The release of Warren Wolf, the eponymous debut album for Mack Avenue Records by Warren Wolf on August 16, will make it as apparent to jazz fans as it already is to jazz insiders that the 31-year-old vibraphonist is the next major voice on his instrument.
Joined by a unit of authoritative swingers (bassist Christian McBride, pianist Peter Martin, drummer Greg Hutchinson, alto and soprano saxophonist Tim Green, and, on two tracks, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt), vibraphonist Warren Wolf, 31, offers a ten-piece program that admirably represents his singular blend of efflorescent chops, muscular attack, lyric sensibility, harmonic acumen, encyclopedic knowledge of hardcore jazz vocabulary, tireless groove and downright musicality.
“I’m trying to bring forth what most cats did back in the day, coming out right at you swinging, nice and hard, not a lot of hard melodies or weird time signatures,” Wolf said in a recent news release. “I like to play really hard, fast and kind of flashy. I like to take it to a whole other level.”
“What he does on vibes is pretty incredible,” said McBride, Wolf’s employer since 2007 in the Inside Straight band and co-producer of this album along with Mack Avenue EVP of A&R, Al Pryor. “You can’t hear Warren and not be highly impressed. Give him some music to learn, he pretty much has it committed to memory in a matter of minutes. In a couple of days, he has it on the piano. Then suddenly, he’s internalizing every part of the music-the melody, the chord changes, the song’s overall personality.” You’re listening to him, thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s what I had in mind.'”
Born and raised in Baltimore, where he currently resides, Wolf is less widely known to “civilians” than his bona fides would merit. Still, he’s anything but a newcomer on the scene. In addition to two self-released recordings and two dates for the Japanese market on which he tears through producer-selected repertoire with panache and an informed point of view, his CV includes gigs with such eminent veterans as McBride, Bobby Watson, Mulgrew Miller and Tim Warfield, and recent encounters with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the George Coleman-Joey DeFrancesco Quartet and a Music of the Modern Jazz Quartet project led by pianist Aaron Diehl, the 2011 American Pianists Association Cole Porter Fellowship winner. He also leads a strong working unit with Green, pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Kris Funn and drummer John Lamkin.
“I don’t think there’s anything Warren can’t handle,” McBride said. “My dream for him is that he eventually gets to collaborate with the super-duper heavyweights. I can’t wait to see where he’ll go next.”