Sure, vibraphonist / multi-instrumentalist, composer, and band leader Warren Wolf loved the extra time with his five children and wife, though he could also feel the exuberant vibrations of crowd cheers and the echoes of live music blowing in the wind. Like his fellow musicians around the world, he was ready to return to live concerts after the COVID-19 pandemic surprise attack forced all live venues to close. During that ordeal, he performed live streams to empty venues like Keystone Korner in Baltimore. In this new era of booster vaccinations, and now booster vaccinations, musicians like Warren are making a living performing in front of live audiences again. During a recent mini-tour, he performed his “History of the Vibes” project in front of a sold out live audience at Dizzy’s Manhattan Jazz Club.
“I thought about this project for two years, 2021 was the 100th anniversary of the vibraphone,” says Wolf. “I decided to let people know about this instrument and let them know about other musicians who played this instrument like Lionel Hampton, Bobby Hutcherson, Milt Jackson and Terry Gibbs [age 97]. ”His repertoire with Dizzy included the music of these inspiring vibraphonists and music from Reincarnation (2020), his fourth CD for Mack Avenue Records.
With its ten tracks and eight original compositions by the vibraphonist, “Reincarnation” reflects his soulful memories of groups swinging in the groove like Mint Condition, D’Angelo and Tupac in the jazz tradition. It begins with his composition “For Ma”, a happy, soulful serenade dedicated to his mother Celeste Wolf, who died in 2015. Its staff includes veterans and rising stars like singer Imani Grace Cooper, whom he discovered while studying at Howard University; Drummer Carroll “CV” Dashiell III (a rising star in the Washington, DC scene); keyboardist Brett Williams (“his keen sense of R&B and gospel is a great combination”); The six strings of bassist Richie Goods and guitarist Mark Whitfield can be heard on two tracks. This music is as alive as a rainbow.
“It’s about showing all the music that I can feel. I’m just a musician who likes to explore different things to make the listener or audience feel good, ”said Wolf. “Reading the audience is very important, I go from the bandstand to see where they are from. Musicians I play with are always ready to play anything. ”
During his time at Berklee, Wolf was an active member of the Boston jazz scene, playing vibraphone, drums and piano being the house drummer.
“After graduating from college [Berklee College of Music] All I wanted to do was play straight ahead jazz and swing beat. But later, when I performed with Carmen Lundy, she opened everything, ”said Wolf. “She sang funk, R&B and classical music and from then on I was really good. I didn’t grow up in jazz, my father [Warren Wolf Sr.]who was my first teacher wanted me to play everything from classical, R&B, hip hop to ragtime. Now, when I look ahead, I have to bring these aspects back to life. ”
Wolf says he wasn’t interested in making music – his goal was to work for NASA, he loved science and space. “My father was a history teacher and part-time musician, and my grandfather, James Nelson Wolf, was a pianist. When I was three years old, I began taking piano lessons, which included vibraphone, marimba and drums. ”His piano lessons began from 5:30 to 6:30; from 6:30 am to 7:30 am on the drums and from 7:30 am to 8:30 am on the vibraphone. “It was like this five days a week from when I was 5 until I was 17. It was difficult, because which child would like to get stuck in the basement and practice when they could play outside? ”Explained Wolf. “But when I was doing a solo in seventh grade, people clapped and later said, ‘Warren, you sound really good.’ I got off that, so I kept practicing. My father told me that music takes you around the world and meets a lot of people. Playing along with violin concerts I learned control, technique and speed. ”As a teenager, his father called him Chano Puzo, in honor of his favorite Cuban jazz percussionist and singer.
“My dad loved Latin music and percussion, and Chano played with Dizzy,” noted Wolf.
He plays with bassist, composer and producer Christian McBride & Inside Straight and leads his own successful band Wolfpack. He was a pianist for the Rachael Price Group and became the drummer for alto saxophonist Tia Fuller. He is also a member of the Donal Fox Group, which includes bassist John Lockwood and drummers Danis Preito and Terri Lyne Carrington, and toured with Bobby Watson’s Live and Learn. His recordings as a band leader and composer with musicians such as pianist Mulgrew Miller, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and bassist Vicente Archer have made him a fixture in the vibraphone tradition. His ongoing creativity and exploratory path earned him an invitation to join America’s most creative jazz ensemble, the SFJazz Collective. The San Francisco jazz nonprofit sponsors a resident collaborative octet (all composers and bandleaders themselves) that record a two-CD, 16-track album each year that is dedicated to a composer. He says, “I’m the utility type – I can play whatever it takes.”
For the new year 2022, Wolf is booked for concerts and international tours in Paris until the end of June. He will perform at the Tucson Jazz Festival in January; The closest thing to the Big Apple is unfortunately his performance at the Hudson Jazz Festival in New York State on February 18th. Other dates include appearances in Germany, Budapest, London, Florida, Chicago, Denver, Denmark, Italy and Spain. He will appear as a leader with music from his current CD and History of the Vibes, as well as a member of McBride’s Inside Straight and the Dave Stryker Group.
Fortunately, the 43-year-old native of Baltimore (he returned to the Baltimore area in 2004) says he has devised a daily exercise / weightlifting routine despite his difficult travel plan. He says it’s about being flexible.
“’Reincarnation’ is an album about love and feel-good music. At this point in my life, I just wanted to show that I can be versatile in so many different styles. I plan to continue to grow and play all the wonderful music that has shaped me as a musician today. “