Michael Wolff

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Michael Blieden Wolff (born July 31, 1952) is an American jazz pianist & actor. He was the bandleader on The Arsenio Hall Show (1989–94).[1][2][3]

Wolff was honored as a Steinway Artist and obtained a Broadcast Music, Inc. award. He provided the score for and co-produced The Tic Code (1998). He also co-starred with 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 and supervising 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[edit]

Wolff was born to a Jewish family in Victorville, California, and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.[4][5][6] He is the son of Lise (Silverman) and Marvin Wolff,[7] a medical doctor, who treated Elvis Presley when the Wolffs settled in Memphis, Tennessee. At age nine, his family moved to Berkeley, California,[3] and Michael began studying classical piano at age eight before playing drums at age 12. While attending Berkeley High School, Wolff began 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.[8]

Wolff's mother remarried psychiatrist Neal Blumenfeld (Wolff's stepfather), who died on December 1, 2013. He has two step-siblings, Mimi and Judy.[9] Wolff married actress Polly Draper in 1992;[10] 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.[11] 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.[6]


Wolff left college in 1972 to begin his music career, joining Cal Tjader's band.[12] He then joined Cannonball Adderley's band in 1975. In 1977, he formed the band Answering Service with saxophonist Alex Foster.[13] Wolff worked with other famous artists, including Frank Sinatra, Warren Zevon, Bobby McFerrin, 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.[12][14]

In 1978, singer Nancy Wilson chose Wolff as her musical director.[8] 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.[15] He met his wife, actress Polly Draper, when she appeared as a guest on the show.[8] In 1995, he released Jumpstart! featuring Christian McBride and Tony Williams[16] and in 1997 the trio released 2AM.[17] 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,[18] as well as writing for and performing in other films.[19][20] Wolff co-starred with his sons in The Naked Brothers Band television series on Nickelodeon, serving as the co-executive producer and music supervisor, which Draper created, executive produced, wrote, and directed. In addition, Wolff co-starred in and produced the music for The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie, which later served as the pilot for the TV series.[11]

Wolff is on the faculty at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.[2] In the 2010s, he formed the jazz-funk band called the '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.

Awards and honors[edit]

Wolff was honored as a Steinway Artist in June 2006. The Tic Code won awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, Giffoni Film Festival and Hamptons International Film Festival. With his sons, Wolff won a Broadcast Music Cable Award in 2007 for the music on The Naked Brothers Band TV series.


  1. Jarnow, Jesse. "Michael Wolff | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music: Private Instrumental Instruction Faculty". The New School. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Michael Wolff / Impure Thoughts Biography". Oldies.com. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  4. Seidel, Mitchell (September 1, 2007). "Michael Wolff". JazzTimes. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  5. "Celebrity Jews". J. The Jewish News of Northern California. May 18, 2007. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Smason, Alan (2006-11-02). "Cleveland set to enjoy smooth jazz stylings of Michael Wolff". Cleveland Jewish News. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
  7. California, Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley. "Lise Blumenfeld, 1931-2009. Category: Features from The Berkeley Daily Planet". www.berkeleydailyplanet.com.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Michael Wolff: Composer/Co-Producer". FLP. Archived from the original on November 13, 2003. Retrieved January 12, 2006.
  9. "Obituaries: Neal M. Blumenfeld, MD – 1930–2013". Berkeley Daily Planet. December 9, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  10. "Polly Draper Biography (1956–)". Film Reference. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Nickelodeon's New TEENick Series The Naked Brothers Band to Bow With Star-Studded TV Movie on Saturday, January 27, and 'Rock On' With Weekly Episodes Starting February 3". Digital Media Online. 27 January 2007. Archived from the original on February 3, 2007.
  12. 12.0 12.1 MacArthur, Paul J. (October 12, 2000). "Michael Wolff & Impure Thoughts: Life after Arsenio". Houston Press. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
  13. "The Production: Michael Wolff – Composer/Pianist". FourBoys Films. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
  14. "Terri Lyne Carrington Discography (2011)" (PDF). Jazz Corner. Terri Lyne Carrington Discography. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 24, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
  15. Seidel, Mitchell (September 2007). "Michael Wolff: The jazz pianist may be the least famous member of his immediate family". Jazz Times. Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
  16. "Michael Wolff – Jumpstart CD". CD Universe. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  17. "Michael Wolff – 2AM CD". CD Universe. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  18. "TSA Family Portrait: Jazz Musician Michael Wolff" (PDF). Tourette Syndrome Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2007.
  19. "Michael Wolff (I)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  20. "The Tic Code (1999)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 9, 2006.

External links[edit]

Template:The Naked Brothers Band