ years on The Arsenio Hall Show, but beyond that, I really had no idea of what to expect. The first time I actually spoke with Michael and explained my situation to him was when he was driving down from New York on Friday! He told me that he and his band would be glad to fill in and that he had no problem at all with me augmenting the lineup with a saxophone player. Typically, I don’t schedule an established “band” per se, but in this case, I really had no other choice. I much prefer to assemble musicians who don’t typically work together.

John B. Williams

Anyways…when he and the band arrived at the studio, I couldn’t have asked for a more considerate, thoughtful and understanding group of guys. They were amazing…Michael Wolff on piano, John B. Williams on bass, Victor Jones on drums and the great Badal Roy on tabla and percussion (Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Herbie Mann, Dizzy Gillespie, and others). That was Michael’s quartet, Impure Thoughts. I also invited one of Nashville’s finest saxophone players, Mark Douthit, to the session. Mark has recorded and/or toured with some of the best in the business. He was touring with guitarist Larry Carlton at the time and took a train ride down from New York to join us. Wow…what a band.

Mark Douthit

As the session began, Michael quickly assumed his comfortable role as musical director. He suggested they start things off with a somewhat open jam around the classic tune Papa Was A Rolling Stone. They took about 15 minutes to come up with a somewhat freestyle arrangement of the song. It featured a lot of interesting solo time from both Michael and Mark…and was so interestingly enhanced by Badal Roy on tabla and percussion. We recorded one take of the song.

Next, Michael introduced a relatively simple arrangement of a original song of his called Heart and Soul, inspired by one of his sons. The band pick it up in no time at all and it too was recorded in 1 take.

Michael Wolff

After a short break, Michael suggested Nat Adderley’s Work Song. After a short 10-15 minute rehearsal, I believe we went on to record 2 takes of the song – both filled with a lot of nice solo passages.

Looking back, this session was very important and special to me. It clearly sharpened my skills as a producer, as it forced me to deliver under pressure so as not to lose out on an opportunity. But much more than that, it led me to discover Michael Wolff. Michael is an absolutely brilliant musician. He inspires me more than most and has truly become one of my favorite pianists. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to work with him.

– Tom Emmi / Producer

“Studio Jams is a unique concept for those interested in seeing the real thing when it comes to music creativity. I feel it is the best presentation of musicians doing what they do best in a pure creative uninhibited environment. Keep those jams comin’!”

— T.M.