It’s not every day that I get to check out the work of a “jazz power couple,” but that’s just what Turn Signal packs. Pianist Mike Wofford and flutist Holly Hofmann lead a quintet into some familiar territory with this recording and it’s a beautiful swing down memory lane.
The arrangements in Wofford’s first quintet session as co-pilot are neat and tidy without being rigid. There’s a slow, delicate swing through each of the seven tracks.
The expanded orchestral capabilities make for a good foundation for Wofford’s arrangements and he makes the most of his band members, including trumpet Terell Stafford, bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Richard Sellers. The mix of New York and Southern California players works well.
Wofford, described in the press release as a “consummate accompanist,” really makes his mark here. He has performed with a host of jazz legends, like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Zoot Sims, and Bud Shank, but this opportunity to strike the right notes with a quintet on his own terms seems a welcome one. He debuted as a leader with 1966’s Strawberry Wine, a trio session.
Hofmann holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She studied the art in New York City with the likes of Frank Wess and Slide Hampton, going on to solidify a recording relationship with Bill Cunliffe.
Together, Wofford and Hofmann are a perfect fit and the rest of the quintet slides in nicely to play some precision jazz. This admittedly isn’t very wild stuff, but the organization and coolness of the project makes it something particularly groovy. The songs have a classic, traditional feel that makes for a trip back to simpler times.
Take “The Dipper,” with its unhurried swagger and swing. The lead track comes with a funky bass line and some nice unison playing. It is an evocation of Horace Silver, making use of some of the pianist’s chords and phrase techniques.
“The Girl from Greenland” is another treat. This finds things chiseled down to a trio arrangement (Wofford, Thorsen and Sellers). The groove through the middle of the Richard Twardzik piece is smooth.
Hofmann’s “M-Line” finishes the album off with a brief but boisterous swing. The unison horn-playing is awesome stuff and Sellers’ work at shifting tempos around comes in handy when Hofmann’s flute solo takes hold.
A precise, swinging jazz recording, Turn Signal is a quality album from a “jazz power couple” I hope to hear a lot more from.