by Stamish Malcuss
Warren Wolf is a commanding force on the vibraphone and marimba. The multi-instrumentalist from Baltimore, MD, attended the Peabody Prepatory for eight years. During his high school years at the Baltimore School for the Arts, Warren studied with current Baltimore Symphony Orchestra member John Locke. Wolf attended college at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Upon graduating, Wolf was an instructor at the college for two years until heading back to Baltimore to be a full time performing musician. The multi-talented Wolf is currently the drummer of choice for Alto Saxophonist Tia Fuller, who tours with internationally renowned pop star Beyonce Knowles. Warren is also a member of the Donal Fox Group, which includes bassist John Lockwood and drummers Dafnis Preito and Terri Lyne Carrington. Also, Wolf tours and performs with Bobby Watson’s “Live and Learn” Sextet, Karriem Riggins “Virtuoso Experience” and Christian McBride & “Inside Straight.” Reincarnation is Wolf’s latest release. “I realized I was about to turn 40,” explained Wolf, who reached that milestone on November 10, 2019. “I was 21 when I first went out on the road as a pro. So, for almost half my life, I’ve been playing straight-ahead jazz. But that’s not how my dad, who was my first teacher, raised me musically. Jazz was always a part of it, but he wanted me to play everything: classical, R&B, hip-hop, ragtime, pop – but those things eventually faded away. Looking toward the second part of my life, I realized I need to bring those aspects back to life.” Wolf does just that with a collection of R&B and Soul Music on Reincarnation.
“For the Love of You” is a smooth journey of romance with Wolf bringing in vocalist Imani-Grace Cooper and guitarist Mark Whitfield to augment the core trio of pianist/Fener Rhodist Brett Williams, bassist Richie Goods and drummer Carroll “CV” Dashiell III. Cooper’s sexy voice floats over the R&B infused jazz feel as Whitfield’s quiet guitar strumming percolates in the background. The song evolves to funky soul feel with Cooper riffing over the band and Dashiell building a rumbling segway into Wolf’s solo. The solo is present, but the songs are the focus, this is not a blowing date, but a feeling one.
The highlight is, “For Ma.” A Wolf original that he dedicated to his late mother. The melody is beautiful, as Wolf’s perfect timing plays it over a funky feel. Goods’ bass playing is in the pocket as he keeps the feel going. His fills and double stops are also very integral to the song. Wolf opens up on this one and turns in his best playing on the album. His solo is bluesy, building and in line with the Wolf we all know and love. The quartet has a sound that hit Wolf’s vision of jazz-infused with soul and R&B perfectly. The groove is deep.
Reincarnationis a journey of R&B and soul through a jazz musicians’ point of view. Wolf has a strong sense of composition, and the players are all top-notch. Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard’s spoken word on four tracks is especially stirring. The balance between soloing and focusing on presenting more contemporary jazz is well-done. In conclusion, Wolf again shows he is a man of many talents and knows no boundaries, either musically or stylistically. This is a personal project for Wolf but might come across as too commercial and contrived for most jazzers.