Vibraphonist Warren Wolf is very, very talented, something he might have been aware of when he titled a past release Incredible Jazz Vibes, with a cover which looks conspicuously like Wes Montgomery’s for The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. But even if Wolf might think he’s incredible, so what: bass master Christian McBride has thought so himself for ten years, since Wolf was a student at Berklee School of Music in Boston. Wolf is also said to be proficient on drums and piano as well, but the vibes is what he’s best at, and he seems to incorporate his intimate understanding of other instruments into his approach to his main instrument, an advantage he has over many of his peers.
On August 16, Wolf will issue his third album but his first with a label, this one being a pretty serious jazz label in Mack Avenue. Thus, this record, more meekly titled Warren Wolf, is likely going to be the first exposure of Wolf for a lot of people. Helping with making a big splash is McBride himself, Wolf’s employer for the last four years, who co-produced the record. Also assisting are some other heavy hitters: Tim Green on saxes, Peter Martin on piano, Gregory Hutchinson on drums and for a couple of tracks, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet. One of those two tracks is the thrilling lead-off tune, a I-IV-V blues named after the address of a Boston jazz venue from Wolf’s Berklee days, “427 Mass Ave.”
Though the song is a straightforward blues but with a odd time signature (6/4?) and a straight 4/4 popping up for very brief intervals. This sets the stage for a blowing session where only crack musicians can participate. Good thing those are the only kind of musicians present here. Everyone including the most esteemed Mr. McBride gets turns at strutting their stuff, but there’s no mistaken whose show this is, and it’s Wolf’s all the way. Inventive horn-line phrasing, funky and quick, Wolf runs like Milt Jackson on steroids. A great way to start a record intended to announce himself very emphatically to the world.
Say hello to Baltimore’s own Warren Wolf.