Jazz pianist to play Tatum Scholarship Concert

February 21, 2012 | Arts, UToday
By Staff


Michael Wolff will pull up the piano bench and hit the keys at the 21st Annual Art Tatum Memorial Jazz Scholarship Concert Thursday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m. in the Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall.

The UT Department of Music annually honors the Toledo jazz legend and his contributions to the music world by presenting a scholarship concert in his name featuring a notable jazz pianist.

Wolff is notable indeed. At age 19, he became a member of vibraphonist Cal Tjader’s band in the early 1970s. The first time he went into the recording studio it was with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. And he refined his entertaining skills as the bandleader and musical director for “The Arsenio Hall Show” from 1989 to 1994.

Since then, the pianist and composer has released discs as a solo artist and with his band, Impure Thoughts.

His 2009 release, Joe’s Strut, is an acoustic disc featuring a quintet and a trio.

“Jazz is my background, it’s what I grew up playing,” he said on MichaelWolff.com. “And after my trio album, Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, was released in 2007, I began performing that format again; playing in an acoustic setting just felt right. I can retain the blues feeling underneath, while using all of the sophisticated harmonic things I’ve learned. As a pianist, it gives me more space.”

Wolff is married to actress Polly Draper, who appeared on the TV show “Thirtysomething.” Their two sons, Nat and Alex Wolff, starred in and wrote the music for “The Naked Brothers Band” series.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Art Tatum Memorial Jazz Scholarship. Students and faculty established the scholarship in 1992 with a gala benefit concert honoring the native Toledoan. Tatum is regarded by musicians around the world as the finest pianist in the history of jazz. The scholarship is open to UT African-American students who are majoring in music.

Tickets are $40 for patrons, $15 for the public, and $5 for students and seniors. They will be available at the door or by contacting the UT Center for Performing Arts Box Office at 419.530.2375.

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