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Music

Pianist Michael Wolff draws from a new memoir, in words and music, with a little help from his friends

Michael Wolff at Yamaha Studio NYC
Rob Davidson
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Pianist Michael Wolff’s new autobiography, On That Note, is a journey through the best of a life and a test of a life. A bright-sided trip with Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins and Nancy Wilson, where he befriended a little-known opening act — Arsenio Hall.

Wolff would become Arsenio’s late-night musical director, giving him the chance to play with heroes like Ray Charles and Sammy Davis, Jr. But there were challenges too, including Tourette’s Syndrome and a rare form of cancer that almost took his life. His oncologist, like a jazz musician, improvised with medication that saved Michael’s life.

At Yamaha Studios in New York, we chatted about the book, and played enthusiastically with bassist Ben Allison and drummer Darrell Green, adding a string quartet for his new suite Pandemia.

Michael was quite animated chatting about his life in music. Special guests, reading excerpts from the book, included his son, Alex, and actors Holly Hunter, Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub. It was quite apparent that Michael points toward his music as a saving grace in his challenging but most rewarding life.