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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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WARREN WOLF

Convergence

mackavenue MAC1105

 

 

 

 

 

On the strength of this recording, Warren Wolf is clearly a musician intent on delivering on his early promise. This 36 year old rising star of the vibraphone, Baltimore-born and classically trained, stands in the great tradition of performers such as Milt Jackson, Gary Burton and the late Bobby Hutcherson. A graduate of Berklee College and known for his work, in particular with Christian McBride's Inside Straight Quintet from 2007 onwards, this is his third disc for Mack Avenue. On this occasion, largely through the influence of McBride, who co-produced the album, a stellar collection of musicians has been assembled. McBride himself has made over 300 recordings as a sideman and made his debut as a leader as far back as 1994. His style is clearly bop-influenced and he is widely respected in the jazz fraternity. Brad Mehldau is an outstanding jazz pianist with considerable experience as a solo artiste and with his trio, as well as a much sought-after sideman. John Scofield is revered as one of the modern giants of the electric guitar while Jeff “Tain” Watts has gained enthusiastic recognition from audiences and from his peers over the years as a drummer for all seasons.

There's a consistency of quality throughout the album which is pleasing to the listener. Two tracks had special appeal for me. Havoc, which is a Warren Wolf composition (half of the pieces on the disc were written by him), is a fusion-inspired number where a funky John Scofield and Warren Wolf play off one another, while the rhythm section provides the high standard of support you might expect from such accomplished musicians. As befits the material, Stevie Wonder's Knocks Me Off Of My Feet is romantic and lyrical from Wolf on vibes who also demonstrates his versatility on Fender Rhodes, marimba and piano. McBride and Watts help to make this track memorable. Not far behind, if at all, is A Prayer For The Christian Man. Here, McBride's nuanced bass playing is notable. Wolf 's composition is initially contemplative in mood but gradually a powerful urgency builds up and Wolf improvises with energy and invention.

Soul Sister , written with a former girl friend in mind, is a catchy theme. A brief drum-roll and Brad Mehldau takes up the melody forcefully, followed by an earthy interpretation by Wolf plus an extended solo from Scofield. Four Stars From Heaven refers to Warren's four children and is the longest track on the album at just over eleven minutes. Mehldau contributes two passages which are at once intricate and dynamic, fairly rocking along. Watts, meanwhile is typically hard-driving and adept on drums. For his part, Wolf varies his playing from sheer pizazz to downright pensiveness. King Of Two Fives is on-the-ball modern jazz, a two-hander for Wolf and Christian McBride, successfully demonstrating the understanding that can develop when musicians are regularly in each other's company. The lovely, lilting ballad, New Beginning, is another duo piece, this time teaming Warren and Mehldau. Cell Phone is pacy and draws from Wolf a performance that evokes Gary Burton. In there somewhere the cell/mobile phone is playfully summoned up in both vibes and bass playing. There is also a fiery piano solo from Mehldau. Watts is class personified throughout. It is good to remember the immortal Bobby Hutcherson, who died in August 2016, as his swinging and intriguing tune, Montara, is played. Tergiversation is propelled by Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums and by Watts and also McBride's supple bass. The final track is a solo by Warren Wolf who takes us gently through the familiar strains of Hoagy Carmichael's nostalgic classic Stardust, before launching immediately into Chopin's The Minute Waltz. This is someone completely at home with his considerable technique.

I suspect Warren Wolf has yet even more to show us as he continues to develop. After all, he is still a comparatively young man. Most listeners, especially those who treasure fluency and clarity in their vibes players, will no doubt be highly satisfied with what Wolf and his companions have given us here.

James Poore

1. Soul Sister

2. Four Stars From Heaven

3. King Of Two Fives

4. New Beginning

5. Cell Phone

6. Montara

7. Havoc

8. Tergiversation

9. Knocks Me Off Of My Feet

10. A Prayer For The Christian Man

11. Stardust/The Minute Waltz

Warren Wolf - Vibes, marimba (tracks 5, 6, 9 - 11), Fender Rhodes (tracks 2, 9),

piano (track 9)

Brad Mehldau - Piano (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 7)

John Scofield - Guitar (tracks 1, 7)

Christian McBride - Bass (tracks 1-3, 5-10)

Jeff “Tain” Watts - Drums (tracks 1, 2, 5-10)



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