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Interviews

Warren Wolf: The Wizard of Vibes

By Published: December 26, 2011
Wolf went on to high school at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and it was there that he started to get more into jazz. Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson
Bobby Hutcherson
Bobby Hutcherson
b.1941
vibraphone
caught his ear on vibes, but Bird, Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, Chick Corea and others were heavy musical influences and helped define his direction. After graduation in 1997, he headed for Berklee College of Music in Boston. Pelt introduced him around and got him playing gigs at the school cafeteria with classmates like Kendrick Scott
Kendrick Scott
Kendrick Scott
b.1980
drums
and Walter Smith III
Walter Smith III
Walter Smith III
b.1980
sax, tenor
, in addition to showing him Wally's jazz club. By his senior year, Wolf was gigging in Boston. At Wally's, he became the house drummer, helped by trumpeter Darren Barrett
Darren Barrett
Darren Barrett
b.1967
trumpet
, and he co-led a band there for a time. He stayed in Boston after his 2001 graduation and did some teaching at the college, as well as gigs, before returning to Baltimore after a couple years.

Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield

sax, tenor
was his first big-gig, and mini-tour, opportunity. Wolf was still in Boston at the time. "He was the first guy to ever hire me, as far as jazz," recalls Wolf. "He was the first artist to give me a chance. We went down to St. Louis. We did four nights. I was about 20. I was living in Boston at the time that happened. When I moved back to the Baltimore-D.C. area, Tim was one of the first guys I called. He immediately called a lot of guys in D.C.; York, PA; and Harrisburg, PA. He called me up for a lot of gigs. He was a big help. I haven't played with him in quite a while, but I'd like to get back to it."

Warfield apparently bragged about Wolf to others, including pianist Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
1955 - 2013
piano
. Miller "gave me a call the next day after Tim called. He gave me a chance to go to Japan. We did a two-week tour of Japan with his group Wingspan. I was subbing for Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson

vibraphone
. He's always been very supportive of not just me but younger musicians, giving us a chance to play and work our stuff out. Also, he's come to work with me. I've called him to do a couple guest appearances when I was working at Berklee. He's come to Baltimore to play with me. He's done so much for me, I can't even describe it. Tremendous cat," Wolf says.

Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
b.1953
sax, alto
was also among those to hear about Wolf's talent, and hired him sight unseen in his touring band, for a time. Playing with the young, talented singer Rachael Price
Rachael Price
Rachael Price
b.1985
vocalist
helped keep Wolf busy as well, with recording and touring. He's played with the Donal Fox
Donal Fox
Donal Fox

piano
Group and has performed with Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Pelt, Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
Nicholas Payton
b.1973
trumpet
, Aaron Goldberg, Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
b.1965
drums
, Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
, Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
b.1978
piano
, Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza Spalding
b.1984
bass, acoustic
and others. He also occupied himself with his self-produced records, as well as the pair that was produced in Japan.

His efforts of late, especially after the 2011 Mack Avenue release, involve getting his own band out there, playing his music. In 2011, he did all of the pushing and promoting, but he's been developing a team to take that on and hopes it will gel in 2012. "I do realize it's a slow process. I do realize it takes patience. I can't expect to just jump over everybody else and be on top of the world," he says. "But everybody who's big right now were in my shoes at some point. It will come. ... I'm in the right position. My foot is in the door, being a leader. It just takes some time to blossom."

Wolf is pleased with where he stands, especially what he calls "the ultimate sideman job, in my eyes, with Christian McBride." He notes there may be another Inside Straight recording in 2012 that should lead to more touring. Meanwhile, he's also playing in a band with pianist Aaron Diehl
Aaron Diehl
Aaron Diehl

piano
. And with Diehl, he also performs some of the music of the Modern Jazz Quartet. So his docket looks full, a good thing in today's economy. And while he likes many styles of music, the pull of jazz is strong and it is the focal point of his career.

"For me, it's all about the freedom of it," says Wolf." "You're not restricted. That's what it is for me. You get to compose. You get to do your own compositions, but then again you get to turn them around and play them differently, any time you want to. Jazz is all about freedom to me."

Selected Discography

Warren Wolf, Warren Wolf (Mack Avenue, 2011)

Christian McBride & Inside Straight Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue, 2009)

Warren Wolf, Black Wolf (M&I Japan, 2009)

Bobby Watson, From the Heart (Palmetto, 2008)

Warren Wolf, Warren "Chano Pozo" Wolf (Self-produced, 2008)

Warren Wolf, Raw (Self-produced, 2005)

Warren Wolf, Incredible Jazz Vibes (M&I Japan, 2005)


Photo Credits
Page 2: C. Andrew Hovan
All Other Photos: Courtesy of Warren Wolf
Warren Wolf
Warren Wolf
b.1979
vibraphone


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