Michael Blieden Wolff (born July 31, 1952) is an American jazz pianist, composer, producer, and recording artist. He was honored as a Steinway Artist and obtained a Broadcast Music, Inc. award. Wolff has Tourette syndrome; he is the chairman of the Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA) and is involved in mentoring children with Tourette's through the chapters of the TSA.
Wolff was the musical director for jazz singer Nancy Wilson and later became the bandleader for the Fox syndicated late night talk show Arsenio Hall (1989-94), where he met his wife when she appeared as a special guest. Wolff provided the score and co-produced The Tic Code (1999). He also co-starred alongside his sons, Nat and Alex, in the Nickelodeon musical comedy series The Naked Brothers Band (2007-09), earning him a BMI Cable Award for producing the series' music. Wolff was the leader of the jazz band Impure Thoughts. Reconstructed as Wolff & Clark Expedition, it is a jazz-funk group.
Childhood and family life:
Wolff was born in Victorville, California and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. His family is culturally Jewish and is the son of Lise (Silverman) and Marvin Wolff, a medical doctor, who treated Elvis Presley when the Wolffs' settled in Memphis, Tennessee. At age nine, his family moved to Berkeley, California, and began studying classical piano at age eight before playing drums at age 12. While attending Berkeley High School, Wolff had begun playing piano with the University of California Jazz Ensembles under the direction of Dr. David W. Tucker. After graduating from high school, Wolff attended the University of California, Berkeley before enrolling at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Wolff's mother remarried psychiatrist Neal Blumenfeld (Wolff's stepfather), who died on December 1, 2013. He has two step-siblings, Mimi and Judy. Wolff married actress Polly Draper in 1992; they have two sons together: Nat Wolff and Alex Wolff, who starred in and wrote the music for The Naked Brothers Band film and series that was created and produced by Draper. Draper also wrote and starred in The Tic Code, a musical drama film influenced by Wolff's life with Tourette syndrome to which he contributed the score.
Wolff left college in 1972 to begin his music career, joining Cal Tjader's band. He then joined Cannonball Adderley's band in 1975. In 1977, he formed the band Answering Service with saxophonist Alex Foster. Wolff worked with other famous artists including Warren Zevon, The Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Jean-Luc Ponty, Children On The Corner, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tony Williams, and Christian McBride. Wolff composed and played original music--and served as host--for the Riverside Shakespeare Company production of The Mandrake in New York City in 1975.
In 1978, singer Nancy Wilson chose Wolff as her musical director.Arsenio Hall was Wilson's opening act, and in 1989, when Hall was given his own talk show, Wolff was chosen to serve as its bandleader and musical director. He met his wife, actress Polly Draper, when she appeared as a guest on the show. In 1995, he released Jumpstart featuring Christian McBride and Tony Williams and in 1997 the trio released 2AM. Wolff was the leader of the jazz band Impure Thoughts which features Indian tabla player Badal Roy, drummer Mike Clark, percussionist Frank Colón and electric bassist John B. Williams.
He wrote music for the films Who's the Man?, The Tic Code, and Made up, as well as writing for and performing in other films. Wolff co-starred in The Naked Brothers Band on Nickelodeon, and was the co-executive producer and music supervisor. He is on the faculty at The New School For Jazz And Contemporary Music. In the 2010s, he formed the jazz-funk band called Wolff & Clark Expedition, consisting of Wolff and Clark as band leaders, with Steve Wilson and Lenny Pickett as saxophonists, and James Genus as the bassist.