In light of his uber-involvement, Wolff could be forgiven for being tough to finish an interview with. On campus, everyone wants to talk to him. A young bass player needs advice about rhythm; Wolff tells him to lean on the second and fourth beats for a swinging feel. Fellow musicians chat about concerts and make plans to meet up. It all feels like an extended house party.
The ambience — and convenience — is one of the big appeals of Stanford Jazz for Wolff. Almost all the teaching is in the Braun Music Center, all performances are in Braun or nearby, and accommodations are close at hand.
"You don't have to worry about any of the logistics while you're here. It's just music, 24 hours a day," Wolff says. "The pressure is off. You don't have to hustle to find gigs."
Wolff knows about the hustle. While he's had many other jobs, he's now a full-time musician. Until his recent move to the Bay Area, he lived in New York, where "people are so busy and stressed out" that it was rare to get to just hang out with other musicians. And there's another bonus about the Bay Area: His parents live in Palo Alto. (His father is the author and Stanford professor Tobias Wolff.)
Wolff grew up in Syracuse and came west for summers at Stanford Jazz camp as a teen in the early '90s. He had "the amazing good luck" to be there at the same time as the late drummer Billy Higgins and the late trumpeter Art Farmer.
"I had thought of jazz as an artifact on a record," he says. "All of a sudden to be in the same room with people I had heard on records ... "
Nowadays, interestingly, he seems to get the most teaching joy out of working with students who aren't huge jazz buffs to begin with. In a class one afternoon, Wolff spends a lot of time with a young pianist who seems nervous about letting go and jumping into the jazz stream as the group plays "Shiny Stockings." Wolff plunks out a few notes to help, and points out that the pianist can play fragments of the melody in between the horns' melody, "like Count Basie."
Later, Wolff says: "He can play Rachmaninoff. He's now in the process of trying to figure out how to use his tools of harmony to improvise."
Meanwhile, Wolff continually hones his own performing and recording chops. In 2007, the Patrick Wolff Trio released the CD "Petals." In the album notes, former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky wrote: "The kid can play ... so lyrical, and deft and swinging to boot."
On Aug. 4, Wolff will perform at Stanford Jazz with other notable musicians — including fellow horn players Joe Oliveira and Dayna Stephens — in a tribute concert to the late saxophonist Stan Getz, who taught at the workshop.
How do you pay tribute to a legend? Ideally, "20 years of hearing him play will prepare me," says Wolff, who wore out two Getz tapes as a kid.
"I'm not expecting to sound like him, but we're all choosing songs closely identified with him," Wolff adds. "Like 'Here's That Rainy Day.' I've never been able to listen to another version of it without thinking of him."
Info: The "Stan@Stanford" concert is at 8 p.m. Aug. 4 in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. Tickets are $32 general and $16 for students. For more about Stanford Jazz, which runs through Aug. 8, go to stanfordjazz.org.
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